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Old 12-04-2012, 04:08 AM   #1
Andrew Hewison
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Unhappy Crossfitting after a Spinal Fusion

Am I crazy??? ha ha

Hey everyone,

My name is Andrew Hewison. A 32 year old Aussie from Melbourne.

I am looking to reach out to anyone who can contribute to my ongoing battle with a severely degenerative L5/S1 disc.

I've been a passionate Crossfitter for three years now. Been to regionals twice, but I have battled lower back pain for 2/12 of those 3 years and have not picked up a bar for 12 months. Instead, I have opted for body weight training and cycling. As you would expect, it's killing me.

I've suffered from back pain throughout my 20s, playing various forms of contact sport.

The back pain I experienced whilst Crossfitting was similar to that I experienced through my 20s, so I ignored it and pushed through the pain. Big mistake!

For 18 months now I have done EVERYTHING I could to rehab my back. Pilates, yoga, core strength and conditioning programs, cortisone injections. The works! I even SKYPED with the one and only K-Starr. But nothing has worked.

I have now seen 4 surgeons. The first three would not operate on me. They said a drastic change of lifestyle was needed. No more surfing, running, weight training and certainly no more Crossfit! One guy even said "Your 32, you've had a good run..." Not the responses I was looking for.

I then came across a younger, but very well known and experienced surgeon who provided some hope. He said, "your disc is destroyed and your joints are beginning to self fuse. The joint is "sick" so let's go in and fix it".

He said that from 6 months after surgery I can return to "normal" duties, but I'm not sure he knows what my normal duties are.

I'm booked in for an L5/S1 single level anterior (through the front) fusion on Jan 18, 2013.

Most of the stories I read about are from 60yo+ inactive people. There's very little information about very fit, active people like myself wanting to return to very active lives and even Crossfit.

Can anyone out there provide any advice or even share an experience with me? Good or Bad? Should I ever think about a dead lift or back squat ever again???

Thank you.
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Old 12-04-2012, 10:25 AM   #2
Aaron Wayne Campbell
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Re: Crossfitting after a Spinal Fusion

Going through a similar thing. I'm 35. Injured my back in July. Had been doing Crossfit for 3 years. My injury is DJD of L4 and L5, bulging disc at L4-L5 with nerve root impingement, so I get pretty bad sciatica. Also have a congeintal defect called lumbarization of S1 - my L5/S1 is not fused, there is a space, so my spine is more flexible - and this made me more vulnerable to injury. Have been told by ortho, multiple PT's, and pain managment specialist that I should stick to biking, swimming, body wt exercises and never run, jump, heavy wt lift, especially deadlift, cleans, ever again. Heart breaking. Can't let go. But don't want to end up more disabled than I already am. I overdid the McKenzie stuff and am now developing spondylolesthesis - splippage of vertebrae towards the front. Injections are helping. Doubt I'll have surgery unless this drags on another 1-2 years. Plan to maximize the swimming, biking, body wt stuff and am considering having to just let go of Crossfit. Have seen a lot of posts of people who get back to it after disc herniations, but not much about DJD. I'm with you, not really sure what to do, but EVERY specialist I have seen has said the same thing, and they were very convincing. Hope this helps, thanks for posting.
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Old 12-04-2012, 10:59 PM   #3
Andrew Hewison
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Re: Crossfitting after a Spinal Fusion

Hey Aaron,

Sorry to hear your in a similar position as myself.

Yeah it's a strange one. Many surgeons will take the most conservative approach to cover their own arses. I've read a few posts on the forum of people (one of which was a surgeon himself) who took the advice of their doctors to 'back off' and actually got worse. They took themselves back to the gym and got strong again and it began to help. Ofcourse everyone's injury is unique.

I am slightly blessed in that I do not have nerve pain. I am just hoping like hell that once my fusion is done it will basically become an extension of my sacrum (which is already fused). L5/S1 is predominantly the load baring joint, where as L4/5 is the bending segment. My L4/5 doesn't look great either, but not bad enough to fuse.

All the best mate
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Old 01-22-2014, 03:18 AM   #4
John Whalley
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Re: Crossfitting after a Spinal Fusion

Hi Andrew,

I'm wondering how you got on with your recovery after the Spinal Fusion? I see that you are a high level CrossFitter, have you been able to get back fully to training?

I've been holding off a Spinal Fusion for about 5 years and CF has certainly helped but I now have to have the op sometime in the next couple of months.

I'd really like to know how you got on?

