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Microdiscectomy L5/S1- Climbing Specific Recovery Advice?

Original Post
Stephen Bittner · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2012 · Points: 325

So... I'm having a microdiscectomy done @ L5/S1 on Wednesday, June 7. I'm 25 years old, work as an instructor/guide and I'm obviously looking to get back on the rock as quickly as possible after this surgery. That being said, I don't want to rush reintroducing climbing and risk reherniation or other complications. I'll be in physical therapy for a bit after the surgery but my surgeon is telling me that at 6 weeks post-op my activity level is unrestricted. He is not a climber, my physical therapist is not a climber, and because my harness sits directly on my soon-to-be fixed disc, I'm slightly hesitant to heed the surgeons advice without any climbing specific consideration.

Has anybody here had a lumbar microdiscectomy in the past few years? When did you return to climbing? When did you start leading again? When did you start taking lead falls?           Did you find that you needed a more supportive harness than before? Would you avoid any specific movements for a while?

Basically, what was your climbing-recovery timeline to get back to 100% and what did you do that you would recommend to other in the same position?

I sincerely appreciate any response. This injury has knocked the wind out of my sails a bit but I'm excited to start the rehab process and get back outside and back to work.



Wes C · · Cleveland, oh · Joined Apr 2017 · Points: 65

I had mine done when I was 29 before I started climbing.  My experience was that I was told the same thing, unrestricted at 6 weeks, though there was no way if I was climbing then would I have climbed at six weeks.  Everyone's different, every surgery is different, however there are tons of stories of people pushing to early and reinjuring the disc.  My best advice would be to listen to your body, you will be the one who knows.  I had a lot of pressure at my incision sight for a number of months after surgery.  On top of the physical rehab there is some mental training you have to deal with.  It was a long time before I started to trust certain movements again.  I really didn't want to get the lightning bolts back in my leg and ass.

Stephen Bittner · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2012 · Points: 325

Thanks for you sharing you experience, Wes! 

The surgery appears to have been a success. I'm looking forward to getting back to life again. 

Wes C · · Cleveland, oh · Joined Apr 2017 · Points: 65

Good luck and move as much as possible.  They told me to walk as much as possible.  I was out doing laps around my neighborhood, then onto the trails at our local park.  I did a lot of walking in that recovery phase.  It drove me nuts to not be able to do more, but you gotta resist the urge until your fully healed.  Good Luck on the recovery!

Pogie · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2015 · Points: 45

L5/S1 9 years ago.  A non climber is not going to be familiar with loading which can occur in climbing.  Further injury can fuck you up permanent style.  Don't rush getting back on the rock, you have your whole life ahead of you.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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