View Full Version : Has anyone had back surgery out there?

July 18th, 2006, 09:17 PM
I have just had an L4L5 laminectomy with fusion and am wondering what is on the other side of this.

July 18th, 2006, 09:46 PM
herniated disk. Micro-discectomy with about 1-2" incision. Was sore for a number of months. Tried to swim about 4 weeks after surgery--mistake. Tried again about 8 weeks after surgery--nothing fancy--just plain swimming. Legs were weak (problem had been going on for about 4 months prior to surgery) but I was able to build back up.

I never learned to flip so that wasn't a problem. It just takes time.

July 19th, 2006, 07:46 AM
I had a major blowout at L5/S1, in Sept 2003. For me, I lost partial use of my left leg.

I was told that I could get back in the water after 3 weeks. No running for maybe 8 weeks (I forget, since I don't run).

I asked them if I could do everything in the water and they said "um, sure". I asked if I could do flip turns, to which they asked, "can you swim without flip turns?" My reply, "Not unless you removed my ego while I was in surgery."

I had similar weekness as msgrupp when pushing off the walls for a while, but I kept at it. I kept it slow and steady. My surgery was in October and I did starts in a meet in February, including backstroke. By March, I was competing at our Championship meet.

Have you spoken to a neuro surgeon about getting back in the water? Preferably a neuro surgeon who has experience with swimming? I have a good friend who swam with me in college who was able to look at my MRI and give me advice. It helped that he knew what it meant to "start swimming again".

July 19th, 2006, 06:08 PM
I had a major blowout at L5/S1, in Sept 2003

Mike .Did this occur while swimming ?

I injured my S1 joint in the surf about 14 years ago and it creates problems for me .

I'm curious to know if this injury was just from swimming or something else.

I'd like to encourage anyone else with back injury experiences to add to this thread .All the bits of advice over the years have really helped me manage my back issues better.

July 19th, 2006, 09:02 PM
My injury was not directly caused by a swimming event. I was literally running around with my kids on my shoulders one weekend, playing tag and jumping off of cliffs (don't ask) when I ruptured my disk.

But I had had back problems since 1990. Once or twice a year, I would "throw my back out" and hobble around for about a week. I do wonder if swimming was a contributor. Specifically, I sometimes wonder if excessive dolphin kick might have played a part.

I would also like to hear if other have had this problem. Also, what do people do in the form of prevention?

July 19th, 2006, 09:07 PM

Just wanted to say that I had a situation similar to yours. After struggling with nerve pain in my right hip and leg for several months, I finally had a MRI in December of last year - after physical therapy would not give me any relief. Within two weeks, I had surgery - a laminectomy and discectomy for a herniated disc at L5-S1.

I was back in the water two weeks after surgery, swimming laps with open turns. Two months after surgery, I swam in a meet. Swimming events from a push start, I actually swam quite well!

Although I still have occasional lower back pain, the nerve pain in my hip and leg are gone. The surgery was definitely worth it! And, swimming is going well!

Hope this post gives some hope to others going through the same situation.


