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scuba diving after fusion?

phyllis_gapphyllis_ga Posts: 27
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:23 AM in Exercise and Rehab
So I have scuba diving fever. I'm 7mos out from a fusion of L5S1 fusion with BMP. My surgeon has ok me to scuba dive as long as I gear up in the water, same getting out. Any thoughts or suggestions from anyone that is diving after a fusion?


  • I dive with several folks who have had fusions both lumbar and cervical. Heck they have it easier than me since they have hardware to help them redistribute the weight.

    It's all nice to say that you'll put your gear on in the water and take it off there, but that lasts maybe once or twice before you give up on it and just put it on like normal.

    I just make sure that I don't have any extremely long walks from the point that I have to put my gear on until I'm actually in the water. If it doesn't feel "right" when I finish the dive, I find the most convenient place to take my gear off, set it there and then carry it back in pieces to the van.

    If I'm boat diving I don't worry about it. Only thing my buddies and I don't do anymore are backroll entries from the boat.

    The key to any of this, is being "fit" to dive. If your core muscles aren't strong, then you have nothing to protect yourself with. If your cardiovascular system isn't up to par, then you should stay on shore.

    Hope this helps.

  • Thanks C
    I will be diving from a boat with friends who are master divers and will help me with the gear. I'm in pretty decent shape considering the last 7 mos and working hard everyday in the gym. I plan to take it slow.....:)
  • I'm itching to get back to diving too. My surgeon has told me it's OK to go in Nov. I think as long as you have help with the gear, it should be fine. The only thing that worries me a little is getting back on the boat if there is a swell. Climbing back up on the ladder in rough conditions is pretty hard sometimes without having had back surgery.
    Hope you go somewhere calm and enjoy it
  • Hi,

    Great to here things are going well. I'm 3 weeks post opt just had first Dr appt. I had the same as you, L5S1 bone dowel with BMP plate and rods. At this time feel great. Most pain gone, walking 4 times a day 40 each. I was in good shape for 55, Dr also told me ok to dive in Feb with our dive club! Great. I got the same advise about putting on the BCD while in the water, from the boat or shore dive. We will be going to Scuba Club Cozumel. I have been taking it slow, sounds like you have as well, gotta keep the core strong! Looking forward to diving again as trip before this surgery had back and leg pain when I was netural horzantal, had to abort last two dives. Well good luck I'm sure you will be fine! Good diving and be safe
  • I can not tell you how happy I was to see this. I am about to have to level ACDF with fusion c5-c7. SCUBA and underwaterphotography is my life's passion. I was very afraid that this surgery would limit me.
  • Will limit you. (in my opinion anyway)

    Wearing the gear on your shoulders will be uncomfortable at first, and of course your head position while diving, but that's easy to overcome. The only thing that I do not do, is a backroll entry.

    Spine surgery does not mean an end to diving for everyone.

  • Aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh being back in the water was totally awesome! I did great and the folks on Nekton was great about helping me in and out of the water. I had no discomfort at all. :)
  • That is fantastic to hear! Nekton has a great reputation for their customer service. I bet once you were back in the water you felt awesome. There's nothing other than diving that I have found to remove all the pressure from the body and allow the aches and pain to just go away!

    My hubby and I went diving on the last day of 2008. We had to drive a few hours to an old LST landing port on a mud flat, but we had a great time.

    May 2009 bring you many wonderful dives!

  • Hey C-

    Didn't you get a spinal cord stimulator? Does yours allow you to dive below 30 feet?

  • Yes I did. The company says not to dive below 33 feet with it. Fortunately the reef here allows for some pretty awesome diving in shallow waters. Shallow diving is way better than no diving.

  • Went for Christmas this year. As soon as we got there, the only thought on my mind was learning to scuba. BUT..... I went snorkling right outside our room instead. After my first snorkling adventure, it was killing me. Thank god for Pina' Coladas, lol...I think it had everything to do with my back being bent the wrong way, and not straight. Then I had a "ah-ha" moment... I went and got a life vest, and "lo and behold", it kept my back straight, and it was wonderful!!! Did it that way for a week. So my husband did the scuba diving for both of us, we bought the underwater photos and video of his dives, and it was just as enjoyable just to see what he saw. Maybe I'll be ready by Dec. 09', we're going back.
  • Yay! Other scuba divers who are Spiney's! I always have to plug www.scubaboard.com (I am Dr Steve) as they have a huge community and several MD's as members. As everyone said, lam/dis/fusion do not cause an issue with diving once you have recovered. I have to admit to being somewhat concerned on big boat dives that I might just move slightly the wrong way and end up in a bad way.

    Perhaps we should consider a spiney's dive trip? I'm all about the photography :)
  • Am I glad to have found this forum.

    I sustained fracture and dislocation to C6&7 while bodysurfing in early January (most likely hit another swimmer and/or board head on). There was no damage to the cord (thank heaven) and I did not lose consciousness. Apart from some weakness in my right hand/arm (resolving spontaneously, about 95% of normal now), I am completely mobile. I had a laminectomy to C5, and C6&7 pinned and plated, then fused (C5 could have been fused as well, not sure as I haven't got the notes). As I did so well, I was discharged 5 days post surgery. I was back at my desk (albeit for an hour a day only for the first couple of weeks) 2 days after that. 2 weeks later I took myself off all painkillers as I didn't need them anymore and haven't since.

