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How soon back to running?

I was an avid runner before the pain really started kicking in. I went from 35-40 miles a week to 2-5 on a good week. I am going to have L5-S1 surgery in less than a month and was curious how long after surgery should I wait to begin running, and how much should/could I do? I'm 35 yrs old and will not take "you shouldn't run anymore" as an answer :)


  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832
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    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • Are you getting a fusion at this level? I just had this level fused almost six weeks ago and was told beforehand that I could consider "light jogging" by six months post op and by one year should be back to around normal running and training.
  • Yes, I'm having an alif fusion. I hope I can get back to normal running. This pain crap sucks. One of the pa's told me that I should stop running. That would kill me.
  • Jumping PenguinJJumping Penguin Posts: 7
    edited 09/06/2013 - 8:13 PM
    I had both an alif and plif. So far it has been well worth it. It would kill me too not being able to be active. I chose my surgeon wisely and if I listen to my body and be patient with my healing I should be able to do most everything I did before. Good luck with your procedure and recovery. I know people who have had this procedure and still run marathons. Some doctors just want people to stop running because the levels above a fusion can start having issues. That is a bridge I will cross later if need be, I'm too young to give up my way of life when a lot of the doctors I have seen say I can be very active. Take care
  • PaulPPaul Posts: 730
    edited 09/06/2013 - 8:19 PM
    ^ Oh to be young and carefree.

    I used to run. I bike now. Have any of you given bicycling a chance?
    On the sunny and mild Central Coast of California

    L4-L5 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy June, 2007
    L5-S1 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy May, 2008
  • Ben and Jumping Penguin:

    I have been were you are. The only difference is age. I am 62 and probably have run longer than you have lived. When the surgeon told me to not run again I almost cried. That change of lifestyle was extremely troublesome.

    However, I got over it, especially after my two level fusion (L4-S1). When I was walking (how humiliating for a runner) for rehabilitative exercise I tried to imagine the feeling of stepping out and running. That's when I realized that I would collapse on the pavement if I did. My fused spine is not near strong enough to do it any more.

    Each of us are unique and some can recover to the point of resuming the same active lifestyle. I could not. I even have dreams about running. Anyway, my caution to you is to think long term - much like running a marathon. You must pace yourself to make the distance. Life is a marathon. I just hit the wall.

    Good luck to both of you. And if you do return to running, dedicate one of your runs to those of us who have become retired runners.

  • I had a 2 level posterior fusion of L2-4 on June 12. I saw my surgeon yesterday and even though I don't run and never will (due to heart and ankle issues) my doctor cleared me for running at the 12 week mark and said my fusion was looking good and about 70%. I was shocked! He told me I could bike, run, lift more gradually, do yoga, pilates, swimming, pretty much anything except heavy lifting. I can bend and lift 15 lbs now and twist some. I was surprised at how fast he released me from doing nothing to doing so much. I did do limited physical therapy for a few weeks and have a strong core. I am 37. I think it depends a lot on the level of your surgery, your surgeon and their protocol and how you feel. I will tell you that if you push yourself too fast you can jeopardize your fusion and hurt. I had to start taking care of my husband only 5 weeks out of my surgery when he blew his knee and had to have surgery. It went from me being in bed and resting and being cared for to the other way around in a matter of hours. That set me back pain-wise big time and I'm lucky that doing the bending and twisting and lifting that I did before the 12 week mark didn't ruin my fusion. Listen to your doctor, but listen to your body too. I have been cleared to do all these activities and today I did some cleaning and a bit of gardening and some cooking (things I haven't done in 3 months due to my restrictions) and now I'm in bed with ice and pain meds. It's a gradual thing. Think of your fusion recovery in terms of a year. At the 3 month part, I'm only 1/4 of the way through my healing process and even though I'm doing well, if I push it too hard, too fast I can break the fusion and have to start over. It does seem like forever, but its worth it for a good fusion and a lifetime of lasting pain relief. I already know I will have to have the 3 levels below my current fusion done at some point in time and so I have to go easy for that reason too. Everyone is different. I wish you well!
    Severe DDD in S1-T12. 5 disc herniations. 5 compression fractures. Had a 2 level lumbar fusion/decompression on June 12, 2013. L4-5 foraminotomy on Jan 8, 2014, Right SI fusion in Oct 2014. Scheduled for L4-5 fusion to existing fusion on Sept 28, 2015
  • Thanks for the comments! If my doc tells me I can run after 12 weeks I will be on cloud 9 :)
  • ben w said:
    Yes, I'm having an alif fusion. I hope I can get back to normal running. This pain crap sucks. One of the pa's told me that I should stop running. That would kill me.

    I just joined this forum today and this thread caught my attention. I started running again in 2008 and lost 75 pounds, worked my way through more 5 and 10ks than I can count, 7 half marathons and I completed my first full marathon in 2011. Its been downhill ever since with various back problems. I'm having fusion surgery around L4&5 and after meeting the surgeon for 5 minutes he said my running days are over. I can't tell you how much depression this causes me, I have made great friends and there is little I enjoy more than a 15 mile run on a Saturday morning.
  • Paul said:
    ^ Oh to be young and carefree.

    I used to run. I bike now. Have any of you given bicycling a chance?
    Me too buddy. I loved to jog, but it just doesn't work. Neither does golf. I do a lot of mountain biking, which doesn't bother me at all (thankgod for full suspension).

    I think you are on your own to decide what you can do after surgery. I have had Dr's tell me you can go back to any activity you want; others tell me to avoid anything jarring; and my latest Dr. couldn't understand why I couldn't play golf. It is all up to you to start out slowly, jog a little and see what happens.

    Good luck!
  • Golfing was the singlemost relaxing sport I have tried. I wasn't any good but ooooooh how I loved it. Had to give it up too. I dare not pick up a driver and grip it and rip it. The torque and stress on the lumbar discs is too dangerous.
    On the sunny and mild Central Coast of California

    L4-L5 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy June, 2007
    L5-S1 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy May, 2008
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