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Post Fusion - can Golf come on the radar

I know there are some posts / references on this site regarding playing golf post surgery, but just wondering if anyone has recently undergone fusion surgery and has managed to recommence playing golf. For me personally, golf has been a large part of my life before my back problems resurfaced almost 2 years ago, and now having undergone fusion of L4 through S1 mid February, am focusing on my recovery. I am hopeful that with a steady recovery, PT etc that I will be able to get back to the game I love playing. I am not worried if my capabilities have been impacted, just to get back to my club and be able to spend time with my friends in the fresh air is what I hope for.

Appreciate any advice from anyone,

Thanks, Nick


  • My favorite part of golf? Driving the cart!!! lol, I say get back out there with your buddies ASAP... Socializing will do wonders for healing, as well as fresh air... though I wouldnt be swinging any golf clubs for awhile... and I would certainly discuss it before hand with the surgeon. Though once the fusion has finished (around a year, but needs to be verified through CT) then I imagine you'll be allowed to play golf. I wasn't told I couldn't.... though most of my friends say I can't....lol
    33yo mom of two. My surgical history...preadolescence scoliosis, kyphosis, and a hot mess.... 5 spine surgeries and lots of items added I wasn't born with (titanium, peek, surgical steel). Guess cremation is out. TSA loves me.
  • Lol I'm sure my buddies would say the same about me :-) I have missed a large chunk of playing time over the last 2 years, so the prospect of playing again is something that I want to focus my recovery on, but I will definitely discuss this with my surgeon before, Nick
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,865
    edited 03/03/2013 - 6:08 PM
    After each of my spinal surgeries, my surgeon said that after the appropriate time in rehab, conditioning, strengthening the muscles that support each area (for me it was Lumbar, Cervical and Thoracic), it would be OK to continue to play golf.

    Continue? Well, I was at best a very novice golfer. Like Allmetal, the best part of the game was driving the golf cart!
    I live in a private community in we have a 9 hole executive golf course. It would take me no longer then 5 minutes to go from my house (in a golf cart) to tee #1.

    My doctor said go ahead (he knew me and he knows my mechanics, body strength, etc) HOWEVER I Had to switch every day from being a Lefty or a Righty!!! The Golf game is hard enough to understand and digest, now adding playing from either side... whew A bit too much.. But that was my surgeon's way in telling me what I can do and what I cant.
    Seriously, I have noticed some relief when I do switch sides. I dont intend on giving away all of my secrets, but this one, without a doubt I need to pass on.With any spinal situation, playing the sport you used to do may be somewhat different.

    As long as you are willing to accept these differences, then go at it. But please remember things (ie - score) may not be what you used to see, but you still love the game , go for it!
    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
  • Nick_MurphyNNick_Murphy Posts: 171
    edited 03/03/2013 - 9:14 PM
    I have already had experience in a change to my abilities as I did manage to get several months back at my club around April last year, just after I'd recovered from having Radio Frequency Nerve Ablation. It was frustrating at first to be playing like a beginner but I quickly begun to improve. I even managed to get 4 days back to back golfing in France 2 weeks after my second Ablation in September, and then suddenly in October my back went again!!!! To be honest, this time I recognise the seriousness of having had a 2 level fusion and the more material changes to my game this will bring, but if I can at least get back to playing once the fusion has been confirmed, I don't care even if it means reverting to a 28 handicap :-)
  • I still play golf even after a 5 level lumbar fusion. Prior to my spinal infection in 2006, I was a 15 handicap. After my surgeries, I started playing golf again in 2008. I didn't know what to expect and was a little afraid taking that backswing. But everything worked out. I had to shorten that backswing a little so I get a little less distance but the trade-off is I have become more accurate. I spend less time in the woods. Good luck on your golf game. By the way, my handicap today is 18.

