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Exercise addict here

ajamiesonaajamieson Posts: 65
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:40 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery

I am having a laminectomy with a lumbar fusion (2 levels) on Monday Dec. 28. I am in a lot of pain (sciatic) but I am also just mentally miserable since I haven't been exercising. At this point is there really any harm in working out anyway? The pain is there but I know it will be gone soon. My husband thinks I am nuts to even try it (I know if I do the pain will be worse but my mental state will be better). What do you think>


  • on a new and different lifestyle...at least for now.
    If it were me, I would spend time enjoying my family, the outdoors, getting your house as prepared as possible, and rest.

    I actually stopped PT before surgery because it was hurting so much afterward. and felt that I did not need any additional pain postop.

    You may want to change your way of thinking of exercise. Maybe instead of addict; think of it as a focus on getting strong and healthy again. There is nothing more important now than concentrating on a healthy fusion. Now it is all about the therapy spelled out by your surgeon, superior nutrition, arranging your medication so that you can do the therapy prescribed, and most importantly, REST.

    I will tell you another thing that all spineys eventually discover...you can not push exercise.
    There is no mind over matter when it comes to fusions. Your back will not let you overdo. When you do to much you pay for it in triplicate!!

    This does not have to mean the end of the active you!!! There are so many forms of exercise, I'm sure you will find something that you are passionate about doing and doesn't harm your back.

    My doctor said to me last week...You know, Lisa...this is just a hiccup in your life. And I believe him...

    Take care and enjoy your weekend,

  • it is so hard not to be able to be as active as you want-don't you get on that horse!I am with Lisa-try to look at it as starting on a new way of life-I am still working on that too---you don't want to make matters worse! Rest this weekend,because you have a long road ahead
  • Your discs absorb impact, weight and shocks. When you remove some, the other discs have to take up the slack.
    Think about switching to no or very low impact excersize in the future. No squats or good-mornings, over head presses, calf raises on the stnading machine, any movement that transfers compression from your upper body/extremeties THRU your lumbar spine to your lower body/extremeties.

    I was a runner. I can't do it anymore, but I have grown very fond of cycling. Bike riding is no-impact, I get a good cardio workout, get some fresh air, and see some sights.
    (of course, we have no inclement weather in SoCal, so I guess I am spoiled)

    I feel like garbage if I don't excersize, but after my procedure which was much much less invasive, even washing dishes at the sink was tiring!
    Give yourself permission to take it easy.

    Goodluck and keep typing at us so we know how you fare.
    On the sunny and mild Central Coast of California

    L4-L5 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy June, 2007
    L5-S1 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy May, 2008
  • get used to a whole new way of life. You may very well be able to find some exercises you can do after surgery, but they will not be the same ones you've done before. At this point, I agree with your husband. You're risking hurting yourself more badly than you're already injured.

    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
  • I agree with everyone else, you are going to have to prepare yourself for a completely different lifestyle. Perhaps you will be able to work out as you please down the line, but it will probably be at least a year after your surgery. Possibly even two.

    I seem to remember quite a few other threads posted by you asking when you can do certain physical things. It seems like you are wanting to push yourself way too much. Please take it easy, for your body's sake. If you push yourself too much all of your hard work (and that surgery) will have been for no reason at all, because you can harm yourself even more.
  • I don't know what you have in mind by way of exercise...but you do not want to risk anything that could make your back worse. Your surgery could end up being less successful...perhaps this chance is fairly remote, but, why chance it?

    I know I have written several similar sentiments to you, but here goes one more time. I'm just really worried that you have not fully absorbed that fusion is a BIG surgery and you will be laid up for awhile. And it is important that you are laid up!! One reason some people develop problems after fusion or discectomy is because they are in a rush to get back to their former life and they do not give themselves sufficient time to heal. Even though one can show signs of fusion as early as two or three weeks, the fusion will not be solid and strong for a year...solid to the point that the patient can resume the more physical activities.

