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Athletics after a fusion

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,578
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:25 AM in Maintenance
Just celebrated 2 years since my last back surgery. It was a fusion on L5 S1. Had two discectomies the year before that in the same location. Everything is doing great. I have found the key to my success is staying active. I left the hospital after only 3 days back when I had my surgery. I was walking 10-miles a day the following week and ran a marathon to mark week 12. On my 1 year celebration I ran a marathon and qualified for the Boston Marathon, which I ran in April, then this past week, I celebrated 2 years by running the New York City Marathon. I also kayak/canoe race, bike race, and spend a lot of time outdoors hiking, etc. I am a commercial fishermen who uses my back on a daily basis lifting and pulling heavy stuff and it has held up. I truely believe that by continuing to be active is the key to keeping a healthy back. Truthfully, the only time my back really hurts is when I sit or stand still for periods of time, not when I'm pounding the pavement or doing hard labor. Also, another thing to remember, there is only so much weight your back wants to carry. Watch what you eat and keep your weight under control. I can notice a 5 or 10 pound increase in my back before in my clothes. Good luck everyone. :H


  • i am glad to hear of your remarkable recovery. i hope it encourages others to stay active. for me though i dont run because in my case i was told by my ns that all the stresses would be just below my fusion at c7-t1. i dont desire another surgery is the reason for my conservative approach. u are a true winner in my book.
  • My doctor said that I will not be able to continue to train interval sprints at 85% of max heart rate ever after the fusion. I am 63.

    It sounds like you are young.
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  • I no of no such case where somebody had a fusion and within a week was able to muster a 10 mile walk. Mind you, I have met professional athletes who have had fusions, not to mention that I was a fairly accomplished athlete before my fusion. All of us had long and protracted struggles with getting back to a good level fitness, most taking well over a year in this process.

    I don't know how you managed to run a marathon within 3 months, as this is the minimal time it usually takes to get a solid union. How you could have trained for a marathon while letting your fusion fuse is beyond me. I in fact started exercising at the 3 month mark in a graduated fashion, experiencing savage pain. You also might read up on TJ Ford, a NBA pro, who took 1 year to get back to even attempting a hard workout at the gym. When he did, he collapsed in pain throwing the basketball from a chair.

    I run and play soccer regularly now. I fully agree that being physically active, eating right, and controlling one's weight is key in terms of pain management...as most of us always experience some pain, regardless. Nevertheless, I have found that this outcome is typical in people who were capable of doing these things right before surgery. And again, it takes significant time in most cases to get back from a fusion.

    If you did achieve what you stated, I bow in deep respect, as few people can recover so quickly. Aside from the ones I met, I know some athletes who were able to commence with training after 3 months. Your story is a first for me.

    Cheers, Mate
  • egads....I did 10 miles by 10 weeks...(or at least close) lol Are you related to Superman?
  • I had a single level C6-7 on 4/21 and am already back in the gym. I DID walk 31 miles in the first 3 days after surgery without a problem. 11 miles 25 hours after surgery so the "superman" comment is kind of of out of line, I could have walked 25 if my wife was not nagging.

    Mate, you should know everybody is different AND I am to an avid athlete at only 34 years old and feel nothing at all in my neck only 16 days out except for a little shoulder blade soreness at night. Walking 10 miles may not be all that much for some people as it is cake to me. you play soccer so I would assume you are fairly trim, this surgery should have been nothing to you. I was lucky to have the best of the best as far as surgeons and he is the one coaching me to get back to life and the gym. Of course I am under the watch of experienced eyes but I am doing a lot of different things, including upper body. I have even been doing slow paced jogging on the treadmill for 4 days now. My normal day in the gym is now 2 1/2 hours. My saving grace was I was under the knife pretty quick after my injury so I did not suffer for a long period of time like a lot do.

    I was also back at work full time without a problem at 9 days, driving 45 minutes both ways.

    Just so you know, I am not trying to brag about my experience, I just want to point out that some people actually do really well after this operation. My surgeon told me I would be back to life in two weeks after the operation and this was before he cut me. He is the best on the east coast and has the awards to prove it, this is most of the challenge. I did not believe it after reading stuff on this forum but he was right. I was not restricted to a collar like most either.

