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Running after microdiscectomy

jjs6791jjjs6791 Posts: 1
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:42 AM in Exercise and Rehab
Hello, I did a quick search, but couldn't find a thread specifically on this topic.

I had a microdiscectomy on Dec 21 2009 for L4/L5. I was having sciatica down the left leg, hamstring area.

My recovery is going fair. Much better than before surgery where I could barely walk, but still feeling tightness in low back mostly, sometimes in the old area.

I've done PT, first was in network and terribly overcrowded, then found a guy out of network one on one. He's gone pretty conservative with just stretching.. soon we're doing core strengthening

Anyway my question concerns running. I was a pretty big distance runner beforehand, and am itching to get back. I've been on the elliptical plenty and have started fast walking on the treadmill, and it doesn't seem to be affecting anything. Before surgery and when I was just having back pain and not sciatica, running actually seemed to loosen things up and make me feel better. I'm not sure if perhaps it had a bad long-term affect.

If I go out slow (1 mile at first, then more) and don't feel any immediate regression, is it recommended? I'm know it may be best to wait until all tightness is gone completely but if I can do this I want to

My PT thinks it okay as long as go slow at first and stop if I feel it acting up. Thoughts?


  • I know this isn't your specific question. In general though whether you had a discectomy, laminectomy, or fusion. When it comes to the recovery. There are a lot of similarities to follow. High impact is one of them. The thread below should give you an idea.


    Using input from the PT as to how they feel you are progressing is fine. I'd be asking my surgeon this question.

  • j.howiejj.howie Brentwood, Ca., USAPosts: 1,732
    They likely will not take to much high impact without causing more damage. You may want to have a very specific talk w/ your surgeon.
    Good luck, Jim
    Click my name to see my Medical history
    You get what you get, not what you deserve......I stole that from Susan (rip)
    Today is yours to embrace........ for tomorrow, who knows what might be starring you in the face!
  • My personal thoughts are that you really need to consider your goals for the future and discuss with your surgeon.

    That being said, I'll share my personal approach to this.

    Herniation #1: When I herniated my disc (tear), my initial surgeon told me after 6-12 months I could consider running again but that he strongly encouraged me to quit distance running to avoid re-herniation. He said he'd recommend staying in the 3mile range.

    Side note: I was training for my 3rd/final marathon as I was turning 40 and wanted to prove "I still had it in me"...ironic, I know

    I decided my course of action was going to be no more than casual/enjoyable 1-3 mile runs and no more than 2-3x/week. I didn't want to risk not being able to run due to rehernation.

    Herniation #2: Well, I never recovered from surgery 1 and knew at the 3-month mark I had lost another large piece of disc. At that point, I rethought things and my new goal became...AVOIDING A LUMBAR FUSION because I felt that would severely limit my activities for quite some time.

    summary: Consider your age, your goals, and discuss this specifically with your surgeon.

    I would really take caution for 12 months and really consider the future risks associated with running. Perhaps it's time to find another sport that can give you the similar feeling.

    I ran lots of 10K, 20K, 1/2s, and 2 marathons...I really was going to do 1 more marathon and then cut back to fun running for health and mental peace.

  • You need to consider the health of the discs above/below. For me L5-S1 barely has any disc left which is one problem but L4-L5 is showing signs that it's under 'stress'.

    Your discs are shock absorbers...much like a car, eventually they will give way but unlike a car, they are not as easy to 'replace'.
  • Reading these posts about running after surgery, and the other thread about running after fusion is making me feel more optimistic about my upcoming surgery. So I guess some people do fare well after surgery -well enough to exercise again and even run!
    I love running and would love to get back to it, but even more, I want to get back to dancing. Dancing is the one thing it's hard for me to live without - lessons, dances, clubs, etc. I plan to start out on the elliptical as well, and take it slow from there.
    discectomy in June 2010 - success! No sciatic pain, just some remaining numbness in foot. And I get charlie horses a lot.
  • As a marathoner and on my 2nd op for my back I am very keen to retun to gentle runs? How long after surgery shall I leave it?
  • Oakey, that's something that you should discuss with your surgeon, as it would depend on your injuries, surgery, and your recovery.
    APROUD CANADIANveteranButNOTa doctor, my thoughts are my own
  • Victoria 65VVictoria 65 Posts: 2
    edited 12/24/2014 - 8:44 PM
    I just had microdiscetomy surgery yesterday to address severe symptoms like many of you describe. I am a 30-year runner, and I'm heartbroken to think I may never run again and all that running may have actually contributed to the destruction of the disc. The surgery almost instantly addressed the horrible hamstring pain, Charlie horses in my calf and numbness in my foot, but it's hard for me to get my head around a 4 to 6 month or even longer recovery. And saying goodbye to running. Encouraging advice welcome!
    Victoria Langley Heller
  • I'd really like to know how your recovery is going and if you were able to get back into it again. I'm 4 weeks post surgery on L3-4, 4-5 micro/lamen. I know I have a long road ahead, I'd just like to know if there is light at the end of the tunnel. Marine Corps marathon is coming October 30th, 2016. I'm going to cross that finish line if I have to do a 16min pace walking the entire way. 3rd and probably last full. Not where I wanted to be at 45, but if I can still enjoy myself running again sometime I'll be happy.
      Appreciate any progress reports. 
  • AlphabetAAlphabet AustraliaPosts: 48

    I'd really like to know how your recovery is going and if you were able to get back into it again. I'm 4 weeks post surgery on L3-4, 4-5 micro/lamen. I know I have a long road ahead, I'd just like to know if there is light at the end of the tunnel. Marine Corps marathon is coming October 30th, 2016. I'm going to cross that finish line if I have to do a 16min pace walking the entire way. 3rd and probably last full. Not where I wanted to be at 45, but if I can still enjoy myself running again sometime I'll be happy.
      Appreciate any progress reports. 