Hope you're doing well.
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Old 01-26-2014, 05:16 AM   #5
Heather Imielinski
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Re: Crossfitting after a Spinal Fusion

I had L5/S1 Disc degeneration in 2005 and I received a total disc replacement. It was less recovery time then a fusion. Is that an option for you?
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Old 01-28-2014, 11:48 AM   #6
Ari Sherwood
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Re: Crossfitting after a Spinal Fusion

According to a top-notch spine surgeon who I've consulted with, as long as you don't have a lot of other serious spine pathology going on, there should be no real restrictions after an L5-S1 single level fusion, after the bone has fused and you've healed up. L5-S1 isn't a real motion segment anyway, or it's not supposed to be.
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Old 02-02-2014, 12:12 AM   #7
Brent Sallee
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Re: Crossfitting after a Spinal Fusion

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ari Sherwood View Post
According to a top-notch spine surgeon who I've consulted with, as long as you don't have a lot of other serious spine pathology going on, there should be no real restrictions after an L5-S1 single level fusion, after the bone has fused and you've healed up. L5-S1 isn't a real motion segment anyway, or it's not supposed to be.
To correct this info, L5-S1 is actually the lumbar spine segment with the most sagittal plane movement so, yes, it's pretty important.

As a physical therapist, it really depends on the situation. If you're going to push yourself into the ground, then getting back into CF at a high intensity is not a good idea for your spine's longevity. However, I use deadlifts frequently as a tool for strength, coordination, and stability even in patients with single level fusions. The big thing? The rest of your spine can't be degenerative. If you have degenerative disc disease or disc herniations above the segment you'll need fused, it is not in your best interest to deadlift heavy or for time. In that case, lighter weight with greater volume and perfect form is the way to go.
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Old 02-05-2014, 12:46 PM   #8
John Whalley
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Re: Crossfitting after a Spinal Fusion

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Originally Posted by Heather Imielinski View Post
I had L5/S1 Disc degeneration in 2005 and I received a total disc replacement. It was less recovery time then a fusion. Is that an option for you?
Thanks Heather,

Unfortunately I have to have a disk replacement and a 360 degree spinal fusion. I'll have both operations one week apart. I have spondylolisthesis L4/L5. I'm trying to find out what level of training I'll be able to get back to what kind of time frame. There are lots of blogs and video diaries of people who've had the same op and they don't make for pleasant reading but the majority of them seem to be live sedentary lives, both before and after the op and most don't help themselves physically or nutritionally.

I think that starting from a reasonably fit position pre-op and hitting the rehab post-op in a careful, planned but progressive manner, along with great nutrition I could make a good recovery, but it would be good to hear from anyone else who is very active (CrossFit or any other sporting discipline) and has has the same or similar op.

Great to hear you recovered well from your disk replacement. How long did that take?
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Old 02-05-2014, 12:58 PM   #9
John Whalley
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Re: Crossfitting after a Spinal Fusion

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Sallee View Post
To correct this info, L5-S1 is actually the lumbar spine segment with the most sagittal plane movement so, yes, it's pretty important.

As a physical therapist, it really depends on the situation. If you're going to push yourself into the ground, then getting back into CF at a high intensity is not a good idea for your spine's longevity. However, I use deadlifts frequently as a tool for strength, coordination, and stability even in patients with single level fusions. The big thing? The rest of your spine can't be degenerative. If you have degenerative disc disease or disc herniations above the segment you'll need fused, it is not in your best interest to deadlift heavy or for time. In that case, lighter weight with greater volume and perfect form is the way to go.
Hi Brent. My problem is spondylolisthesis L4/L5. As well as a 360 degree fusion, I'll be having a disk replacement as it has been severely damaged due to the movement in my vertebrae. There is no evidence of degeneration elsewhere in the spine. Have you ever worked with anyone after a fusion?
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Old 02-07-2014, 02:53 PM   #10
Ari Sherwood
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Re: Crossfitting after a Spinal Fusion

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Sallee View Post
To correct this info, L5-S1 is actually the lumbar spine segment with the most sagittal plane movement so, yes, it's pretty important.

As a physical therapist, it really depends on the situation. If you're going to push yourself into the ground, then getting back into CF at a high intensity is not a good idea for your spine's longevity. However, I use deadlifts frequently as a tool for strength, coordination, and stability even in patients with single level fusions. The big thing? The rest of your spine can't be degenerative. If you have degenerative disc disease or disc herniations above the segment you'll need fused, it is not in your best interest to deadlift heavy or for time. In that case, lighter weight with greater volume and perfect form is the way to go.
Good to know. I guess perhaps my interpretation (and maybe I heard what wanted to hear, LOL) was that it won't necessarily affect athletic performance if you can maintain enough mobility in the soft tissues. Maybe that's overoptimistic. Supposedly, there are athletes who have gone back to high level sports after a fusion - a few NFL'ers (Keion Carpenter), hockey players, wrestlers, etc. but obviously, as you pointed out, adjacent segments have to be in good shape too.
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