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Can I run post-fusion

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,622
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:27 AM in Exercise and Rehab
Hello. I had an anterior lumbar fusion L-5/S-1 in 2004. I am still very much in pain daily but have learned to deal with it. I seem to be very stiff and am sure I need to stretch more. I workout on the elliptical 4-5 times a week with no problems. My issue is I used to be VERY athletic, played basketball,tennis,paddleball,golf, volleyball, ran, was a police officer and now I am very limited to what I can do. I wondered if anyone out there runs after having the same surgery I did and is it ok to do so? I really miss being able to run and would love to do it but also I am very young still 31 and don't want to cause any future issues down the road by running. Thanks for taking the time to read this. I stumbled upon this website in hopes of meeting some other people with fusions :-)


  • hi and welcome to the forum! :H we are here to offer you support and answer what questions we can. i do not have experience with your surgery but we do have pain in common. ~X( check out the "Good News" forum for a good read on post surgery SH members.. =D> take a look at what they are up to!! i do hope you are able to get back to where you want to be. :D Jenny :)
  • I am 56 and just had my 3 month post-op checkup. Happy to say all is good. I was a runner for 25 years and I also loved high impact aerobics. Who knows how much these activites contributed to my lumbar problems. I suspect they didn't help. Especially since I fractured my sacrum 12 years ago ice skating!

    But my point is this - today I asked my doc what I could do to avoid future back fusions. As we all know, after one fusion, the likelihood of future problems with the adjacent vertebra is a big issue. He told me it was a usage issue. The more direct pressure I put on my spine, the quicker it will wear out. Just like a set of tires. He said specifically the things that would stress the area around the fused area are anything high impact. Jumping, running, carrying heavy weights are all things that I was advised to avoid. Including carrying my 1-1/2 yr old granddaughter around too much. Lifting her, OK. Carrying her around, not so good. On the other hand, walking, biking, swimming and hiking are terrific. (No rock climbing-lol)

    I know how addictive running can be. I loved it. But I've decided I can substitute speedwalking and be better for it. I've decided to define new "normals" and do everything I can not to have this surgery again!

    Just thought I'd share my thoughts with you. You are young. Your back has to "hold up" alot longer than mine does. I'd suggest you find some things to substitute for your higher impact activities. Just one person's opinion. Take it with a grain of salt and best of luck to you!!!

  • Thank you very much for your advice. It is hard being 31 knowing my very active lifestyle has to be adjusted. You have such a positive attitude and I love it! Thank you for helping me attempt to alter my thinking. IT is going to be so difficult since being so active and hardcore athlete runs thick in my blood. Take care!
  • Kyliesmommy0630 said:
    Hello. I had an anterior lumbar fusion L-5/S-1 in 2004. I am still very much in pain daily but have learned to deal with it. I seem to be very stiff and am sure I need to stretch more. I workout on the elliptical 4-5 times a week with no problems. My issue is I used to be VERY athletic, played basketball,tennis,paddleball,golf, volleyball, ran, was a police officer and now I am very limited to what I can do. I wondered if anyone out there runs after having the same surgery I did and is it ok to do so? I really miss being able to run and would love to do it but also I am very young still 31 and don't want to cause any future issues down the road by running. Thanks for taking the time to read this. I stumbled upon this website in hopes of meeting some other people with fusions :-)
    Hello, i just had a revision and went two levels higheron jan 13 09, before that i had my first surgery nov 21 06. i started treadmill everyday 6 day a week that helped with the pain so a feww months ago i started a lil lite jogging, and forget it iwas in oain for 2 days, you should ask your doctor i know they told me no horse back riding i guess cause it is to bouncey, but the doc said i can ride a motorcycle hahah now thats funny i am being very patien . not going to even step in the gym til doc allows me to!! good luck and please be careful
  • I had PLIF on my L5/S1 in Oct of 06. I run at least a mile every morning and ride my bicycle 200 miles a week. It can be done. It aches a little, but nothing compared to pre surgery.
  • We have members who have returned to running, golf, bowling, cycling and even surfing after fusion surgery. So, running is by no means off limits. However, as kathyy pointed out (or her doctor pointed out) anything high impact puts your spine at more risk of future problems.

    In my case my surgeon said it was OK to go back to high impact activities, but my physical therapist said NO, including no running.
    Keep positive!


    ...an old timer here and ex-moderator

  • I ran 36 miles a week before I injured my neck. I'm having the acdf on my C5-C6 next week and I asked my surgeon if I'll run after the surgery. He didn't really say if I could, but gave me a look like it wasn't a good idea. I'm only 34 and I can't imagine myself not being a runner anymore.
  • I was told by my surgeon that all contact and high impact sports are out for me post fusion. This has been hard for me to accept, as I ran a lot in my teens. I always took it for granted that I would be able to run the London Marathon one day, when I wanted to.I hadn't realised that my opportunity to do it had slipped by unnoticed in my mid twenties. I find it hard watching running on the tv...it sounds stupid but it makes me feel emotional and I have a real feeling of loss. I am jealous of friends who can decide to go out running on the spur of the moment.