    Just wondering I am 2 post op and am feeling ok apart from having a numb toe still which I can understand may take some time. What activities are you doing at the 4 week Mark... Going for walks getting around the house? I have a 1yr old and a wife who are not interested in me anymore as I feel to scared and restricted to to do anything??
  • RikalausRRikalaus SwitzerlandPosts: 1
    This forum helped me a lot during the uncertainty of my microdiscetomy. I never shared my situation, but feel I should now since whilst going through it I had read a great number of horror stories and little confidence of a recovery. 

    Dec 2014 I herniated a disc L4-L5 and had a second bulging. Pain was barely tolerable, but I pushed through. It all came to a head when I took a 10 hour flight and arrived in Dominican Republic unable to walk. 

    I tried a chiropractor, which was not at all helpful. I had 6months of physiotherapy which did nothing for me. I began to lose feeling in the skin from the knee down and developed weakness in the muscles. None of which was noticeable until the GP ran some tests. The future looked bleak. I have always been sporty, and now a 15 minute walk (shuffle) resulted in me being bed bound for a day or two. 

    After having a microdisectomy in June last year, the improvement was immediate. I could stand up properly for the first time in a long time. Walking did not cause pain. In fact, sitting or laying down now resulted in a similar but different pain. Walking eased this. However my mindset was still not great, because as good as it was, it wasn't what it was before. The surgeon was happy with the outcome, but as the following months continued, I was sure he had been too cautious in his approach and felt more material needed to be removed away from the nerve, 

    i went through the physiotherapy. It started with releasing the muscles. I had adapted my posture for so long, my body was 'twisted'. The foot had turned slightly inwards. Some of these sessions were crushingly depressing. They felt like a step backwards each time, we slowly moved onto score exercises and stretching. Each a challenge. But with a strong mindset to meet each head on I persevered. Doing the 'homework' became a religion. 

    6months later I was in a much better place. Everyday activities easier. I still had not returned to sports per se, but began swimming. Something I wasn't very good at! I was catching my breath at every length. However. This was a major relief. There is something about being able to push yourself physically, that unwound the muscles and brought immediate relief to any residual pain. I aimed to complete 500m. Then 1km. Which now extends to 2km. 

    The the big motivator here was weight loss. I was seeing the core exerices were bringing back some shape to a neglected body. The various drugs you take give moon face and body confidence a serious knock. Plus inactivity and eating habits.. Let's say, I was a little rotund! the swimming changed that. I also started making changes to my diet. No revolutions, just subtle changes here and there. My weight dropped from 98kgs to today's weight of 83.5kgs. 

    In Jan I started running again. 1km to start with. But with a new habit or style. I bought free running shoes, and now only run on the toes. This ensures that the arch of the foot acts as the primary shock absorber. Protecting knees and spine. It wasn't easy and my calves are now huge. But look to the animal kingdom, no other animals run on the heel of the foot. We've made an unnatural adaptation because of trainers. 

    The first test came when I returned to the slopes snowboarding and had my first wipeout. No pain! Before this point I had been very careful and gingerly treating by back like it was fragile. Big boost to the confidence. And the core muscle workout had improved my balance immensely. 

    Running has increased week on week. I now run 5km twice a week and do one 10km run a week. I swim 2km twice a week, and with the weather improving try to fit in a 20km ride. I also do a bodypump class and a spinning class. Last week I played football for the first time in a long time. I've started to neglect the core workout, but make sure I do it on days I don't do sport. 

    Do I still get the occasional twinge? Yes. But it's so very occasional now it's hardly noticeable. The surgeon told me this will slowly disappear over a 2 year period. Something to do with a large lesion on the nerve that takes a long time to heal. He was right. In fact ai can't remember the last one I had now. 

    So in summary, is there hope? Yes absolutely, but you will need to put in the work and don't expect quick results. However it's totally worth it. Quality of life has increased dramatically and I have a new perspective and respect for life. 

    Best at of luck to anyone reading this. I know first hand how hard and rare it is to find the success stories that match your desires. You can do this, believe in you

  • martyadlmmartyadl Australia Posts: 19
    Thanks. So nice to hear a good outcome. I'm recovering from a L5/S1 D and walking as much each day as I can. After 6 weeks am really keen to start running and cycling!
  • LizLiz Posts: 7,904
    This is an old discussion created by a member no longer on the forum so I am closing it.

    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
This discussion has been closed.
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