    Emergency surgery in March of 2006 for spinal infection of L 2 and L 3. During surgery, discovered I had Cauda Equina Syndrome. Spine became unstable after surgery and had 360 fusion with 10 pedicle screws, plates and rods in April of 2007.
  • Nick_MurphyNNick_Murphy Posts: 171
    edited 03/04/2013 - 10:07 AM
    It's really nice to have people confirm that a return to golf shouldn't be ruled out. I will take guidance from my surgeon and PT as to when it is safe, my PT today said at least 6 months, so I make that late summer :-) I was playing off around 15 before my back went wrong, and during my interim return was supposed to be playing off of 18 but it was at a stretch!
  • Hi Nicholas!

    Not sure if I am able to give any advice at this point but when I read your questions and profile it seems we have quite a few similarities. I am a 43 year old Norwegian loving sports, and most of all golf. I had my L4/L5 fusion and decompression in the beginning of February and all I can think of is when to expect returning to golf and what limitations I might face. HCP 16 before surgery, but I dont really care if I have to return to 25. Whats important is walking the fairways, being out with my friends etc. In my area the golf course open in the beginning of May and I hope to be able to at least do some putting and chipping and perhaps test the short irons by then. Have struggled with my back for years and have tested various techniques to treat my back as gentle as possible. Tested Natural Golf (Moe Norman) and special clubs, but ended up with a variations of the same swing, a single plane swing. None of the PRO`s at my local course teaches this so I found a source on the web. Graves Golf academy, http://moenormangolf.com. I now use regular golf clubs but the lie angle is a bit different. It works for me and hopefully it will work after my fusion too.

    Would be nice to follow your recovery and way back to the golf course.

    Isthmic spondylolisthesis L4/L5 with collapsed disk and nerveroot compression. MIS TLIF lumbar fusion surgery February 2013.
  • Hi Oystein, thanks for your post, will be glad to share updates with you as we progress. I've been fortunate, if you can call it hat, in that to date I haven't had to change my swing when playing, although clearly after a 2 level fusion I suspect this will enforce a change. Might not be a bad thing, have always had a massive over swing and now suspect I won't even get level in my backswing :-) will look to keep posting updates as I progress, next milestone is my Hydrotherapy next week, and the minute I feel I can put together an hour or so's walking and can drive, weather permitting I'll be heading to the club to walk a few holes :-)
  • Hi Nick. What do the surgeon / PT tell you to do at this stage in the recovery? I have a feeling that different doctors/pt/hospitals have different opinions. I am now almost 5 weeks post op and scheduled for a meeting with the hospital PT in a little over one week. I have been given a very limited daily training routine (I mean VERY limited) and been told to walk as much as I'm able to for the first 6 weeks, but not to challenge my back to the point where I feel increased pain. What about you?