    At the end of the day the important thing is that I can walk around upright with relatively low levels of pain. I do swim, walk and do pilates. I tried playing Badminton and that is when I realised that I am not "normal" physically, but I am not disabled either...I am in the twlight zone between the two - I can do overhead shots, but can't get to drop shots over the net. I got really frustrated that people could see my weakness and take advantage, but was happy at what I could do! This sums up my life...glad at what I can do and frustrated by what I can't! I always assume I can do what I want, but my body tells me otherwise!

    I am hoping to find other sports I can do - I guess it will
    be a case of trying things and seeing how my body reacts.I have been tempted to go against my surgeons advice, but I don't want to risk ending up on the operating table again.

    Best Wishes


    L4/L5 & L5/S1 Fusion and decompression surgery with instrumentation 01 October 2007
  • It's been a year since my cervical diagnosis, which mandated my last run. I was bitter and angry at first, but as time passed, I've done better. I try to remind myself how lucky I am to walk!!--Mazy
  • so I've canvassed multiple medical professionals for a completely anecdotal, unscientific survey of this issue. my neurosurgeon, who only does cervical vertebrae, has told me that she has a former patient who is back doing ironman races. so her advice - "no bungy jumping." that was it. and my favorite physical therapist (specializes in necks and jaws) made it clear that my biggest risk was my bad posture, that is, what I do with my waking hours seven days a week - sitting, standing, walking, etc. so what did I take from this - I've got my act together posture-wise, and I let myself run 1-2 miles once or twice a week. it's the last thing I do at the gym - I go up to the track and sprint all out - I fly by people moseying along with their ten-minute mile jogs like I'm some olympic athlete (which I am SO not). I just can't explain how good it feels after being in bed for almost a year to run really, really, fast. so. I am not a medical professional, and maybe I will scrunch another disc. or get hit by a bus. but for now, I am running, just a little bit .... but way fast!
  • Chicagogal--I am so glad to hear you are back at it!! It's good to hear you have successfully altered your posture. I have such bad posture habits, and they are so hard to change. Happy belated "Neck Day"---Mazy
  • For those of you who are back to running, good for you! I wish I still could. I do think that having a lower back fusion might be a little harder in terms of wear and tear with regards to high impact activities than cervical fusion but I have NOTHING to base that on but an educated guess. I've had cervical problems for years (yes, in addition to lumbar) but the lumbar fusion is what I'm trying to heal from now. I would think that those of you with cervical fusion might be less at risk for "wear and tear" issues. But again, one person's thoughts - no scientific evidence.

    So if you can do it and and your doc says ok....run, run, run. I'm jealous but really happy for you!!!!! But still, at least I can walk, walk, walk!! I'll take it even if it isn't perfect! After all, I had a friend who lost both legs. I should complain??? Not!
  • Hi my name is Melissa. I had a 360 degree fusion surgery about 3 months ago. Before surgery and before the pain set in I went to the gym everyday. 3 days a week I ran about 2-5 miles and on the other days I used one of the machines about 8-10 miles. I asked the doctor if I would be able to run again and the answer was yes. However it will be 6months to a year before I run again. He told me to start out slow on a tread mill start to walk before I run and start building speed when I walk. I can walk pretty fast now and I belive at his rate I will be running by summer. I walk a mile in 13 minutes. Best of luck to you
  • Hello. I have a 9 level fusion (just learned that wording today) from T4-T12 and want to get back in to running. Any guidance, suggestions are welcome! I don't have any "restrictions" from the docs, just difficulty working through the new crazy feelings running gives me.
  • These posts while older are helpful!
    I loved to run, then hated it, but then found a love of it again. But ironicaly blew out my disc while training for my 3rd and final marathon. The funny thing is, I was going to do one more big distance run because I wanted to prove "I still had it" had 40 and then was cutting back to nothing more than 1/2marathons. I stretched wrong one morning in bed and that was the end of that.

    With the initial microdiscectomy the doctors assured me running would be fine in a year but that I might want to cut back to no more than 10 mile races. I had already planned to cut back to just leisure 3 mile jogs.

    Well, that plan went to the dumps b/c I just had a revision (the first one failed within the 1st 3 months). So while my sister and fellow runners do not understand, I know I am done running.

    Yes, it is VERY hard to read or listen to people who just go out for a jog. Best stress release. But I know I am happy to be walking and need to commit to myself to do what it takes to avoid future surgeries.

    It stinks but I have to appreciate that there are other things...hiking, walking, biking (though not so sure about this b/c of the bumps), swimming, and other activities...especially walking with my dog or just playing with her in the yard is something I miss.

