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Will I Ever Run Again?

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,578
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:25 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I had posterior lumbar fusion L4,L5-S1 Feb. 2008 (9 months ago). I'm in more pain now than before the surgery. I used to be very active, ran half-marathons, rock climbed, and mountain biked, played basketball, lifted weights and did manual labor. From what I'm reading on these blogs it doesn't sound like people ever return to 100%, which is discouraging because I got the surgery in order to be able to do these activities again.

Has anyone had this same surgery before who have been able to return to these activities? Has anyone ever experienced less pain after surgery than before (like 9 months post-op)? My surgery was due to spondilo and DDD.

I have a hard time sitting for longer than 10 minutes without extreme pain. I can't make it through the day without pain meds if I need to work or do anything other than lay in bed.

Is there realistic hope to be able to run, play basketball and lift weights again?


  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 11,347

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    Dan, I dont want to sound like a person bringing bad news, but for the sake of reality.... Once you have spinal surgery, there are always going to be limitations on what you can do in the future. But there are so many variations as to WHY you had the surgery, WHAT the surgery was and HOW you came out of it.
    There is no textbook or forum post that can tell you that you cant do this or cant do that. What you will hear is from people who have had those surgeries and what their limitations were.
    Heck, I was a super football player, an even better baseball player, then I started having spinal surgeries (read my story to see what happened). Sure, that has knocked me down a notch or two or three to what I used to do before.. But that was my situation. I also know of others who have had similar surgeries and who never gave in or accepted what was in front of them .... Instead they did whatever was necessary to climb that next ladder so that they could return to what they did... Maybe not to the extent they used to do, but they did do it

    Dan, I believe in reality, to understood what your limits are, but I am also a believer in the human spirit and understand just how powerful a weapon that can be.

    Understand what is feasible, understand what can be destructive. Gather that knowledge and figure out how it can work into your life
    Ron DiLauro Veritas-Health Forums Manager
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • I am restricted to 30 lbs lifting.

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  • Dan....I am no expert..... but something to consider is that the joints above and below the fusion you had,are likely to get stressed a lot more.You want to try avoid that...it oly leads to more surgery.

    My thought will be that high impact sports are going to need to be avoided. I hear of people who run eventually, I am not sure it is smart.Whatever you do you need to really strengthen your back muscles at some point when you are able to support your fused back well.

    But what about coming up with new stuff that still affords you exercise, activity etc but is not so hard on your spine?

    I had an L4/5 fusion and went back to my job as a rigger in Film/TV after 12 weeks. I hurt myself again after 9 weeks so my surgeon took me out again for a couple of months and eventually I went back at it.

    I found that the original pain in my lower back that I went in for was to the most part fixed. I was back to almost normal as far as THAT pain in the low back. HOWEVER I now had nerve pain in my feet and lower legs. This had started before surgery but was way worse after surgery and now almost 2 years later I am still dealing with it and trying to find a medication to keep it under control.

    Then I developed tweaky pain in my low back around the area of the rear hardware, activity aggravated.

    Around August of this year I talked to my surgeon about why I was having the tweaky pain in my low back from activity and he suggested taking the hardware out. I had that done in August and unfortunately now I have something going on that is quite harsh and I am back up on the pain meds to about 4-6 a day from 1-3 a day.

    I am worried about this latest pain.

    The plan is to have therapy....hot, cold packs...ultrasound, deep massage etc to see if it is muscular, maybe I just pulled something.

    It is a tough road my friend. My big love is surfing...I was always in the ocean riding waves on weekends. Not so anymore... I have been out but it worries me so I just kinda paddle and hang.

    But you know, more important to me is being able to work and make good money. I have no college degree so I gotta blue collar that side of things. I work in film because I can make big bucks doing it....BUT I have to work 10-14 hour days every day and be on my feet for most of it if not all sometimes. I have to carry heavy stuff, work up high in boom lifts and on top of set walls or in the catwalk and rafters of studio sound stages.

    I want to be able to make money into retirement so I can support my two little girls and contribute to the missus's earnings........so I can overlook any activity that now is out for a while.

    I joined a gym and use the machines and swim. I am in pretty good shape for 55 and I will work guys way younger than me under the table.

    I think there is a lot you will be able to do. Have positive thoughts man, just be realistic about stuff that can really hurt your back and undo the surgeons work. maybe in time you will get back to some of it, maybe basketball is still a possibility, but like someone being a jerk and slamming you could be bad.....unless you were playing with buds who played with your back in mind.

    My crew watch me and dive in to help if they see me about to try lift something too heavy by myself..... it really helps.

    Good luck...have faith and positive thoughts....you'll get through it eventually...it takes time. Also Spondy and DDD is rough stuff... it is possible if you did not have the surgery that in years to come you would have been in deep doody as far as back pain and permanent nerve damage. 9 months post op is still young...hang in there.
  • I am almost 2 months post op, and if I can say the A word in a non-offensive way... My ass was running just yesterday. LOL. Not a marathon, just on the beach to catch up to the boyfriend, but I climbed over tons of rocks and walked all along the beach for hours... Nearly busted my butt quite a few times, my balance is TOTALLY out of wack.. But it was fun! I'm still on Percocet 10mg 4x a day, and Valium at night, still use the heating pad nightly... And I was HURTING like HELL when I got home, and when I woke up this morning.... BUT, it was worth it. I have a high tolerance for pain, so I kind of do things even if they hurt. If I hurt, I just take a day to stay in bed, then work my way up to doing something awesome again. I lost 4 lbs in one day, climbing over all those rocks for about an hour, weaving through them trying to keep my balance, walking around... And I had a cheeseburger, a Big Mac, fries, Sun Chips, sugar cookies, and chocolate creme cookies that night.... LOL. That's how much exercise my body got. I found it funny. Not sure if anyone else will, but things like that just crack me up. Especially the Big Mac part. Who eats a Big Mac and loses 4 lbs? LOL. Ahhh.

