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Return to Strenuous Exercise

Hello all!

First, let me thank so many of you your previous posts. This site has been a big help to me.

I am 33-years-old and I am 26-weeks removed from my L5/S1 microdiscectomy. Prior to my surgery, I was very active and did a lot of "extreme" fitness routines like P90X, Insanity, and Crossfit. Looking back, I believe that some of the things that I was doing contributed to my disc rupture, though exercising seemed to help me deal with the years of pain I endured. I am happy to report that I feel much better and I am thrilled that my surgery took away my sciatica COMPLETELY!!!

That said, I still have back pain. My surgeon said that is just the way it will be due to my degenerated discs. I am happy to live with the pain I have. However, I would like to get back to a little bit of strength training to get my physique back. Since my surgery, I have been doing a lot of cardio... usually 1 hour (6-7 miles) on the elliptical 5-days-a-week. Every time I have tried to add in even the slightest amount of strength training, I have a flare-up that scares the heck out of me. I know that I will never do squats, dead-lifts, or burpees again, but I am talking about simple bodyweight stuff like 3 sets of 10 push-ups and pull-ups. According to my surgeon, such things should not be hurting my back whatsoever since they are done in perfect alignment and not bent at the back.

For those who have "been there", is it still early or is it just the way that it is going to be? Should I be resigned to be a cardio-junkie for exercise the rest of my days?

One other thing... is it common that laying on my stomach will really aggravate my back? I remember back in therapy how much they had me on my stomach and even doing endless numbers of press-ups. Now, trying to play on the floor with the kids and laying on my stomach causes terrible low back pain after just a couple of minutes. Again... normal?

Thanks for anything any of you can throw my way!


  • DNiceDDNice Posts: 1,962
    edited 10/03/2012 - 3:57 PM
    My thoughts, and I am not a doctor or expert.
    You have to always consider the risks when taking on a new activity.
    One thing I did was engage with a physiatrist (muscular/skeletal doctor) and his PT team.

    I have not tried pull ups (I'm nearly 3 years out of both my surgeries). Just not something that I envision feeling good and I don't know that my abs are strong enough to keep my back from twisting.

    I have done push ups - I learned how to do modified planks first with oversight of doctor (PT). Then could use that to remember how to engage my abs to try modified push ups but only a few. It is SO critical to ensure the form is right. I have not gotten up to full push ups but more because I'm cautious. I can do planks and some other work in a plank position and modified push ups (from knee)

    For sit-ups or ab work - I basically do the exercises I was taught in PT (both just after surgery and the additional ones I got this past year when I visited the new Physiatry team)

    I also stretch daily! I hadn't realized how important this was. I only do this 'formally' 1x/day but it has proven to be valuable.

    For toning - I started with resisting my own weight for arms and then gentle squats (or bent knee stance but with very careful form). I can now use a 15lb bar for biceps/triceps. I started on the floor so I could get my back in the neutral position and started with 9lbs to be sure I was able to focus on form. When I stand, I still have to watch form.

    It's a process...a long one. And, you might advance and then have to step back. As for lying on your stomach...be careful. One thing I learned when I went for recent help is that you want to be sure you have support so perhaps put a pillow under your stomach to give your pelvic area support.

    Anyhow, that's my hodge-podge of advice.
    Cardio is great for you.
    Toning/strength training is possible but just need to always be aware of form.

    Good luck.
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,832
    I just always tell member BEFORE you start any type of exercise program, first discuss it with your doctor/surgeon to get their input.
    Whats good for one person may not always be good for another. I can tell you from a long experience with this, that IF you go ahead and start to do things that you shouldn't, you are just asking for another problem and potential surgery.

    Lying on my stomach!!! I used to love that, I haven't done that since 1975
    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
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