    Isthmic spondylolisthesis L4/L5 with collapsed disk and nerveroot compression. MIS TLIF lumbar fusion surgery February 2013.
  • Nick_MurphyNNick_Murphy Posts: 171
    edited 03/08/2013 - 12:22 AM
    As I am only almost 3 weeks post op, I've only been advised to walk, and avoid any stabbing pains, not to rotate hips etc. my Physio advised last Friday when I asked "when can I start playing golf again?" That it would be at least 6 months. I haven't brought it up yet with my surgeon, I will be seeing him in 4 weeks to review progress and hopefully to check on fusion progress.
    I find walking a good exercise where I can benefit from getting outside in the fresh, if cold, air and it does feel like I am getting a good stretch. I am challenging myself to increase distance and pace each time, and am currently walking 2 km twice per day at a pace of around 14 mins / km. seems sedate but compared to my pre op abilities, I am very pleased
  • Seems like you are quite active and I think the pace is quite good so early in your recovery.
    Walking is a good thing, or at least it was:-) Walked twice per day the first 3 weeks after returning from hospital. A bit challenging with snow and ice on the road and sidewalks. Used ice spikes under my shoes but still had to walk very slow and careful, and my motion was a bit "stiff". The hard surface (even harder with the spikes) and limited motion has overloaded my right knee and it is now inflamed. Not allowed to use any antiinflammatory medication as bone is healing so my walking is limited at the moment. Pretty anoying. I try to do a short walk once a day and keep myself just below the level where my knee is getting irritated. I`m walking around the house quite a bit but it is kind of boring and I have to constantly remind myself not do lift things, do housework or whatever. Not that housework is fun but right now I would love to do some :)
    Isthmic spondylolisthesis L4/L5 with collapsed disk and nerveroot compression. MIS TLIF lumbar fusion surgery February 2013.
  • Nick_MurphyNNick_Murphy Posts: 171
    edited 03/08/2013 - 4:32 AM
    It is funny how you begin to wish you could do things you previously would have avoided like the plague! I find myself sometimes mid way through something I realise should be off limits, eg loading a dishwasher with a plate, and that horrid moment when you wait to see if its going to bite!
    The worst thing for me still is sleep, or lack thereof, as I keep waking up in the early hours in a lot of pain and unable to reposition myself for ages into a more comfortable position. Tend to read through this forum for overnight US updates at around 4 am UK!
  • I baught satin sheets because even now i cant move in bed without pain and i put satin sheets on and what a difference.I am having ALIFL4L5S1 the 13th so i have gotten the things on this site to be prepared.
    Kathy B
  • Hi Kathy, if things don't begin to ease then perhaps that's my next purchase, thanks for the recommendation
  • In my case, (XLIF L-45 fusion with microdiscectomy and subtotal laminectomy,) my surgeon said that I can probably play golf and return to ballet after a minimum of eight months of rehab. I wonder: I'm still at the aquatherapy stage. The only thing he put the kibosh on permanently is contact sports, and then jokingly said, "no skydiving, either." A pity: I have over 3,000 jumps.

    Loading/unloading a dishwasher: I figured out a workaround here: Kick a kitchen chair over to the dishwasher and place it at a 45 degree angle to the door, alongside the door, not in front of the door. Use your reacher to pull the lower drawer out. Load/unload the dishwasher by bending your hips. When unloading the dishwasher, stack the plates, etc. on the counter above the dishwasher. After unloading, close the dishwasher door and then put things away by taking them off the counter and putting them away.

    Remember to keep your shoulders and hips square, and don't bend at the waist. I performed this in the presence of my physical therapist when I was still on home PT. She said it was fine.

    As for golf, my handicap is 21. Or was. I strongly suspect that after rehabbing from surgery, my handicap will be best described as "very."
    I'm not a spinal diagnosis. I'm a human being with a spinal diagnosis.
  • Thanks for the suggestion, although part of me thinks I should just stick with not even attempting it, I suspect my wife will get wise to that eventually so your tip will come in handy :-)
  • Squat....lol. I don't have trouble with this so hopefully you all will be able to load/unload soon. To get the lower drawer out I use the "putter" bend as my PT taught me, it basically involves swinging one leg behind you as you bend forward, hand on the counter... this insures that you are only bending at the thigh joint and not the back. Ask for help from your PT in showing how to do this properly.
    33yo mom of two. My surgical history...preadolescence scoliosis, kyphosis, and a hot mess.... 5 spine surgeries and lots of items added I wasn't born with (titanium, peek, surgical steel). Guess cremation is out. TSA loves me.
  • I went this morning to my golf club, just to say hello to people I haven't seen for several months and to make my first trip out on my own since surgery 4 weeks ago. I spent an hour in the club house and out on the first tee, and it was great just to be there even if the weather was lousy, and I look forward to eventually including walking holes as part of my recuperation, but perhaps when the weather starts to improve :-)
  • Hey Fellow Golfers.
    I will also need surgery on the L45 in the coming future and still want to play golf. I have been considering an artificial disk compared to fusion to help with my continuation of sports. Was amazed that Reteif Goosen has had an artificial disk put in At L34 and he is back on the PGA tour. Google his story, worth the look.
    Good luck on everyone's recovery.
  • I'm 7 weeks post op this morning, wow doesn't time fly when you are having fun!