    I'm a keen diver and would like to think that I still have a future underwater. Reading the stories above give me hope.

    Also, I am seeing my surgeon in 3 weeks time for a check up. Are there any particular dive related questions I should be asking?
  • Welcome to Spine Health. The only thing I can think of that might be something to ask, would be having the weight of your equipment on your shoulders and how soon.

    My NS had me take dumbbells and carry them around, increasing the weight as comfortable as I built my muscles back up. He put no limitations on me other than what my body demanded itself.

  • So when is the 1st Annual Spiney Cozumel Scuba Convention? I need to make my reservations, staying at El Coz because kids like it. I might have to just snorkel, can really only use arms to swim now, feet cramp up too bad and don't really feel safe swimming if I can only use just my arms. Maybe I could get a mermaid flipper bodysuit. If we found a cute enough dive paramedic I'd put on the gear and go a few feet down.(oh that sounded really bad but didn't mean it that way :) )
  • I just returned from a 10 day trip from the Big Island and Maui....all I can say is ahhhhhhhh ....the diving was great and the whale watching was spectacular! No problems with diving. Only little shooting pain every now and then that resolved on it own. I am definitely aware of my posture in the water and have found the comfort zone. I found the divemasters to be very helpful with entering and exiting the water.....looking forward to my next scuba adventure....:)
  • Hi,
    I hope you dont mind megwtting in touch again.
    You repiled to my post when i was in much worse pain than now. Things are improving, and hope they continue to do so.
    So its been about 4 weeks now since the pain got too bad to do anything.
    I am paying for a private physio since the hospital on ewill take 12 weeks to get it.!
    I saw her yesterday and she put on a tens machine. But hasnt showed me any exercises just to contractab the abs during the day, i presume she wants me to still be gentle since its only a about a week the pain has started to go.
    Then the mind wants and nosy wants to strat moving again naturally!,
    She wants me to go back to talk about the exercises, of course this is extremely expensive,. I feel the longer i leave core work even gentle the weaker my back will get! any advice??
  • Hey guys first post so please bear with me :-). Im a 27 year old male and live in the UK. I got injured at work in June 2006 arresting someone and after many months of pain, discomfort scans and other pokes and prods I finally got offered surgery.
    I had my operation last October and had a two level PLIF surgery @ L4/5 and L5/S1.
    I've got 6 screws two rods and some other bits and bobs thrown in for good measure.
    What I want to know is that I'm going on my honeymoon in July and want to do my open water PADI certificate. I spoke to my surgeon and he said there should no problem with me doing scuba diving. Is there anything that I need from him to say its ok for me to dive ? As I have a 10" scar on my back and its quite obvious I've had surgery. Thanks in advance

    Heres my xray

  • When you sign up for the class there will be a medical history that you are required to fill out and sign. This allows the Instructor to evaluate whether or not you have any physical contraindications to scuba diving. Spine surgery is not a disqualifier. If you list it under any other injuries, the Instructor may ask for you to have a doctor's signature in order to take the class.

    What you can do to avoid a hassle when you go on your honeymoon, is to find out which certifying agency the Instructor goes through and download a medical release form from their website. You can then fill it out, go to the doc and have him sign off on it and then take that with you on your trip.

    Normal contraindications to diving are any COPD issues, diabetes, severe claustrophobia, pregnancy and certain medications.

    You can PM me if you need help finding out which agency and which form to download.

  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,736
    about 18 months ago, I made a statement (before I knew either of them) that two of my heros were

    Haglandc: She overcame all her medical problems and returned to diving, a sport she loved so much. You have to watch her on TV with some of her dives.

    SteveB: We dont hear from him that often, but he was a Professional Referee for Ice Hockey. I've see pictures of him with so many of the professional teams.
    After his surgeries, he mustered up the strength to get back on the ice and do what he loved to do.

    Its so good to know that people are willing to work so hard for what they really want to do
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • I didn't know that some scuba co. will help you put and off on the gears in water. I thought scuba diving was out of the question.

    My PT just mentioned that she will be diving on her honeymoon which made me want to go diving again.

    I've only been to Mexico and Roatan in Honduras to dive; I would love to try other diving spots in the world.
  • No reason why you can't try diving in other places of the world. Yes there are many places that will help you get in to and out of your gear. Depending on where you go diving, it's very easy to just get in and out of your gear while in the water. That way you don't feel so reliant upon others if you are an independent type of person.
  • I can ralate i have MOYORCYCLE riding fevor, but i know i cannot!! hoping next year. i am 5 months po i will not do anything to jeperdise my heath , i walk in the poll 6 to 7 days a week yeah with 10 screws am in pain but i will never give up!! i have my passions but i will wait,,, i know i will never be 100 percent cannot sut or stand for long preriods but i have to be positive, its hard on me after 2 back surgiers while my friend r cruising tis summer i will be at home!!!
  • My husband has talked about diving in the Red Sea and Palau. One day we will hopefully be there.
  • Hi All,

    Glad I found this, I have been worried about the up coming operation for a while now and some of your posts make me feel a little more confident.

