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4footedfriend 05-14-2010 10:55 PM

Riding after back surgery?

I'm new to the site and looking for some help. Like most/everyone else on this site, my passion in life is my horse and riding. I can't imagine life without riding. I had a major back injury 2 yrs ago after falling off a horse. At the time of the accident, I was told I needed a multi-level fusion, which I vowed I would never do and ended up hoping that a minor surgery would solve my issues. It didn't help and I have exhausted all other treatments and options. I have come to the conclusion that it's finally time to break down and have the fusion. I just can't live in this much pain constantly any longer and I have far too many years ahead of me to live like this for the rest of my life (I'm only 36). I still ride as often as I can but that's becoming less and less and the downtime I have after a ride because of the pain is getting more and more. I'm terrified of the fusion but I see no other way around it at this point.

Has anyone out there gone through a lumbar fusion? If so, what is your ability to ride after you recovered? What difference(s) have you noticed in riding post-op? Can you still twist your torso/waist? How long before you were back to riding?

Thank you very much for reading!!

BTW, if it helps, my fusion would be between L4-L5, L5-S1

HalfPass 05-14-2010 11:13 PM

Hello there.
While I have not had my lower spine fused, I do have a two level fusion in my neck with a titanium plate and screws.
I understand your fears about the whole thing.
I think every individual case is different.
In my case I was bound an determined to get better. I just turned 40 Dec last year. It has been two years since my first neck surgery and in Sept of this year it will have been 2 years since my fusion
One of the things I really loved after my spine surgery was getting into the therapy pool this was really good because in the begining I couldn't move very well.
I stuck with doing physical therapy. myo-facial release massage even after my insurance would not cover any more visits. It was the best thing I ever did.

There is so much I can share with you about my journey through many many surgeries, 2 on my neck and something like 7 others for other injuries, all over about a 5 year period of time. it was tough.

I now know when I do not ride 3 plus times a week I actually hurt more.

I think the best thing to do is to be very good about following your doc/surgeons instructions (to the "T" ) until he/she releases you to do certain things.

I am not going to say that either of my two spinal surgeries was easy, because they were not. I literally went through hell, but....I never gave up.
Wow, I have a ton to share with you if you would like to pm me I am happy to share or answer any specific questions about fusion surgery. I am not a doctor, but can share what I do know and my experience.

Hope this gives you a tiny seed of hope if nothing else.


lacyloo 05-15-2010 12:24 AM

1 Attachment(s)
Not sure about spinal fusion but I was riding 70 days after having two rods put in... My riding has improved. You will learn quickly how to adapt to the changes. Its past my bedtime so ill probably post more info tomorrow. :lol:

Lucentael 05-15-2010 12:56 AM

I would suggest absolutely, positively making sure you have a doctor that knows what the heck they're doing. I would ask for references galore and would contact former patients who have had the same procedure done by whoever is going to do your back. I say this because my mother had a triple-fusion back surgery done, and even though her surgeon was an extremely reputable one, the result was disastrous. I don't want to upset you, but please make a huge effort in looking into the individual who's responsible for operating on you. I believe you can never take too much time finding the right doctor, especially with a case like this.

PaintHorseMares 05-15-2010 06:11 AM

The physical therapy after is extremely important. Look for a physical therapist knowledgeable about sports injuries.

maura 05-15-2010 08:34 AM


I think it's entirely possible to ride after having L4-L5, L5-S1 fused, depending on your discipline. I would think dressage would be the most difficult to pursue with that fusion; and after surgery you'll want to stick to horses and horse activities that are less prone to aggravating the injury.

My husband had a laminectomy of L5 -S1 and has two bulging discs above; but has returned to his old activities 100% after recovering from the surgery. You wouldn't know he's had any previous back problems looking at him. My riding buddy had a fusion of two vertebrae in her neck, and it was one of the best things she ever did in terms of pain relief.

Good luck!

MissH 05-15-2010 09:03 AM

4footed, it's inspiring that you had the courage to post your story as your first post on the forums. So first of all, a huge welcome and I think we'll all agree that we hope you'll be around for a while. I would like to follow this and find out more about how you're doing if/when you end up going through with it.

HalfPass - great post! I think it's awesome you're still riding after all of that. Another inspiration.

4footedfriend 05-15-2010 11:16 AM

Thanks for all the replies! Wow, this is a great board! :D

HalfPass, we'll continue our pm...

lacyloo, wow! That's great you were back riding so quickly! Thanks for the inspiration!

Lucentael, I'd like to think my surgeon is reputable. He's the director of neurosurgery for a collection of local hospitals, has an impressive resume, and has been recommended by a few other back doctors that he'd be the one to pick for a fusion. However, he did my lami/discectomy and it was unsuccessful. He told me that fusions are about 80% successful. I'm terrified to be part of the 20%.... I also have rheumatoid arthritis which tends to slow my healing and recovery so not sure how that'll impact the fusion. I've asked for fusion patient references but thanks to privacy laws, they cannot give me any names.

PaintHorseMares, I have an amazing sports medicine guy that does PT/rehab. I think I'll be in good hands with him post-op.

maura, my discipline is dressage. Of course I would love to continue with that pursuit post-op but worst case scenario, as long as I can even trail ride (maybe jump logs along the way), ride a trot & canter, I'd be ok. I have a 4 yr old horse that I bought as a yearling. I'm constantly reminded by loved ones that an older, more seasoned horse would be much wiser but my gelding is truly my dream horse on so many levels and I can't imagine parting with him for any amount of money or for any reason. He's got a great mind and is quite brave so I'm not too worried.

MissH, thanks for your kind post!

Thanks again to everyone. :D Of course I'd love a clearcut "here's how it's going to be" but I realize everyone is different and no two cases are the same and it's impossible to know how it'll turn out for certain. I'm trying to hold out until the fall to have the fusion. I don't want the summer to pass me by completely. Our winter has been soooo long that I'd like to be able to enjoy the nice weather for a bit. At the rate I'm degenerating, I don't know if I'll make it that long though.

Happy riding to everyone out there! :D

ShezaCharmer 05-15-2010 11:30 AM

I had scoliosis back surgery a year ago and it was a life saving surgery. Most people with scoliosis have one curve to the spine but I had two and both curves were pushing on my ribs making it hard to walk or do anything for long. So I did the surgery as soon as I found out that i had scoliosis and had a rod put in that runs the length of my whole back making it impossible to do some things like tie my shoes or picking out a horses hooves.
It is very hard to bounce back after but as long as you take precautions when riding and not overdue it right away you will be fine. In fact I found riding more enjoyable after surgery cause there is no more pain.
Like a few other people said doing some equine sports will be very hard like polo or dressage.
I seriously hope you continue riding after the surgery. Don't quit doing something you love just because of an injury.

4footedfriend 05-15-2010 11:47 AM

Hi ShezaCharmer,
Thanks for your post. You're inspirational! That must've been a difficult recovery for you. Good for you though for being so strong! I'd never ever give up riding even if I had to crawl there. I was supposed to stop riding after my fall, due to my injury and shouldn't be riding now. I endure major pain to ride but to me, it's worth it. Unfortunately my degeneration is getting so bad that it's getting hard to even walk, let alone ride.

I guess I'm more afraid of the unknown of the surgery than anything. And of course I think of the worst and envision not being able to move or bend my torso ever again, which I'm sure is unrealistic (I hope!). I'm terrified of some complication post-op then hearing "you'll never ride again". I'd just die! :cry:

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