    I saw my surgeon yesterday, and whilst I had reservations going into the appointment, he was overjoyed with my progress. Had some new X-rays taken for him to review, and he said he couldn't be more pleased, everything looks perfect and there has been no movement. I explained I am still suffering most with my morning pains, regardless of what time the pain is at its worse 20 minutes after getting out of bed, and takes 45 mins to an hour to settle enough to start moving, or at least lay here without spasms / pain. He said I have to take into account the severity of my operation, the fact that it was complicated by the remedial work to revise my prior surgery, and that I perhaps have had too higher expectations for a speedy recovery.

    He has prescribed me Pregabalin (Lyrica) to be taken at night, and said it will take a week or so to kick in but hopes it will help settle the nerves to stop these morning pains. He was very happy with my walking abilities, wants me to continue my Physio and when I questioned him about future golf possibilities, his response was "why not try it now, go on, it will be fine" - I will NOT be taking this up right now, there is no way I could contemplate even a modest swing for chipping in my present state, but was reassured that golf should not be off my radar and I am free to try it as and when I feel comfortable.

    I raised my concern that his predication of a return to work 12 weeks after the operation was not possible given we are at week 7 now, and he said not to loose faith and if it takes 3 or 4 weeks longer, so be it, but in his mind he thinks its closer to 12 weeks than 24!
  • Nick,
    Nice to see you made it to the course. As a fellow golfer and fusion patient, I can predict you will have no pain when you are finally cleared to play golf. The only pain you feel on the golf course is when you hit a bad shot or miss a 3 foot putt. Here are a few suggestions for you.
    1. Once you are cleared, go to the driving range. Hit some mid irons, nice easy swing. Work your way up to the driver.

    2. When you are ready to play, you might want to rent a golf cart. If you are playing with someone, let them drive and do some walking. Beleive me, you will get tired.

    3. You might want to start playing just 9 holes and build up to the 18.

    I have been playing for 4 years after my 2007 fusion and I speak from experience.

    One last thing, one of the female golfers on the LPGA tour had a major spinal fusion as a teenager for scoliosis and is very competitive on the tour.

    Emergency surgery in March of 2006 for spinal infection of L 2 and L 3. During surgery, discovered I had Cauda Equina Syndrome. Spine became unstable after surgery and had 360 fusion with 10 pedicle screws, plates and rods in April of 2007.
  • Well I did go to my golf club today, but not to play, just to see the new Captains off. I did walk 3 holes as part of my physical therapy exercise, and spent what seemed forever explaining to each person how I'm doing. It was great though, to be out of the house and doing something normal, and seeing fellow golfing friends that I haven't seen since October.

    Thanks for the suggestions, I'll certainly be taking things slowly, and as of today even putting seems an age away, but hopefully not too long :-)
  • Hi Nick,

    Happy to hear that your meeting with the surgeon went well. I will not have mine until my 6 month mark. That is how things are done here I guess.

    As you might remember from before I`m one week ahead of you, at least measured by time. Had my 6 week meeting at the hospital two weeks ago but was only meeting a PT. No x-rays or anything. The PT more or less gave me thumbs up for any activity (except heavy lifting), which I found a bit strange. The level of pain should be what guided my efforts. I told her that I expected to go somewhat slow for another few weeks, you know the TBL limitations, but no. They tended to be too restrictive in their advice she said and told me that no actual research supported that strong limitations for the first few months gave any better over all result after one year. Well, this kickstarted my physical therapy at my local PT and that one did NOT agree. Having several other fusion patients she told me to go slow for at least a couple of more months.