    Anyway, I believe that they will find a solution for you. If you were in good shape before surgery, with muscle memory, and things of the sort, you should be able to build yourself back up into shape much faster than the average person.

    I had a 360 fusion on L4-L5... And have much less pain now than before surgery... BUT I am still on pain meds. Can't wait to start physical therapy.

    I say let's go eat Big Macs and play basketball. Let's just see how it goes..... Lol.
  • ...I had 3-level fusion in mid-June, and so I'm ~5 months out. I was also a prolific runner - I only ran one marathon, but I spent my 20s, 30s, and (most of) my 40s running and lifting weights.

    I have to tell you of an experience I had yesterday. All I did was to move a bit of furniture (not real heavy) and then I put a 5-shelf bookcase together last night -- SOME exercise! This morning, I'm really paying for it - my back and both legs are sore and I have fairly severely restricted movement. Had I done this a few years ago, I'd be running as I write this. But that was then - this is now.

    To look back on what you were once able to do - and to see the differences now - is very difficult. It's a real head game. But even for those who never need surgery like you and me, facing the limitations that come with age are still a reality. I don't know to what extent I'll be "well" again - at least in my definition. Every day, I feel as if I'm fighting my body. I look around me, and see people who are much, much older than me, and they seem to be functioning better than I am...and I wonder: How is that fair? And then I remember a physiatrist telling me: "You want to be depressed? Then spend some time in Iraq" (that was over a year ago, when things were still really bad there). Perspective, perspective, perspective....perspective is everything.

    Dan, if you think about this deeply and reflectively, you'll eventually come to terms with - and you'll be comfortable with - your own new reality. It does happen...I suppose the timing is different for everyone - just as the pace of the body's recovery is hugely different for different people. You'll find your own balance, Dan...sometimes it takes time.

    Dan, I sincerely wish you the very best in wellness and recovery.


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  • Since my fusion I have the worst balance ever. I am constantly falling into things and tipping over. Like, in slow mo sometimes. Hahaha. It's not so much annoying as it is amusing to me. I might have some screws loose (pardon the pun), but I can't help but laugh when I stand up in the morning, open the bedroom door, walk out and start drifting the left. This morning I stood up and my left leg was like... SIKE! And gave out on me. No reason. Haha.
  • ...it was just me stumbling around and bumping in to things. During recovery from my TLIF last year I was forever loosing my balance and falling into the wall etc. I have even fallen down on more than one occasion. I didn't know what to attribute it to but did suspect my back problems.

    I am happy to say that so far I have not experienced any balance problems this time around but it did take a few months to show up after the TLIF.
  • Thanks for all of your encouragement. It sounds like I need to have a positive attitude with all of this. I am just getting stir crazy! Muscle memory is huge. I am glad that I stayed in shape right up to the fusion. My balance isn't to off but I feel like Someone has their hands wrapped around my spine. My core flexibility is way off. I know that if I ever start climbing again this will be a big problem. I can't believe that you went running two months after the surgery! Great job even if you are sore the next day!
  • I used to dance, ballroon, latin, jive etc and many years ago I used to go into comps.
    I asked my Dr about dancing and hiking as these are two things that I desperately would love to get back to.
    He said there is no reason why I wont be able to do these but I may not be as good at them as I had been. At least if I can dance socially I would be really happy.
    I am now nearly 7 months after a 3 level fusion and am waiting for fusion to be complete.
    I have LESS PAIN and NUMBNESS the before surgery :* I still have some but I can now do a lot of things I couldn't a year ago.
    If you are still having pain at 9 months then maybe you need to look at why. Are you overdoing it???? SOmetimes it is hard not to and we have to remember that it will take a long time to rebuild all those muscles that have gone sloppy.
    Keep up the positive thoughts, do things slowly and one thing at a time and you will do well.
    Blessings Sara O:)
  • I have two friends who are in the USMC and both have had major spine surgery and both run today.

    One of the gentlemen has been fused at L4/L5 and L5/S1 as well as an ACDF. He runs nearly every day and rides his motorcycle to work.

    The second gentleman, had a horrific parachuting accident and was folded in half. When he was taken to the ER he was unable to feel anything from the neck down. His spine had been fractured so bad there was risk of severing the spinal cord. He was taken into surgery and two 12 inch rods and bunches of screws were put in to stabilize his spine. He had one more surgery a month later. 6 months after his accident he passed a USMC fitness test and was put back on jump status. Just a couple weeks ago he ran the Marine Corps Marathon in DC with his son and his wife.

    If you ask either of these guys what got them through this, they'll tell you it was determination, hard work and believing in themselves.

    Hang in there!

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