    If you be careful with your neck and be POSITIVE you can do anything. I'm sorry, but I was not going to end up sitting on the couch for three months rotting away like most people do after this operation. I did and will continue to do everything I could to to not only beat this but be stronger than I was before I was hurt. Yea, Stronger!

    Be positive dude, Some people do bounce back pretty quick! I have a good faith in God and more heart than anyone you will ever meet so this will not be a problem.

    If there were more people on this forum actually talking about POSITIVE results I may have went into this surgery a little more optimistic than I was, but was lead to believe my life was going to end after reading most posts here.

    So if you believe nobody can bounce back from spinal surgery your completely wrong, it can be done. I am glad you are doing as good well after your surgery but I wish it would have been a faster road for you.

    I'm done ranting, sorry for your time


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  • Forgive me, but I would have to see it to believe it. Like I said, I have been an avid and strong athlete all my life. I was an ex US Army officer and I have been to combat. Forgive me for tooting my own horn, but I have more than a fair shair of positive willpower. Nevertheless, the same self belief that brought me professional and athletic success simply could not overcome physics during my recovery, which was a tough, lengthy, and grueling ordeal.

    Forget me, but what of professional athletes who have similar experiences. Research the case of Troy Dayak, a former MLS soccer player for the San Jose Earthquakes. I even solicited and met him, talking at length with him about his surgery, which was the exact same C5-C6 fusion I had. Well, he did not have a union and took well over 1 year to recover, suffering significant pain along the way. You can also research the case of TJ Ford, as it also took him a year of recovery before he could do heavy exercise.

    Keep in mind that both of these athletes had fusions fairly quickly after hurting their necks. They most certainly did not endure years of suffering, but yet still took significant time to recover, exercising in a graduated fashion. Troy in particular was in a halo for 3 months, during which he did no exercise at all. And after that, he exercised very cautiously, especially given the non-union.

    By the way, my surgeon was Dr. Phil Weinstein, head of Neurosurgery at UCSF, one of the best spine institutes in the country. I also had PTs who worked with professional athletes, all of whom were in contact with my surgeon. Nobody but nobody...including my doctors, PTs, and the professional athletes whom had fusions...recommended heavy exercise so soon after fusion. It was imperative to do everything possible to induce a solid union or, at the very least, to avoid activity that might interfere with the union process. Sorry, but walking 20+ miles days after a lumbar fusion is not conducive to achieving a solid union. Driving and twisting a non-fused neck so soon after surgery is not either.

    Consequently, I am extremely skeptical of your story, just as I was with the person to whom I initially responded on this thread. But, you are more than welcome to prove me wrong with a PM with more details of your experiences: doctors, hospitals, even perhaps a personal reference or email contact. I have often enough given my real name and geographical location to people on SH, standing behind my experiences. I have a standing invite to have coffee in the Bay Area for those who want to meet and exchange stories on our spinal experiences.

    Most of all, I'll play soccer against anybody on Saturday morning, 8:00am, in Rossi Park or the Geary/Steiner athletic fields here in San Francisco. I'm more than willing to match positive willpower in this regard with anybody...but also explain that it was hell getting here.

    :wink:" alt=":wink:" height="20" />

    I hope to hear from you and for my doubts to be proven wrong. I would like more than anything to come back here and advocate you as one of the more extraordinary outcomes and success stories. Like I said to the other gentleman...it would be a first...even amongst the professional athletes I know who had fusions.

    Cheers, Mate
  • I am one month post op fusion one month and I am experiencing difficulties with the piriformis muscle and sciactic so my recover is extremely painful and slow. A lot of movement irritates everything and I end up in severe pain. I have always been told I have a positive attitude and have been through difficult times before (divorce, loss of job as single parent, etc.) and stayed positive. I am not overweight and I was an avid runner before the back problems got too severe. So, everyone has a different outcome. I think a person needs to remember that until you walk in someone else's shoes you can't really understand their situation. I am excited for those who have had such a wonderful outcome to their surgery. I hope and pray some day, I too can become a more active person again.
  • your response, Mate.

  • I agree with you.

