/ Climbing after spinal surgery

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Sofia - on 03 Dec 2017

Hi everyone,
I saw that someone posted about climbing after spinal surgery and thought that I could share my story so far...
I had surgery on my back due to an herniated disc at the end of January this year, and although recovery was quite challenging the unbearable pain that I suffered from stopped. On my 6th month after surgery and after some months of rehab, I started bouldering again. I was very careful about not falling off, so I'd always go up routes that I could easily climbed down.
Since then I dedicate some mins to warm up and stretch before and after each session.
As time went by my technique and strength are back. I might confess that although I try to always 'unclimbed' a route, there are times where I jump out to the matt, that's obviously dangerous with my condition but I feel that knowing how to fell has make it easier this time despite surgery.
Besides bouldering, I am starting to go to yoga again and do some body weight training targeting antogonist muscles but I haven't done that much so I can't say whether that's helping or not.
Tho I am not pain free and I believe, I will never be again, bouldering has helped me recover faster or at least the perception of pain has gone down since then.

Anyone out there that has been through the same and could also share she/he experience?

I am in my 11th month after surgery, would love to know more about what other people are doing to improve their physical condition mindfully.
Post edited at 23:44
alx on 04 Dec 2017
In reply to Sofia:

Your the second lady I have heard a similar story, you should check out climbing coach Belinda Fuller. I believe she had the same issue and needed surgery with the rather grim prospect that it may not improve her health.

Despite this she’s back climbing harder than ever and carving out a successful business.

Good luck in your recovery!

Ciro - on 04 Dec 2017
In reply to Sofia:

I didn't go down the surgery route, so I can't comment on the specifics of recovering from that, but I have now gone five years pain free after a decade and a half of severe episodes of lower back pain including three disk herniations, so it can be done

The biggest challenge was understanding the underlying imbalances that caused the herniations to happen - I went to a lot of different professionals before I found someone who could really help me get to the bottom of the biomechanical and habitual changes I needed to make. After that it was just a case of persistence with a lot of painful soft tissue work, yoga, strengthening exercises, and being mindful of staying away from old movements and postures.

The physio who finally helped me figure it all recommended the books and videos of a guy called Kelly Starrett, and I found him really useful, both for understanding where the problems lay, and practical solutions to those problems. He's a slightly controversial figure and often accused of spouting "bro-science", so make your own assessment, but I found his advice literally life changing.
Sofia - on 04 Dec 2017
In reply to alx:

Thanks Alex, I'll contact her to see if she can give me any advice, I live in Berlin so unfortunately classes with her won't be possible but good to know that they are more people out there facing the same challenges
Have a good evening!
Sofia - on 04 Dec 2017
In reply to Ciro:

Hi Ciro,
Thanks for your message, I have also heard controversial opinions about Kelly Starrett but I'll check him out.
I am more interested tho on soft tissue work, any idea of where I could find workouts or more information about it.
I do some exercises for neural limb and spine mobility and I've found it relieving as well if you want to check it out.
Thanks again for your answer.
Have a good evening too!

Ciro - on 04 Dec 2017
In reply to Sofia:

You're welcome, yep I think everyone's problem is a little bit different and figuring out what's neccessary is the hard part.

I found neural glides and stretches tended to just exacerbate the problem, until I'd done a load of trigger point therapy and loosened things up a bit first.

One of the main things I got from Starret and the physio who put me onto him was the enthusiasm for sucking up the pain when doing self myofacial release. Other physios would really get into my tissues once a week, but tell me to be careful when working on myself, whereas these guys encouraged going until I was ready to puke on a daily basis. It really made the breakthrough for me
Lurking Dave - on 06 Dec 2017
In reply to Sofia:

I'm 8 months post surgery (L5-S1).

Most positive thing for me has been reformer Pilates at least a couple of times a week. Plus standing desk at work.

I am 99% pain free and can run, boulder, climb, gym etc.

mop449 - on 07 Dec 2017
In reply to Sofia:

Hi Sofia,

I've had the skill to break my back twice (both times fracturing 3 lumbar vertebrae). I had surgery three years ago and am climbing harder than ever sport climbing. I'm careful with outdoor bouldering and don't push my limit too much on trad. A big part of my recovery (in my opinion) was doing lots of work on my core muscles. It improves posture, supports your back and helps with climbing.

Also, I've found that I've gone back to falling bouldering indoors normally. I'm careful to downclimb when I can and to fall properly taking the force away from my spine through bending my legs and rolling.

I'm pretty much back to normal, just a few aches on long (4 hour+) car journeys.

Hope your recovery goes well.

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