    As much as I long for playing golf and being active I find the slow approach most appealing. My wife is also a golfer and our local course will be opening by the end of April I hope. She just cant wait, and I`m so jealous. Hopefully I can do the same as you, walking some holes for recovery and hopefully start with some putting and chipping. But for now, even thinking of swinging a club makes me short of breath.
    When it comes to pain I am lucky. Off all painmeds and able to avoid pain if I limit my activity to walking an PT. When I say PT I mean very basic exercises. Don`t know what your PT allows you, but I am only working on finding my core muscles and kind of learning the basics of controlling them. Working on my posture when I`m sitting and things like that. Eventually I will build some strength.

    I really like walking, makes me feel less disabled and more like a "normal" active person. Walking is also what bothers me most right now as I have this aching knee that prevents me from walking more than one mile a day. My back would accept much more. It does not feel like sciatic pain and the PT think it is a knee issue. What!!! No knee problems for 43 years, why now? Made a post on the forum, but no response so I guess this is not something that fusion patients normally experience. Hopefully walking on the soft surface of the golf course will be better than hard sidewalks and that it will eventually go away.

    Still hope that I will be doing some modest swinging, maybe playing a few holes with short irons some time in June. As for now the progress is slow and I do not know when I will be back at work.

    Are you hoping to go back to work full time when you first start up or do you plan to return gradually? I expect to get tired and having a desk job requires a lot of sitting which I guess is the opposite of what we need, right? And of course one needs time to do all the daily exercises and PT and I will not have the stamina to do that after a full day at work. I would not mind using the golf course as the base for my recovery. Walking a lot, do some PT, slowly testing the progress by building up from putting towards the driver. Must be ideal for measuring the over all progress for a fusion patient don't you think? :-)

    Wish you luck, I will be following your recovery.


    Isthmic spondylolisthesis L4/L5 with collapsed disk and nerveroot compression. MIS TLIF lumbar fusion surgery February 2013.
  • How are you doing, I do remember your prior post, thanks for posting again. Sorry to hear about your knee, I saw your post and am guessing you are right that no response from others is an indication of no experience. Were you given any explicit instructions regarding footwear? I was advised by my PT to get trainers with very good support, and managed to get my hand on a pair of jogging shoes made for extra comfort. They help a great deal when walking on hard surfaces. It sounds so incidental, but really has made a difference. Be careful walking on the course, as whilst you are correct that the ground is softer, it is also much more treacherous an environment to be walking what with the subtle and not so subtle undulations etc, I found myself having to be very careful and focused whilst on the move, and use a walking stick to help as my right leg has a habit of suddenly giving way.

    I have yet to consult with the insurance company and work with respect a phased return to work program, however I had to follow one last January after several months out post my first nerve ablation and the added delay caused by my gall bladder having to be removed due to gall stones just before Christmas! Then, I had a 13 week phased return, starting with only a few hours twice a week and gradually building up through the course of the 13 weeks to a full 5 day, 7.5 hours per day (yeah I wish, it's very hard not to get sucked back in to 10 - 12 hour days as before!).

    I actually fully concur with your thoughts on letting your recovery be guided by your golfing abilities :-) funnily enough it is something I have actually mentioned to my PT and my wife, who I have to say is not suitably impressed. However, what I have said is that I don't want to wait until I am back full time at work to begin golf, as actually golf has been for several years a staple part of my routine, so only starting up once I was back full time in fact set me back. I want to try and introduce golfing as part of my return to work program, after all it hopefully will be part of my normal life resumption along with work etc. I guess we will see how it goes.

    Good luck to you too, keep me posted on your progress,

  • I have a pair of trainers i feel is quite soft and stable, but I wonder if i might go to this specialist shop where they sell jogging shoes. Back in the days, when I was still able to run, I used to buy shoes there. Quite expensive but worth it.

    Like you I am also a bit concerned about the surface on the golf course. Ondulated and sometimes wet and I will really avoid slipping and falling on my back. Luckily my local golf facilities also have a 9 hole course which is quite flat, and the holes are short enough for me to play decent scores using just short irons. Might be the place for me to do my recovery.