    I am looking for information relating to deep air and Trimix diving post operation. I am qualified up to 100 meters and have regularly dived up to this depth in and around the UK. Obviously I will have problems due to kit weight until I am fully confident that I am fit to carry the gear which can mean up to 2x15 litre (steel) cylinders and 2x7 litre (Ali) stage bottles. (Why do I do it you may ask)

    My specific concern is gas migration around the scar tissue and the fusion area itself. Do we have any Hyperbaric doctors on here and if so could i have some advice please.

    I guess that I wont be doing this type of diving for a while (if ever again) and that really upsets me as it is my life passion and I am quite young (33) and feel I have done no where near enough of the diving I want to do.

    Hope someone can help, happy diving everyone!!

  • Well for starters I would stay away from deep air diving and stick with trimix. It's just the safer way to dive in general. There always is a concern with gas perfusion in areas where scar tissue has developed. Of course you would probably be smart to wait until you are completely fused before trying anything tremendously deep, but the key is, if you control your compression and decompression properly, then the gas moving in and out of the tissues should be no different than it is at normal atmospheric pressures.

    If you want to find out from guys with a lot of experience in deep exploration after injury and surgery, then research the WKPP and EKPP folks. They are probably the most knowledgeable divers you will find with the ability to give you a very well educated response along with a lot of empirical data.

  • I had a tri level fusion of C5,C6,C7, in March of this year. I work in the commercial diving industry, im currently an "apprentice" and im looking at breaking out as a full diver this summer, im also a diver medic. I wear a kirby Morgan 77 dive hat which ways about 32lbs, a bailout bottle (50 ci) which ways about 35 - 40lbs with harness, knives, tools, steal toe boots, and sometimes 20lbs weight belt, wetsuit, cover all's. i have to jump 20 feet to the water (some times) and we dive deep(air and gas) im feeling really good, but have concerns of getting bent in the neck. We do in water deco on 50/50 (50%O2 50% nitrogen) then its into the chamber within 2 min of reaching surface, so our decompression schedules are pretty safe, but people do get bent, well your bent regardless but asymptomatic, then the DDC (deck decompression chamber)does it's magic. I havent attempted to dive for i am not cleared to dive by our diving physician until August. im 38 in great physical shape. Prior to my surgery my c6,and c7 were 75% fused together on its own and i had spinal impingement. So, what do you guys think, is 5 months post surgery long enough, I wear a bone growth stimulator, 4 hours a day, and i have to wear it for six months. It was very incouraging to see others diving after a fusion.
  • I would think the biggest concern as far as getting bent, is scar tissue development from the injury and the surgery. Scar tissue is terrible when it comes to off gassing. Also do you currently have any cervical radiculopathy? A concern would be whether or not you could tell the difference between that and early signs of being bent. Also, what about your insurance? You may find the insurance company puts the brakes on and either wants to jack up your rates or drop you all together.

    Of course then you have the issue with structural stress on the levels above and below the fused area.

    I'm a firm believer that we can strengthen our bodies to overcome a lot of what we have lost due to injury and surgery. I have done a lot of diving post spine surgery with doubles, deco, camera and lights and I was able to manage it just fine. I did not have to make a 20' drop into the water though.

    Since you guys do so much of your deco on the surface, and like you said, are basically bent but just asymptomatic, I would be a bit more concerned. I'm of the do all your deco in the water school of thought, so I'm used to starting with deep stops and doing the vast majority on 50% and utilizing the Oxygen Window. So basically when breaking the surface all deco is complete and I can go about my business.

    Would they consider modifying the deco table for you so that once you surface you are decompressed slower and longer?

    Sorry for all the random thoughts, but I am torn between helping you figure a way to do this and trying to talk you out of it. By all means, discuss this with your surgeon. Don't just go for it and hope for the best.

    I wish you all the best.

  • Yeah, there is no way they would modify my in water deco, it cost $200,000 a day to have our boat out (charged to the client) so rapid turn around of divers is key. I dont know what Radiculopathy is but i will do research on it. i absolutely love my job, and healing correctly is my biggest concern of course. I think i have enough recovery time now to start strengthening my neck, I plan on using bands to slowly strengthen my neck. I work my core every morning, and stretch good and safely. I agree with the scar tissue issue (LOL) and would like another MRI to be certain it is at a minimum. I work offshore in the Gulf, sometimes for months at a time, so it is difficult to see my Doctors and Chiropractor. Ive never dove with a healthy neck (pre op) so it will be confusing if there is pain, i was always sore in the neck after dives, hell I've been in pain for 15 years, but not now, all pain is gone (stomach problems too) . Thanks for your comment, i will check out the Radiculopathy. i will try to keep my progress posted.

    Thanks Again
  • I was diagnosed with stenosis, and there was some spinal impingement do to C6 & C7 being 75% fused naturally, the spinal column was narrowed to 7mm, when it should have been 8mm. That was all cut out during the surgery for the tri level fusion. I didnt ever hear anything about Radiculopathy.
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