    Some fusion patients are in a hurry to resume their old life, doing all the activities that they did when healthy. Others decide that one fusion surgery was enough and they decide to revise their "old activities" and opt for things that are a little less jarring on the discs...figuring they developed spinal problems from their old lifestyle, they want to do what they can to preserve their other discs, etc.

    We all know that "adjacent disc disease" is a problem for anyone who has had a fusion. It is just a fact that the adjointing discs and vertebrae absorb the movement that the fused area used to do. This causes more wear and tear to the adjoining areas and sometimes they fail more quickly as a result.

    So there is a bit of a fine line between doing too much, doing what is appropriate and trying to figure out what that line is.

    Most of your posts concern exercise so I know how very important it is to you. I hope you will be careful and thoughtful in your actions after surgery.
    You might have a doctor that tells you, regarding activity, "if it hurts, don't do it." Most of us on the board have found that erring on the side of caution for the first year is the more practical advice.

    I wish you very good luck with your surgery. We'll still be here to answer all your post-surgery questions...if you have any...and otherwise we're here to support you.

    Hope you can enjoy Christmas.

    Blessings ~
  • Unfortunately it could make it worse.
    Why are you getting a laminectomy/fusion?
    What levels?

    Just curious. I know it's a big surgery.

    I'm extremely active (or was up until this past August) when I herniated my disc badly and got numbness/pain down my left leg. I had a microdiscectomy that unfortunatey didn't work. I'm headed for a revision in January.

    I admit I'm stir crazy about exercise but already realize I have to change my lifestyle to avoid a fusion and if I ultimately need one, I need to find a new plan.

    I now walk as much as I can. I also learned a few key core exercises with the 1 PT session I went too that do not use my back but do work abdominals that I do. I am also allowed to use Stationary bike. I was going to ask about swimming but since I am headed for surgery, it wasn't worth joining an indoor pool so I never asked. I suspect I'l be able to do that (or at least certain strokes) too.

    It's tough but be careul. If you feel the need to do something, I'd say walk but bring a phone with you.

    Good luck.

    You are amongst many others like you that needed to adjust our routines.
  • Being active is one of the most important things in my life. I know I take it to an extreme but I just feel so unhappy when I can't exercise. It keeps me sane. I used to run A LOT (marathons and was training for an ultra) and lift weights a lot. I just did the P90x program before I had my fall. I hope I can cycle. Paul, I wonder why you can't run anymore. Can you tell me? Is this something your doctor said?

    I am having a 2 level lumbar fusion. I am also having a laminectomy. When I fell from my horse I fractured the vertebrae and I have spondo, ddd, and some other problems. The pain is almost entirely sciatic. I have little to no back pain. The neurosurgeon said that this surgery will help with the extreme sciatic pain. I was hoping I'd be able to run again and also to get back to lifting weight.

    Thanks everyone and I wish everyone happy holidays!
  • SpineAZSpineAZ WiscPosts: 1,084
    A spinal fusion changes the bio-mechanics of your spine. If you have damage that needs to be fixed, such as in your case, a fusion gets you back to a functional state. But it does change how you need to think of activities.

    High impact exercises or activities jolt the discs in the areas above and below your fusion and those levels take more impact and more weight bearing. Thus the adjacent discs can be damaged over time. So running may need to be avoided. If you were to run, or even do simple exercise, too soon after recovery you jeopardize the entire operation and can end up with more damage, more surgery, and further incapacitation which can become more permanent. Even if you are deemed "fully recovered" at some point by your doctor, returning to running will be tough on the area of fusion and the surrounding "healthy" disc levels.

    After a fusion you want to preserve the remaining spine levels and that requires you change the what you do and how you do it. I no longer bend from the waist. I watch what I move/lift and avoid anything that puts pressure on the spine. I am now 43 and I think......"if I want to walking upright at age 80 I need to take care of my spine now". I had to learn to depend on others for some physical things like lifting and to ask for help.