    My contention is with people who claim that they are engaging in heavy exercise right out of the gate after a fusion. I know no doctor of caliber who would ever prescribe walking many miles after a lumbar fusion within days, let alone going into a gym and doing heavy weights. A fusion is by definition a broken bone, requiring some rest and tempered activity for a solid union to take place.

    At best, the sports doctors and pro athletes I have conversed with gave a 3 month window for achieving a union, only after which strenuous and full scale physical activity should take place. In fact, I saw one of my best friends this week while on business in Boston, and we discussed this very subject. He is an orthopedic surgeon and currently is seeking venture funding for an organic product that accelerates bone growth in fractures. The main problem in assessing such compounds, according to him, is that it is almost impossible to objectively measure bone growth, let alone rates of growth. He explained that interpreting MRI, C-Scans, and X-Rays is highly subjective, with a significant enough standard deviation of error to warrant conservative estimates for a good enough union.

    In this context, putting undue stresses on a fracture or split joint so soon after surgery is cavalier, especially if allowed by experienced and competent doctors and PTs. Like I said earlier, I know of NOBODY who experienced such an outcome. I have seen people who had immediate and dramatic pain relief, albeit not many. But of all the pro athletes I have met and researched, I know not ONE who match NJShamrock or Runnerchic.

    Let me be blunt: the fact that Runnerchic posted only once only escalates my suspicions. Why not be more detailed and open? Why not simply be more forthcoming if one has such a remarkable story to tell...and corroborate? I certainly am.

    Again, many SH posters know my real name and my life's status. They know I run, play soccer, and charge hard in pursuit of career ambitions after a fusion. But I mince know words in warning people sternly of how my fusion went wrong, of how I was misled as to what a fusion could do, especially in terms of recovery and pain management. I am very frank in explaining how this surgery almost destroyed me. Hence, I wouldn't dare encourage others that this is some walk in the park, regaling people with encouraging tales of nonchalant recovery.

    Finally, it is because I have recovered that I offer my candor and credibility behind my experiences, lest somebody attempt to achieve a similar outcome. Sorry, it was not easy and my recovery was more a factor of luck than willpower. Ultimately, it was probably the wrong decision for me, as my fusion in my opinion was superfluous, resulting in an outcome inferior to what I had before surgery. Every athlete I met with fusions stood by their decision to do it, but all had to compensate in some way for having a fused spine...gradually recovering.

    Troy Dayak was nice enough to meet me and continue an email exchange. He stood by his experiences. I reciprocate in kind with others who exchange notes with me on spinal surgery. It is what I least expect from people who make extraordinary claims of their recoveries. Again, I'd love to be proven wrong.

    Cheers, Mate
  • Do I really have to prove to anyone that what I claim is legit? I have not posted anything that seems hard to believe in the slightest bit. Sure I have been back in the gym but I have not been pushing heavy weight at all. It has been light resistance exercise to help with my atrophied left chest and tricep (The reason for the surgery).

    As I stated in other posts, Except for the initial onset I had no pain except for some minor burning when I flexed the affected muscles. My only symptoms were severe strength loss. For those of you who seem to think 8 – 10 miles is a lot, I’m used to long distance cycling and running so for ME it’s nothing.

    Now once again I will try to make this clear, by no means would I try cycle 100 miles in a day like before surgery which was pretty routine, or would I try to run even a 10k if I wanted because I would be afraid of shaking something loose, But unless I jump up and down or jog my neck in some unwanted way I feel nothing! When you are accustomed to pushing you body to the limits nearly every day, walking kind of feel lazy. When I do get back at it full on, which is going to be at about 12 weeks, or when I have achieved a good fusion, I will use this as a challenge. I do fully understand that complete recovery and healing will not be overnight.

    Oh, and for the record, a lot of walking, or any form of good “light impact” cardio after this surgery is VERY conducive to a faster recovery. Would you consider sitting around better for you bodies healing than good exercise and proper nutrition, because science would tell you different.

    Mate, I will send you my personal information and would be happy to share any and all of my experiences with you. This is not to prove you or anyone wrong about how some people recover, but to continue to surround myself with more people like myself.

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