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Runners and Spinal Surgery

Runners and Spinal Surgery

Can I Start Running Again After Back or Neck Surgery?

If you love to run but have been sidelined by back pain, you’re probably wondering if you’ll be able to run again after surgery. The short answer is probably—but don’t rush it.

Whether running is appropriate for you and how soon after surgery will depend on what kind of surgery you have and how your recovery is progressing. The final advice should always come from your doctor, but here are some general guidelines.

Recovery time will generally take longer with a spinal fusion procedure than with disc decompression. You may need to wait as long as six months before running after fusion surgery, although if the procedure is done using minimally invasive techniques, you may not be sidelined quite as long.

Be patient. We know you miss that runner’s high, but doing too much too soon could jeopardize your full recovery and risk another back injury. You’re more likely to be able to continue running for the long term if you approach your training slowly and carefully.

Here are some tips to keep in mind.

  • Before you do anything, get approval from your doctor.
  • Treat your training as though you’re beginning from scratch. Start out walking and gradually increase your distance and pace. 
  • Listen to your body. If your back hurts, stop. No pain, no gain does NOT apply here.
  • In the beginning, run on flat surfaces, only adding hills or stairs as you get stronger.
  • Avoid hard surfaces like sidewalks at first. Run on a trail, treadmill, grass, or a school track.
  • Buy new shoes with extra cushioning to relieve the strain on your back.
  • Increase your running intensity and distance by no more than 10 percent a week.
  • Do exercises to build up your core muscles and keep them strong.
  • Stretch to maintain flexibility, paying special attention to your hamstring muscles. 
  • Cross-train on some days by cycling, swimming, or some other activity to build a variety of muscle groups and avoid overstressing your back.

With patience, you should be able to get back on track with a running program you enjoy.

For more information on spinal surgery, or to make an appointment with the doctors at NeuroMicroSpine, please call (850) 934-7545 or click here to request an appointment. We hope to see you soon!

The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace or counter a physician’s advice or judgment. Please always consult your physician before taking any advice learned here or in any other educational medical material.