4 Weeks Post Op Back Surgery

Well this week marks 4 weeks post op microdiscectomy L5-S1 back surgery. Still feeling great! I only took 2 pain meds within the first 8 hours of surgery, more as preventative because I didn't want to wake up in pain that first night. It's crazy that I felt so great immediately after surgery! My theory is I was in so much nerve pain before surgery that anything from a little incision was a piece of cake! I also believe that because of my activity level pre-surgery, it truly helped with my recovery process. CrossFit does a body good!

I have no pain in lumbar region, but within last 2 weeks I have had some sciatic nerve pain again. Made me extremely nervous and anxious as I know that pain all too well. It's been a level 2 pain scale compared to "through-the-roof" pre-surgery, and seems to occur after sitting for extended periods of time. 

I went for my post-op appointment today with my surgeon and brought up the nerve pain. He said that if I sit too long it can compress and put some pressure back on that nerve root. It's still healing so I need to make sure not to sit for more than 45 minutes, and get up and move around. I do get relief in morning so I can tell it's just being up and about, and doing more activity as of late. I need to remember that I'm not that far out from surgery still, and the scar tissue needs time to heal over, so I need to dial it down a notch or two and keep my Wonder Woman outfit in the closet for now.

I also have been super antsy to increase physical activity level. I am getting more soft and fluffy than I prefer to be. Ha! Plus, physical activity provides a positive effect on my mental health. This mama needs her gym time! I was very specific with my surgeon at my post-op appointment in asking what activities would be ok moving forward. My mentality is, if I feel good, I'm getting after it. That wasn't going to fly with this recovery and probably is the reason I got to the point I was at with the injury. My pain tolerance is pretty high, and I need to remember feeling good doesn't equal healed! I was still put on a 25 pound lifting restriction which, for me, is treacherous and somewhat laughable. Trying to listen and abide to the doc! Also, no running, jumping, air squatting, kipping, or compression like movements for another two months. Bummer, but going to utilize this summer time to try some new activities I wouldn't otherwise try. I got clearance to bike, so I'm going to dust off the bike gear and get after it. My quads & lower half need to work hard and this appears to be one of the few activities I'm cleared to do that will achieve that!

It's really amazing how great I have felt immediately after surgery to each day after. I felt like I had been on an extended time out in life! There was so much nerve pain, it was just do what I had to do, then get home quickly so I could get comfortable. I didn't really leave a 10 mile radius from home and there were no social outings for me. It really felt like a blur of time over those 3+ months because I would just try to manage a day, go to sleep, and hope that time would help the back get better. It never did...

Most people are super afraid of back surgery and I would say it was definitely the last option I considered. I tried chiropractic, physical therapy, acupuncture, anti-inflammatory drugs, massage, books, etc. With the first two back episodes, these therapies were effective in healing, but with this last episode, nothing worked. It was about quality of life at that point! I had exhausted options and was frustrated living with pain. Some friends connected me with my back surgeon and I am so grateful for his service. He discussed options available and I had tried all of the above except surgery. He listened to my frustrations and heard my concerns, and he felt that surgery would be effective since I had exhausted the other options. I am so glad I made the decision to have the microdiscectomy surgery.

I'm looking forward to the 3 month mark and getting back to my usual CrossFit movements. Until then, I'm going to enjoy my modified activity, try some new things, and enjoy the family time!


Surgery Day

Surgery day is here! Nervous. Surgery can always bring some jitters, but this is also surgery on my back. I just keep thinking this is the control center down from the brain. No oopsies please!

I'm excited that there is the potential to be pain-free immediately after surgery. For the last three months, I have grown accustomed to a new "normal" of dealing with the sciatic nerve pain. I haven't been able to sit, cough, sneeze, or laugh hard without going into a serious pain cave. I've also adjusted the way I squat down to pick things up or get dressed so that I avoid as much nerve pain as possible. It's really crazy to think of how long this has gone on. I'm not sure how people deal with this long term.

For the last month, I have made it to CrossFit to do modified workouts. A lot of strict press (modified weight), strict pull ups, controlled dips, slow, controlled squats and wall balls, and anything else I could do without pain or added stress. My last workouts consisted of wall balls, dips, strict press, and rope climbs… Ha, ha! The rope climbs could be questionable crazy, but I was comfortable going up and really controlled coming back down. Plus, I'm getting surgery today, right?!!

It sounds like there is a wide range of experiences of those recovering from this surgery. I am hoping that I have a positive experience to share on the other side of this.

I'm really thankful for my CrossFit family at CrossFit Loomis. An amazing group of people who are always there for you. I look forward to seeing you all on the other side of recovery.


Appreciation for Movement

Some of you know I have been dealing with back issues for about fifteen months. Although I thought I never had any major issues throughout life, I do recall the first time my back "went out." It was 2006 and I reached down to grab a dumbbell off the ground, and came up in pain. It was like an old peep moment as the weight wasn't anything strongman heavy. Ha! From that point, my back "went out" maybe once every fifteen months or so. Apparently I seem to have short term memory loss, as I hadn't remembered that this was the start of back issues or that I've actually been dealing with a back issue here and there for some time. It was probably overlooked by my ever constant knee shenanigans.

Over the last fifteen months, I had had three separate episodes of back issues. The first two were extremely painful and I was laid out for some time. I had an MRI after the first episode and it showed a few things. 1) a herniated L5-S1 disc 2) two discs above were slightly bulging 3) there was some degenerative loss of disc fluid. Although not good, it sounds scarier then it was. The herniated disc was an issue, the other two were not quite as shocking with my athletic background over the years. It happens. I was appreciative to get an actual diagnosis and visually see what I was looking at. At the time, I had a meltdown in the chiropractor office while looking at the MRI because I had been the most active and best shape of my life. I didn't want to stop doing the activities I loved to do.

It took a good six months of recovery before my back felt good again and I could train at the level I was training previously. Then five months later, back "went out" again. Seriously?!!! Ain't nobody got time for this! I was in serious pain, but knew the protocol of what to expect. Although it did get better and felt ok, this past February I started getting serious sciatica down right hip and leg. With the two previous episodes, I was in serious pain, but couldn't walk well and was more contained to being laid out flat on my back. This time was different. I was fine walking and moving around, but the sciatic nerve pain was so uncomfortable. I couldn't sit or drive for over ten minutes without being in a pain cave!


After three months of waiting, hoping it would get better, it didn't. I got another MRI that confirmed that the original herniated disc was worse and pushing on the sciatic nerve root. Well that explains it. I had tried physical therapy, chiropractic, acupuncture, prednisone, blah, blah. After three episodes, and this time no relief, I opted for microdiscectomy surgery. I not only want to still be an active person, but more importantly, I want to be able to play with my kiddos, travel, and just enjoy movement. It was now about quality of life!

You do not appreciate the ability to move, until it is taken away from you. Talk about debilitating when the simplest things cannot be done comfortably or at all. Quality of life is extremely diminished. In the grand scheme of life, there are people who deal with far much worse, and I really just tried to reflect on my gratitude and appreciation for movement. It can definitely be taken for granted.

This is the first of a series to document my recovery process. In researching before surgery, I couldn't find much information on specific recovery for the truly active person. I still think of myself as an athlete, and look forward to getting back to CrossFit as strong as ever. I'm hoping that this series can help others that are active and looking to get back to their previous intensity and activity levels.

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