L5/S1 Discectomy

Hello, I'm a 34 yo male 6'5" and after 25 years of rugby (second row) hung up my boots 2 years ago after tearing a few shoulder ligaments and got into running, cycling, swimming and then triathlons .  I did 2 nr pool based last year and got my self a wetsuit for Christmas 2013 so planned to do 2 nr Olympic triathlons this year......

Jan 2 woke up with pain the left leg, long story short after 3 weeks of going back to my GP then a trip to A&E I'm now waiting 1 week to have a L5/S1 Discectomy (on BUPA).  Consultant has told me that due to my height it is not uncommon for this type of age/wear & tear injury and rugby this has not helped, he tells me that swimming and cycleing are great and I should do as much as I can but says I need to take the runnning slow and build up if I can.

I have a few questions which I would be grateful for any advice or feedback.

1. Has anyone else had this type of surgery? If so what was it like?

2. What was your recover time like? (I'm told I will be walking out the hospital after 2-3 days but will not be able to drive for 6 weeks

3. Did you get back to running and how long did it take?

4. Any work out/training plans would be great to have a look at?

Currently my left leg is so weak and can't feel my left foot, I've gone from an athletic super Dad (to girls 2&5) to someone who panics when I need to bring in the shopping!!

I so badly want to get the surgery done, take it easy for 6 weeks then get back into the gym (using bar only to start the build up 5kg's at a time), get back on my bike, in the pool and then think about running.

Also, do I now enter a 'special' age group category for people who have had spinal surgery? image image image




  • I had a discetomy in my C4/C5 at the start of December. Obviously this isn't quite the same but as it is similar thought I'd answer. Prior to the op I couldn't lift my right arm higher than elbow height.

    I was taking a walk in the hospital in the morning when the physio came to get me out of bed. I left hospital the following night after surgery and was doing 2-3 mile walks within 5/6 days.

    I guess I was lucky or have a high pain threshold as was uncomfortable at times but nothing serious - not like toothache.

    i haven't run yet however planning on a short one tomorrow roughly 10 weeks after the op. I'll probably be knackered after half a mile as not run for 12 week.

    Cant help on training plans though.

    Good luck with it all and hope yours goes as smoothly as mine has.

  • Hi Iain, I just had the same surgery last week. Could I ask how you are progressing?

    best wishes


  • I had the same on the 18th July, how are you guys doing?

  • I use to have severe low back pain and someone suggested these 4 questions to ask your consultant before the surgery:

    1) Why did the disc bulge/prolapse in the first place?

    2) Don't I need the portion of the disc you are going to remove?

    3) Will I be able to get back to all my previous physical activities after?

    4) Will this problem happen again with another disc?

    I'd be sceptical if the answer they give to no.1 is its age related or it just happens with some people. If it's age related everyone your age who did/or does your activities would have it. 

    No.3 is important as if the surgery is effective it should do this. Of course getting rid of the pain for now is wonderful, but at what cost?

    Number 1) and 4) are most important as there must be a root cause for the initial problem. If we taper over it by just removing a piece of the disc, the trigger of the pain might disappear but the root cause is still there, and might eventually cause another disc issue or pain somewhere else.

    Good luck and take care and the thing which took my pain away was getting my body back into balance through corrective exercises. These 4 might help:



  • Ameet I totally agree, I think in my case it was broken leg at 13 resulting in a shorter leg, then years of bad posture and sitting gave me back problems. I joined a gym, got fitter then found running, I became focused on the running and believed I was very fit, when really I never actually developed a strong core and still continued to spend most of my day sitting. After seeing a physio about this it seems my running and hip was all out of alignment. I was told by everyone I spoke to that the surgery was the way to go, but now post op my sole focus is to get strong and sort the mechanically issues before I attempt to run again. After I have given the back time to heal of course.

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