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Thread: spinal stenosis and swimming

  1. #1
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    spinal stenosis and swimming

    I have recently been diagnosed with severe spinal stenosis and may have to have a laminectomy and fusion surgery.
    I'm wondering if any other swimmers have had this type of surgery, and what swimming is like after it's done?

    Forgot to mention the problem is in my lumbar section. (L3-L5)
    Last edited by mpmartin; March 14th, 2017 at 01:23 PM. Reason: left out important location

  2. #2
    Very Active Member Sumorunner's Avatar
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    Re: spinal stenosis and swimming

    Mine is not stenosis but something similar, spondylolisthesis, with a little scoliosis, where the vertebrae shift relative to one another and pinch on a nerve, the root cause being arthritis. It isn't bad enough yet for surgery but may eventually, so I'd like to hear from others as well. It was this that led me to swimming and away from running. I can do anything but impact sports. Swimming not only has no impact but strengthens the core and helps the spine. I also do lots of pushups, again for the core and back muscles which support the spinal column.

  3. #3
    Active Member Mark Usher's Avatar
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    Re: spinal stenosis and swimming

    I've got fused C6/C7 vertebrae in my neck which ended my high school football career many years ago. I missed about a year of sports going through recovery and rehab (mostly strength training stuff). I have some limited range of motion, but not nothing serious and nothing that affects my swimming (although some days I would like to have it as an excuse... ).

  4. #4
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    Re: spinal stenosis and swimming

    Quote Originally Posted by mpmartin View Post
    I have recently been diagnosed with severe spinal stenosis and may have to have a laminectomy and fusion surgery.
    I'm wondering if any other swimmers have had this type of surgery, and what swimming is like after it's done?

    Forgot to mention the problem is in my lumbar section. (L3-L5)
    My experience over the last several years may be helpful. I developed spondylolethesis (L4-L5) in the mid 80”s. I was able to keep it under control with lots of PT and core work for many years, but about 3 years ago the sciatica got much worse due to severe stenosis. I limped (literally) through an age up year in 2015 and, while I did well swimming, I could not stand for more than several minutes and could not walk around the block.
    I had spinal fusion surgery last April (along with laminotomies at S1-L5, L4-L3 and L3-L2). With some complications I was on the operating table over 8 hours. I did not find the recovery especially hard. I was walking and climbing stairs the next day in the hospital and went home after two days. What was difficult is keeping a “quiet” back for 3 months: just walking, stair climbing and stationary bicycle. At 3 months I started PT and worked on range of motion and core strengthening. I also started vertical kicking in the pool. Started swimming (slowly) again at 4 months and was able to compete at 6 months where I posted some relatively quick times.
    The great thing about biting the bullet and having the operation is zero…ZERO sciatic pain. I can walk as far as I want and stand for hours without noticing. It has been a great boon to my day to day life out of the pool. I have also regained 99% of my flexibility.
    Hope this helps

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    Re: spinal stenosis and swimming

    Rich thanks so much for your reply. It does help to hear that it worked for you and tells me what to expect after the surgery.

  6. #6
    Participating Member Lo Knapp's Avatar
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    Re: spinal stenosis and swimming

    I assume the stenosis in the lumbar area is foraminal stenosis? Narrowing of the intervertebral foramin ("holes") where the nerve come out? And not stenosis (narrowing) of the spinal canal where the spinal cord is? If it is the former, generally back extension causes more pain as that closes up the spaces where the nerves are coming out even more. Unfortunately, most swimming is in the position of some back extension. This is just an FYI. So after surgery (as evidenced by the previous post), follow the surgeon's instructions and do what you are told. You must let the bone heal. Then start your physical therapy which will focus on core strengthening. This will help keep you in a good position in the water. Everyone is different, but recovery from this surgery takes time and you must let everything heal. Pain longer than 1 hour after you have done something mean that you have done too much. Hopefully, you can return to swimming and all will be well! This is my perspective as a physical therapist and a swimmer.

  7. #7
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    Re: spinal stenosis and swimming

    It's a few forms of stenosis, foraminal, central and lateral. Also I've learned that spinal cord itself doesn't extend past L1, at that point the nerves branch out.

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