July 20th, 2006, 02:05 PM
Interesting questions especially related to whether or not swimming causes back problems. I do not believe it does directly but if you don't cross train, and develop land legs, then there is some truth to the weakness that develops in your back and may make you more susceptible to injury, especially if you have a weak core. Then with falls, or any genetic history of spondy or osteopenia/osteoporosis (higher incident in swimmers), we may be more susceptible to back injuries.
My history is that I quit swimming at 16, not a really good swimmer then, and no college swimming was available for me. I began running and cycling and a little of swimming at age 22 (have never not exercised in the last 30 years) and then I fell down a flight of stairs at age 28 . 3 days of bed rest, back to running and biking, occassional swimming over the next 12 years. Began swimming competitively at age 39 and at age 41 or so, began developing what I would now call the neuropathic symtoms of a compressed disc. In and out of PT for the last 12 years, stopped running, biked more, swam even more and became faster than I had ever swum. Then decided to try triathlons and began running again. this is what probably tipped me over into the very sever neuropathic pain, numbness in my left foot for the past two months and shooting and burning pain down both legs. An MRI 5 years ago showed some compression (diagnosis is spinal stenosis) but the one 5 months ago showed significant progression.
I had consults with ortho and neuro surgeons; both protocols are no aerobic exercise or PT for 3 months. The neuro requires a body brace while up for 3 months, the ortho is more relaxed with it.
Their big question or more accurately, caution to me was that I would probably never return to competition, doing flip turns or diving from the blocks. I guess time will tell in how I am able to go through the rehab/recovery process.
It is interesting to me that Robin was back in the water after two weeks. Did you have fusion and screws or just a laminectomy? I am thinking the fusion and screws may add a different dimension to all of this.
Lastly, I agree, I am hoping to get some data out there in our swimming world on recovery after some of these things we are going through because I do believe we are a different patient than the normal out of shape patient going through procedures like this. But the docs have no literature or studies on our population!

July 20th, 2006, 04:14 PM
I was literally running around with my kids on my shoulders one weekend, playing tag and jumping

My original injury was pushing my then 4 year old daughter into the surf on a board.(age 29)My right leg went down a hole and everything on my right dropped and twised.Hence the S1 injury.Which I believe is ligament damage=weakness=places presure on L5,L4 etc and throws these out at times+more weakness /damage=ongoing L4/5 issues.

On the issue of flip turns I find the constant twisting in one direction is also an issue.(age 40)I've talked to few serious (as in swimming) older swimmers who agree.

I totally agree about the core body strength.I wont run anymore but I intend to exercise more out of the pool.

PS.Where can I see more information on

osteopenia/osteoporosis (higher incident in swimmers), we may be more susceptible to back injuries.

July 20th, 2006, 06:58 PM

My surgery did not involve fusion and screws. Your surgery does sound more complicated than mine was. The doctor told me I could get back in the water as soon as the incision healed.

My surgeon told me that I show signs of arthritis in my L4 and L5 discs. That probably contributed to the herniated disc, but my teammates feel confident that I injured myself diving off the blocks on a relay start at a swim meet. At the time, I felt like I pulled a muscle in my lower back. After the initial muscle pain subsided (two weeks), I noticed that I started to have sciatic pain in my hip and leg. The meet was in January and my surgery was in December.


July 21st, 2006, 12:50 PM
I had to reply to your post - in december 2000 I had microdiscectomy to L3-4 and L4-5 after three months of excruciating pain and numbness down my left leg. MRI showed those two disks severely compressed, also L5-S1 compressed to a lesser degree. Having pain that literally took my breath away and not being able to walk I opted for surgery which gave me my life back. I was back in the pool in March, but just did walking laps in the shallow end. Once I weaned off all the pain meds I got to swim again, and did a lot of kicking - on my back, side, front, with a board, with no board, with and without fins - lots of kicking! By the end of the summer I felt more flexible in my back than ever. I was about a year before I really started training again, and I am not saying it never hurt again, but never the radiating, crushing pain and leg tingling. This year I am back down to my pre-back surgery times in my races. So never let the doctors tell you "never again" because they don't know you are a Masters swimmer! We aren't their typical patient. I had a great surgeon who let me rehab myself (I hated PT) in the pool and just told me to "let the pain be your guide" (thanks doc).

July 21st, 2006, 06:55 PM
but my teammates feel confident that I injured myself diving off the blocks on a relay start at a swim meet

Having a back problem for years I'm usually cautious about starts and make sure I practice in training leading up to a meet.Until March this year I hadn't aggrevated my back for about 12 mths.It felt great.I then did a standing racing (one foot forward) start in a relay.I felt the L5 /S1 area click oddly as I dived.I still went 30. for 50m fly but new immediately I'd be in trouble as I cooled down.I only ever do two feet over the front of the blocks now.To me it was the extension of the spine with one leg lower than the other that I just couldn't cope with.