Running After Spinal Fusion

Getting back to an active lifestyle after spinal fusion surgery is likely to present some challenges. While you don’t want to do anything to risk re-injury, you also don’t want to give up a healthy habit you enjoy doing. Whether running is a hobby or something you do competitively, there are some things you can do to safely ease back into it.

Start with Walking

Go for daily walks up to a mile to start. As your comfort level increases, extend the length of your walks and pick up the pace, but refrain from running. As you walk:

  • Stay on flat surfaces
  • Wear comfortable, supportive shoes
  • Watch your posture

Advance to Light Jogging

After getting approval from your doctor, step things up to a light daily jog. Consider conditioning your leg and back muscles with water-based activities and bike riding.

Perform Regular Stretches

If you’re working with a physical therapist, get recommendations for stretches you can do to get muscles in your legs, ankles, thighs, and lower back prepared for running again.

Warm-Up and Run Slowly

When you’re given the “all clear” to run again, do a 5-10 minute warm-up consisting of light stretches first to avoid muscle strain. While running:

  • Maintain a slow, steady pace
  • Run for about 20-30 minutes to avoid over-exertion
  • Stay away from hills and stick to flat surfaces

Make Steady Increases Each Week

As your muscles strengthen and your spine continues to heal, slowly increase your pace and distance each week. The general recommendation is roughly a 10 percent increase per week. Get back into your regular routine by:

  • Setting small, achievable goals
  • Tackling smaller or less-inclined hills
  • Going for practice runs before re-entering any competitions or marathons to get a feel for how your body can handle the added stress

Vertebrae that are fused together shouldn’t move or cause pain, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. You should be able to get back into ease back into your routine after your recovery period is over and you get doctor approval. Be mindful of how your body reacts and report new, unusual, or sudden pain.

For more information or a second opinion, don’t hesitate to reach out to the board-certified spine doctors at The Spine Institute in Los Angeles. Our experienced team of specialists can help pinpoint the root of your pain and determine which treatments are best for your specific condition and lifestyle. Call (310) 828-7757 and schedule an in-person consultation today.