    So for all you runners...if you can't run, I will offer to speed walk with you. There is a race near where I live that is 20K and there is a fellow who speed walks faster than some people run. I don't expect to be that person but I do plan to do walk-a-thons for causes like cancer or other related.

    I will miss running but I will celebrate walking!
  • DNICE - you resurested an interesting thread.

    I really miss running as well. From what I've read, it does seem to be more of a problem for lumbar patients who want to get back into it.

    These posts made me a little sad. One of the posters had commented on how it is hard for him to watch people run - that is me. Summer is the worst because there are runners all over the place and it makes me so sad and frustrated.

    I hope I will be able to enjoy speedwalking more in the future. I remind myself that I am lucky to just be walking - especially when I read some of the posts on here. But I think I am still in the place where I just can't get over the fact that I am 30 and will never be able to run again....

    Anyway, enough whining for me. I just have to learn to keep moving forward and be happy with all I do have.

    If you are ever in Boston I will take you up on the speedwalking offer :)
  • I am contemplating lumbar fusion and as a runner, the post-surgery information is good to know. I know running can't be good for me, but I'm very reticent (and sad) to give it up after 20+ years, Right now I'm still running a little, but I know if I have the surgery, I definitely can't do it anymore.
  • So many people want to shift directly back into running after being sedentary (may or ma not be your case). I see really heavy people out running and then they hurt their knees and hips and can't do anything during the recovery. Depressed by the situation they might eat more and be in worse shape than when they started.

    Walk, bike, strength train, swim, and then run. I love a good run but realized that it was also one of the most hard exercises on my body unless I was prepared for the shock. It took me months of prep before I eased back into running and that was well past when the doctors said I could because I did not feel ready.

    You can walk hard and get almost the same caloric burn as running without the shock to your body and build the foundation for future runs.

    Go slow to go fast - best of luck!
    C7-T1 ACDF 12Dec2013
  • I just ruptured (extruded they say, but the surgeon says ruptured) my L5/S1 during a half marathon. Currently it is so miserable I can not really stand/sit for any length of time. I'm amazed when people say they worked for months with a rupture because I just can't. I am very sad to see how many people have NOT returned to running. I love to run an will rehab with pool running as long as I have to (I had hip labrum repair in 2011) I just can not imagine not running, so hopefully the ESI will get me back there, and if not a microdiscectomy. I have some running I still want to do! So scary...I'm just not a cyclist or a power walker and I hate those classes where everyone is doing the same thing...
  • RunnerHKT said:
    I just ruptured (extruded they say, but the surgeon says ruptured) my L5/S1 during a half marathon...
    Have you had an MRI yet? They should really be able to tell you with specificity from the MRI what status your disk(s) is(are) in. I re-herniated twice before realizing what I had actually done. The sad part was that I likely could have recovered without surgery had I given the disc enough time to reabsorb the herniation and rebuild the outer wall. Each time I felt good again, I would start building back up my exercise routine not knowing that the disc had not healed until finally I injured it to much requiring surgery.

    Under a year later and I am back running again. I had a cervical/thoracic injury so a bit different. You can read my progression on this site at: http://www.spine-health.com/forum/mind-body-and-spirit/exercise-and-rehab/post-acdf-my-journey-recovery-and-exercise

    I think there is always hope (to run again) when you are willing to take the time your body needs and stay positive. You will get there if you want it bad enough!

    Was watching a little of the NYC marathon today in amazement of them turning out 5 minute miles 15 miles in and they didn't look like they were working!

    C7-T1 ACDF 12Dec2013
  • Its difficult to give up something that has been such an important part of my life. However, if I can walk again without pain I will be very happy. Planning on going through with spinal fusion in a few months.
  • DenverMom - Best of luck with your surgery! I ended up getting a stationary bike prior to my surgery as that was the only thing that did not provide shock when I used it. Even elliptical machines had too much bounce. Well I rode that thing like crazy for usually an hour a day, six days a week. I did not enjoy it but it kept the pounds off, maintained my cardio level, and allowed me be at a better place when I started rebuilding after surgery.

    It seems with the people I have exchanged with, the better shape you are going in to surgery, the better your recovery likely will be.

    I hope you get to run again as I know how much I enjoy it too. I have adopted a Newton style running form that helps with shock as well. You might look into it if you are not familiar already.
    C7-T1 ACDF 12Dec2013
  • a man who had some high lumbar disc problems resolved by surgery and 9 months later he completed an Ironman, so I guess it's possible. He did say he mostly walked through the marathon. So we'll see how things go with me.
  • Hi,

    Before my surgery, I asked my surgeon what I would be able to do after my surgery and his reply was, "I don't know. Everyone is different." At the time, I was pretty annoyed with his response. I felt like, "either I can do this, or I can't. Shouldn't you know?" What have I learned since my surgery? That my surgeon's response was perfect. Why? Because everyone is different. Some people can run, others can't.