    Your comment about your wife suggest she doesn't play golf? Mine do, we got into it as a common activity 7 years ago and have been bitten ever since, of course with lots of setbacks caused by my back, but still. She understands and support my plans and that is always a good thing :-)

    When it comes to balancing work and leisure activities I have always felt the need for a good balance to live my life like I want to. My back pain was never that bad (though it was rapidly heading in that direction) that I was not able to be almost pain free if I just avoided an active lifestyle. Not much of a life in my opinion and playing golf quickly became a huge part of my life. Must admit that I think about playing golf every day. Wonder about when I can return to just putting and chipping. What will my first careful swing with my wedge feel like. Lots of thoughts. Even had dreams at night, of me playing without pain shooting long straight drives :-) Feels like being a kid again, all this dreaming....

    Again, good luck! Hopefully we will have golf stories to tell each other some time in the near future.


    Isthmic spondylolisthesis L4/L5 with collapsed disk and nerveroot compression. MIS TLIF lumbar fusion surgery February 2013.
  • As I have stated at the beginning of his tread, I golf once a week, play 9 holes on a long, and hilly course in New England. It has 2 par 5's and 2 par 3's. I had my fusion surgery in April of 2007. It took me a year to be able to walk more than a few hundred yards , and another 6 months for me to walk a few miles. My surgeon released me one year to the day of surgery, telling me to live my life as best as I could. When I asked him if I could ever play golf again, he kind of chuckled and said to give it a try. My fusion was solid. My hardware was all in place, so why not. He told me to listen to my body, if something hurts, don't do it. So, in September of 2008, I played my first post fusion round of golf. This season, I plan on playing a round a week from the end of April until into October. By the way, I will be 65 next January.

    Emergency surgery in March of 2006 for spinal infection of L 2 and L 3. During surgery, discovered I had Cauda Equina Syndrome. Spine became unstable after surgery and had 360 fusion with 10 pedicle screws, plates and rods in April of 2007.
  • For your post, it will be interesting to see how things progress and at what stage I begin to feel confident in picking up a club and giving things a try. Will definitely start slowly and see how things progress, and it's people such as you that convince me that I will get back to playing at some stage, thanks
  • I'm afraid you are correct, my wife is most definitely a non golfer. She did take it up for a short while under pressure from others at my club, but other than enjoying buying outfits and shoes the enthusiasm was short lived lol :-)

    Can certainly concur with your thoughts on playing, was at the forefront of my mind whilst watching my friends play the holes I walked on Saturday, and currently sitting in front of the TV watching the Masters practise coverage on SKY TV, and very much looking forward to the weekends event and being glued to my screen - aside of course from the time I must continue to dedicate to my exercise etc :-)

    Hope you are doing well, catch up again soon no doubt,

  • Hope all are well. Just wanted to post an update as things continue to move along. In recent weeks I have managed to walk further holes at my local course. This weekend I managed 9 holes on Saturday but the cold snap was making me uncomfortable so called it a day, but Sunday the weather improved and not only did I manage to walk 18 holes, I also managed to make several half / three-quarter strokes and some chips as well. Suffice to say, not my finest shots, but none the less key milestones to me :-)

    I had my PT session today and recounted my progress and my Physio is now keen for me to continue progressing things by including further strokes during my course walks, but wants me to avoid the repetition of the range right now as she thinks that's not the best way to move forward.

    So all in all, I'm very pleased to be making progress, walking around the fairways with a stupid grin on my face :-)
  • Hi Nick

    Glad to see your improving. Half / three-quarter strokes you say. You mean like thre-quarter of a full swing, or am I misunderstanding? My local golfclub is opening their 9-hole course this Wednesday and I am ready to put my shaking feet on the fairways for the first time since my surgery. Your progress and what you write about chipping and / or swinging makes me anxious to get out there and give it a go.

    Isthmic spondylolisthesis L4/L5 with collapsed disk and nerveroot compression. MIS TLIF lumbar fusion surgery February 2013.
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