    For someone that has been active it may be a process of figuring out what activities are healthiest for your back (such as cycling) and that can make you happy. And also finding other ways to stay active, and maybe not just physically active, but things like volunteering to fill your time and "fill your heart" and stave off any kind of depression. I found that after my L4-S1 fusion in 1993 I had to change my activities a bit. Less exercise and more volunteering. Not because exercise caused pain but I wanted to maintain my spine for the future, but not sit back and watch the world go by. I was only in my 20's and wanted to be as "spine" healthy as possible.

    I do a lot of walking. I bought a treadmill and though I don't run made sure to get one that was rated for running (as those treadmills have better padding/cushion). I've done water aerobics and though I was the youngest in the class it kept me moving and is so good for the joints due to buoyancy.

    The advice you've gotten from the others here is right on track. You have to let yourself heal. When you do start activity you have to know to stop when pain starts. After my cervical fusion I did get back on my treadmill after 14 days. But I did 5 minutes a day for the first week. Then added 1 minute a day. But never held myself to "I must do 20 minutes". If something hurt then I stopped. I hope to be able to do the same after my upcoming L3-S1 fusion.

    Once you've had surgery and your surgeon agrees maybe you can find an exercise physiologist to meet with and they can walk you through ergonomics, what exercises to avoid, what will work well, etc.
    2 ACDFs, 2 PCDF, 3 LIFs; Rt TKR; Rt thumb fusion ; Lt thumb arthroplasty; Ehlers Danlos 
  • I know I had the same thoughts as you - 'why can't I mow the lawn, any damage I do now will just fixed next week'.

    But, surgery kicked my patootey.

    It was also challenging emotionally - it's not just the physical hurting and the being laid up, it's also the deep horror of gaining weight, of sitting. of doing nothing - and even worse - my formerly creative self totally disappeared! I could not even feel the urge to want to create or move or do anything. Very depressing to say the least.

    But, I gave myself 6 months of being a slug. I really had to work at not hating myself. After that I started PT - with guidance, I learned how to get myself back into doing things.

    At 1 year I had lost 15 lbs of the weight and was starting to feel more like myself. At 18 months I am down 40 lbs and exercising sensibly on a regular basis. I actually do more than before. I am not 100% yet. I still have not been released to downhill ski and I have not been back on my horses either - yet.

    Some things I recommend - think about your life - is there anything you've always wanted to try/do but never found the time to do it? Something new you wanted to learn? Something a little bit slower and the only thing holding you back was that you were always too busy to teach yourself.

    What about drawing, painting, how about playing a guitar or another instrument, do you have children - how about spending some quality game/talk/read aloud time with them. No kids? How about reconnecting with extended family? What about looking up your geneaology? Do you have a booklist you've never gotten around to reading? Maybe there is something on your list that will be so new and exciting that you will find the energy to think, plan and do it during your recovery.

    Now for some encouragement. My dad has had 3 back surgeries, including fusion. After almost a year of being flat on his back in a hospital bed he is now back to farming full-time, has been back on his horses, has taken up driving (cart and horse driving) and you would never know that he fell down a grain elevator and broke his back. It IS possible to get your life back IF you can just bear to allow yourself time to heal.

    Sorry to post such a long post - but I KNOW that frustration of being throttled back in your life. I used to be such a powerhouse go-getter person. I was a whirlwind. Everyone was amazed at how much I could accomplish. People were practically bowled over by my enthusiasm.

    Like I said, I'm not back all the way yet. I may never be. But, I found that I truly enjoyed the extra time I got to spend with my youngest. I read for enjoyment, I even picked up magazines, I NEVER had time for magazines before my back surgery. I re-discovered my love of photography - oh and the possibilities with the digital age now - holy cow - there is SO much to learn and SO much that I can do! I even started digitalizing all my negatives and all my parents negatives.

