Alergare,  Sport

Sport after spine surgery

It is dark, very cold and slippery. I am well dressed, with several layers of quite light, technical clothing. However, I can feel the cold air as I breathe. For some reason, light tears form around my eyes. They add to the sweat and quickly change into some sort of ice. I feel it rather difficult to keep my eyes open because of this icy composure… But I keep on running and I finish my training. Big goal ahead!
Beginning of 2015. As many others, I spent a few hours during the holidays planning my year. No surprise, top topics are sports and vacations. I am registered in Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon, in Cape Town, April 4th, a step I have completed somewhere in late autumn. It’s a 56 km race, over 1500m altitude gain. In other words, it is categorized at ultra-marathons, a distance I have never run before. I am slightly worried but I am motivated to train.

Right from Jan 1st, I start training. The weather is pretty bad but I sometimes tend to enjoy running in difficult conditions, I guess I take it as a challenge. Between Jan 1st-12th, I run 7 times, summing up 65kms. I also have a new subscription to a gym and start swimming (having some triathlons in mind, of course…)

I feel a light pain in my lower back but it’s not the first time it happens. I continue running, I might even say that the discomfort lowers as I start to run. But Jan13-14, I start to feel a numbness in my left leg. I decide to put running on hold and continue swimming.

After about one week, the numbness is still there. The back pain is not acute but all this does not seem to cease, therefore I get a little bit worried. I decide to see a doctor.
Apparently by chance, an old friend calls me on Thursday, Jan 29. He asks me how I am with sports, I tell him about my problem and he asks if I would like to talk to his brother in law, a neurosurgeon. As it is exactly what I needed, I instantly agree. We calls me later same day, asking if I can go to the hospital early next morning. On top of this, I could also have an RMI. Apparently this is a great chance, htey usually have a long list awaiting, but accidentally there is a vacancy for tomorrow. I take it!
Friday morning I go to the hospital. I get into the tube and get “magnetized”. I get back to the doctor’s office. I find out that he came to the MRI location as well and checked on the examination. He has a printed film and shows me that I have a herniated disc. The major issue is that it is broken… The only option, in his perspective, is surgery. Of course I ask about implications and he tells me recovery is almost complete. I should be able to do most of the things I am used to, as spine flexibility lowers with less than 1%. So I can continue running, biking, etc. Honestly, that’s a major relief!

The MRI. The broken disc between L4-L5

I go home, spend some time over the weekend searching new info and thinking alternative. I decide to do it and text the doctor my vote.

Monday morning, Feb 2nd, I get hospitalized. I stay in a room of 3. Very interesting experience, but about this in a different story, maybe…
Tuesday, Feb 3rd, I get to the surgery room. I went there on foot, actually there was little thrill about it. I get a total anesthesia and, when I wake, it’s over. It seems everything went on well, doctors say. I am one disc shorter. No let’s see what happens…

I spend Tuesday laying, not allowed to stand. I feel quite well. I try to read but it’s hard, I can’t see well (I normally do). It’s probably the effect of the drugs.
Wednesday, Feb 4th, I stand up. I move slowly but there’s no pain.
Thursday, moving on the corridors, even up and down on the stairs a couple of stories.

 On Friday I go home. About 1h in the car is not very pleasant, the first time I feel more serious discomfort. So I spend most of Friday in bad, afterwards.
In the weekend I move and rest, trying to learn my body, to keep a good communication and read eventual early signs. It seems it’s ok.

As I am quite bored and feel well, I decide to go to the office on Monday, Feb9, to the total surprise of my colleagues, who were expecting me much later. I spend the whole day in the office, alternating sitting with standing. I don’t feel pain but I agree in the evening that it’s a little too much and I should take it easy. I decide to go only about 6h/day rest of the week. I also start to drive, there is no problem.
I also have some medication to take for about 7 days.

lower back after a few days

  I start to feel better and better over the next couple of weeks. I move slowly, I increase my flexibility each day. I do some in-home exercising, to stretch and increase power in my left leg. The left leg is not fully recovered. It’s harder for me to stretch it and I lost some power, especially with foot muscles. I invent some exercises to fix it, I hope they will work. I also add different indoor gym-type activities.

Saturday Feb 21st, the first time I run after the surgery. A slight 10 minutes run in my courtyard, on grass. It’s all good. I increase my stretching practice.
Feb 26, in the evening, a 15min run, on grass again. No problem during, nor after I practice.
I feel motivated and start with some easy exercises from the “martial arts” range. I get more flexibility and control, but I am still afraid to push or make sudden moves.

Quite a lot of office-work, not too much training. More indoor, push-ups (about 40 per day) and a little bit of sporadic stretching. I kind of lost the numbness feeling in the left leg, got more power and I feel that recovery is working fine. Due to the little practice, I get low flexibility in my lower back muscles, hard for me to bend onwards & trying to compensate with the legs, whenever I have to pick up something. All is good but I have to practice more…
I have 2 short runs on asphalt:
28 feb: 2.9km in 22min
1mar: 3.8km in 25m27s
slow pace, just to get a feeling…

Mar8 – I run 5.8km, at 5m30s/km.
Mar10 – 7.7km at 5m55s/km
I feel pretty good. I tend to run on forefoot, slight onward position and absorb shocks in my muscles. It is quite painful for my muscles, I feel strain in my calves and lower thighs, above the knees. But this is just a muscle pain, as long as I don’t feel pain or anything weird in my spine, it’s ok. And I don’t, so I will continue…

Sunday, March 15 – the first time I run over 10km since the surgery. I go for 12.5km, at 6m14s/km. Very slow but speed is not my primary goal, I am more concerned on being able to run for a longer time. I keep it for over 1h17min. I am tired but quite well. My calves hurt, which is normal as I am not really used to forefoot running.

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