    It's a personal decision too - it depends on your attitude towards life in general. Some people have the attitude of, "Just live. Or Carpe Diem." However, other people think about their future and believe in taking preventative measures. My physiotherapists have all said, "Whatever you do, do not run." In other words, avoid high impact sports which can lead to arthritis and worsening back conditions.

    So, I don't run and since it is not something I really liked doing anyhow - it really doesn't bother me. Please think about your future. Consider how important it is to be able to walk, to take care of your children and even your grandchildren. Look at the whole picture, not merely what is important to you today, but what will be MOST important to you when you are middle aged and older! GL!
  • that while my profile pic was taken about 4 weeks ago it is a bit misleading. I might add that I'm closer to 50 than you might imagine... so....I believe I've already hit middle aged....and older, well, priorities change, but for runners, they don't change too much.
  • Years ago when running really became a popular fad (early 80's) there was a bumper sticker that said...Running is Life and another that said...Live to Run. That was my philosophy. I loved it. My habit began in 1976 and ended with a multiple level lumbar fusion in January 2011. I tell people that I am a retired runner. They look at me like I am crazy, then I tell them my story.

    The most significant impact on me after my consult with a surgeon was that he recommended that I never run again. It took me a long time to accept it. BUT, I have because I can't run again. The want to is there, but the physical stability is not.

    Several months after my first fusion (it failed and I had a repeat) I was walking along the same route that I used to run and the temptation was there. The urge to step out and run! However, my lower spine told me that it was not stable enough to handle the impact. I remain content to walk, and as was previously posted, to live for the moment AND for the future.

    Running did not cause my spinal condition. It may have been a contributor, but it did not cause it. I believe that the 100+ parachute jumps in the Army were more significant, and the fact that I was born with a grade 1 spondy.

    In my opinion my previous, long-term physically active life conditioned me for where I am now. I have low body mass, a very predictable metabolism, excellent cardio/pulmo system, high tolerance for pain and self discipline. These resulted from running. What I no longer have is the opportunity to enjoy a run. I miss it dearly.
    Jim Bryant
  • Hi there. New member of the forums. I'm a female and a runner for about 15 years. Had an L5/S1 microdiscectomy in 2010 got right back into running and than had another microdiscectomy on the same disc this year 2014 and got back to running shorter distances of 5K-10K distance. I'm currently experiencing the possibility that I may have reherniated another disc. I'm at the point where I'm going to have to give up running. I went through a very bad depression just a year ago at the thought of this possibility. I was so happy to be running again with the right rehab and patience. I never ran more than 12 miles a week after my second surgery. I'm just at a place now where I just can't risk having a lifetime of problems. I hope to find something I love just as much as running. For me giving up the sport is like losing a best friend. Its being part of a community. I have met some of the best people through running and its really tough when the body betrays us. I'm fortunate to be able to walk though and hope to be pain free someday. Continuing to run despite the risks would be jeopardizing my health and quality of life. Just like grief, you have to go through each stage to accept it.
    Microdiscectomy L5/S1 2010
    Revision microdiscectomy after reherniation L5/S1 2014
  • Yes- I was stunned when my PA said I'd be able to run again, just not for 6 months post op. But should I? Do I really want to?! I'm not that great at it (I'm slow, get injured at high mileage), but I love feeling all sweaty and accomplished when I'm done. I especially love trail running, which I know is out. But knowing the impact of running on the spine, I think it's best I hang up my shoes.
    (I'm better at swimming anyhow, but it is soooo boring)

    ACDF w/Corpectomy C3-6 12/8/14 ; Laminectomy C3-6  5/19/2016

  • scottshariescottsharie Posts: 2
    edited 01/18/2015 - 6:56 AM
    In my case my surgeon said it was OK to go back to high impact activities, but my physical therapist said NO, including no running. So by following the prescriptions of both of them I have started taking simple exercise.
  • I played soccer for 20+ years. After my ALIF L5/S1 fusion in 2013 I was worried about my limitations. It's very true that each and every one of us will heal at different rates with different results. I still have pain daily including nerve damage and require medications to manage it all.

    It took a year for me to get the guts to go on a run. We had recently rescued two puppies last year and they needed to run. So, for 3 weeks we jogged 2 miles a day, 3-4 times each week. I realized two things rather quickly. 1) these puppies wanted to run 10 miles a day, everyday and 2) I wasn't meant to run (at least not yet). Your body will let you know what you're capable of - take care of it.
    Herniated L5 S1, (2) Lumbar Epidural Injections, lumbar discectomy L5 S1 August 2009, ALIF L5 S1 December 2012, Nerve Damage, L4 L5 Bulging Disc
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