    Look at your time down as a TREASURE! Like being out of school for the summer - it's time to let all your troubles go, get off the schedule and rediscover yourself.

    I'd almost love to have my 6 months off to do all over again just because I found so many things I don't have time for now.
  • ajamieson said:
    Paul, I wonder why you can't run anymore. Can you tell me? Is this something your doctor said?
    Oh, it's just a personal choice. I'm sure I can go for a light jog, but I do not want to pound the discs and risk another herniation.
    The technical medical explanation is that the scar tissue that closed up the tear in my disc(s) is weaker than the outer disc material (called annulus).
    I figure if the original annular tissue didn't hold up, the scar tissue won't either.

    I hear th P90X is sheer hell but works great. Wish I could do stuff like that.
    On the sunny and mild Central Coast of California

    L4-L5 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy June, 2007
    L5-S1 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy May, 2008
  • I was worried about the lack of exercise thing before my fusion (only L5S1) too. I only walk, but often long distances, and swim every day. I had my op on 16th October. I got a wound infection about 11 days later and was not allowed to even walk for the three weeks that I had it!

    You will find that even walking tires you out after the surgery. You won't believe us until you have had it (I didn't) but just 10 minutes walk is enough to start with. When I added swimming to my routine I had a terrible week afterwards where I was back to not being able to get out of bed without pain. When the others post that you pay for overdoing it they speak the truth! The trouble is that you don't realise that you are overdoing it until the next day. Then you know - oh yes!! Then other people tell you off for overdoing it!

    Basically you will have to go with the flow. Listen to your body (probably the next day) and learn your lessons the same way we all have. You may recover faster than some or slower. Try and be patient.

    Good luck on Monday - I hope the surgery goes well. I am sure we will all be thinking of you.
  • I understand the personal choice to give up running.
    I was training for my 3rd marathon (and final b/c I was realistic about the pounding it did to the body) and a practice 20K race when I ruptured my disc about a month before the 20K.

    I deferred on the race and with my microdiscectomy, my doctors said I could definitely run again in a year. Though they did say I should consider reducing the distance which was fine by me. Well, not that the microD didn't work, I'm really realizing I don't want a fusion so have to do what I can to find something else.

    Exercise is my sanity too! It's my one true love. I love brisk walking, running, hiking, biking, cardio aerobics, and more. I just am at my happiest if I can get out an exercise b/c it's the only time I can really allow my mind to destress.

    I have been basically walking and doing core exercises waiting for my next surgery. I decided giving up running is a sacrifice but in return, I hope to be able to walk long distances and take rigorous hikes which I love. Better to modify exercise than not be able to walk much which would completely put me into depression.

    Good luck
  • :<
    I really gotta get names right! Thank you for posting this. Gwennie sent me the link and I believe it is what I needed to read...along with a few of the other things I read.

    I'm kind of depressed, feeling alone in the midst of people. My husband asked to take me to a mall today. I figure this much after Christmas it shouldn't be over crowded and I'll be able to walk ok. Its an outlet mall (outdoors). I'll try because I think its better for me to cry having been outside and tried it...even if it hurts than to stay home and cry because I'm miserable.

    I have read so many books...gonna pick a few more up at the outlet today. I don't have a lot of family but have reached out to them. One in particular (an in-law) would be a great source of advice. Her husband had a lumbar fusion some years ago...but all Ii get from her is "feel better". Whatever....

    I'm excited for today. Not the shopping part. Couldn't care less...I'd rather go to walmart. But the being out part!!!!! Yes!!!!! I need fresh air...I need to see people...I need to experience life (carefully). If the mall is still icy...well...I guess I'll just have to hold onto dh while I walk into the bookstore. And then come back home. My neck is already hurting and its 11:20am. It usually does when I wake up. I think I'm stretching in my sleep...BAD THING.

    But thank you from the bottom of my heart. You spineys are really the best!
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