View Full Version : Training post Herniated Disk Surgery?

Please visit our sponsor:

11-08-2006, 01:00 PM
First time posting here, although I've been reading this board for the past 2 or so years.

I'm Uchi Deshi at my dojo for the past year. I've been training intensely for the past 2+ years. 6 days a week, all classes, even before I lived there. Back in Janurary I herniated a disk (L5-S1) lifting a TV. I thought at the time I just pulled all the muscels in my back, had some pain killers and I eventually tested for my Nikyu 3 weeks later. Not the prettiest of tests since I was still in some pain.

Pain went away, I returned to my regular training schedule until July '06. Did a weekend seminar that involved a LOT of twisting of the torso independant of the hips. Guest instructor was emphasizing how to stand from a seated position w/o using your hands/arms to get up in a 'ready' position. Not what we normally train in at my ASU school but it was fun none-the-less. Pain started up to the point the following week I could barely stand.

Over several doctor and chiropractor visits and then via X-Ray and MRI it was discovered I've got a bulging L4-L5 disk and a herniated L5-S1 disk. The herniation is a 'monster' according to my doc, and is approx 1.5cm is length. It's not hitting my spinal bundle (not a cord at this point in the back) but is hitting a root nerve that controls feeling to my right leg. So I have weakness in my calf, shooting pain and tingling in my toes from time to time.

I've been off the mat since July, doing gym workouts and hopeing things will improve. They have not and several expidition returns to the mat have proven I cannot train with this injury.

I'm looking at spinal surgery in mid Janurary to remove the mass from the spinal channel. According to the consensus, the mass is large enough it will take a long time to naturally shrink and pull itself off the root nerve, longer than I want to wait at 30yrs old to get better. I cannot lift or carry anything over 35lbs.

So...for those who have had surgery, what has been your recovery time to return to the mat? My surgeon, a student of Wing Chung, has told me I will not be able to train with the same frequency or intensity as I did before, but that I should be able to get back o n the mat in the beginner's class 6 or so months after surgery.

I'm lucky in that I do not have an associated back pain and I'm in excellent health (a lot of which I contribute to aikido training and conditioning).

So if anyone is in the same condition, I'd like to know the extent of the herniation, if you had or have back pain and how long it took you to return.


Ron Tisdale
11-08-2006, 01:33 PM
Yikes, going through something similar...best wishes for a speedy recovery. Have you tried the pain shots that pain clinics give? Steroids often shrink the swelling...sometimes enough to avoid surgery. That is what I'm doing right now for my cervical spine.


11-08-2006, 02:53 PM
I'll probaby have a cortisone shot within the next couple of weeks. The problem is the size of the herniation that the doc doesn't think it'll really shrink it enough to pull it back from the nerves. As the doc said "It's a monster of a herniation". There's only so much room in the channel and the disk material is taking up a rather large part of it.

Not looking forward to surgery but I do want to get back to training. I met the requirements for Ikkyu before I was injured.....

shodan 83
11-09-2006, 09:43 AM
I have I posted on this subject before, and Iím not a doctor but Iíve had the same surgery twice; L4/5/S1, the second surgery was necessary because the scar tissue from the first surgery had wrapped around the nerve roots. I was 10 times worse after my first surgery so if you are looking for a speedy return, there is no guarantee that surgery will provide this. My advice is to try every and all non-invasive means to heal before surgery including acupuncture from a good practitioner.

Fred Little
11-09-2006, 02:44 PM
Ron --

Check your pm box.


11-10-2006, 08:39 AM
Bit irrelevant, but my wife had two hierniated disks in the lower back. We did everything to avoid surgery and we did research in all sorts of surgical approach. Even when the pain almost paralysed her, we knew that surgery should not be an option. Each and every one we know that had back surgery went from bad to worse withing a few years and everybody will tell you that (even doctors). Yet we found a very good physiotherapist that insisted and encouraged people to start jogging. Sounded silly at first, especially for the condition my wife was in. But after a month of visiting the local stadium tracks, she wend from being almost paralysed to regaining life in full. Her recovery was dramatic and everyone that follows this approach to hierniated disks seems to be helped a lot. Of course hiernias vary in degree of severity and this might not be of any assistance to the next person but it is worth the effort. Strenous exercises (i.e. falls, kicks etc) are prohibited, though, but it does not matter if she gets to do aikido down the dojo or not. She avoided a world of pain and risky operations by doing a simple thing.

11-13-2006, 02:44 PM
Stelios, you'll have to pardon my wariness of your post. I know too many people who have had sucess with the surgery to simply believe all doctors will tell you that you'll go from bad to worse in a few years.

I continue to workout, running 3 miles on an elipitical machine 4 to 5x a week and lifting machine weights. Running on a track is out of the question, my weight would cause too much impact on an already damaged disk. The elipitical neither helps nor hurts, just keeps me in shape.

The doctors did tell me the surgery most likely would not 'cure' back pain. Which I really don't have, my issue is the herniation rubbing against the right root nerve which sends sensations down my right leg and keeps me from lifting and or twisting my torso.

I've still yet to do the cortisone shots, but physical therapy did help me get to where I am where I seem to have plateaued. I could easily live the rest of my life like this, so long as I never have to pick up more than 35lbs or carry anything. And I can forget about aikido/biking etc... At 30 I'm not ready to accept those limitations.

I do think surgery is the best alternative for my situation since I do not have other factors such as back pain etc... I do realize scar tissue, complications can always play a factor and that any invasive surgery is inherriently 'risky'. But with the size of the herniation I do not think time alone will allow it to shrink enough to pull it off the nerves.

It's a tough decision which hasn't fully been made yet. I'm still looking for 3rd and 4th opinions.

11-14-2006, 02:05 AM
My dear Eric, it is very true that of the 12 people I know that had the operation only one was free from complications for two years but went worse after that amount of time. My father-in-law, a farmer aged 50, had the operation twice; the first was a sucess for 3 years then another one was needed and that last one almost killed him as cerebrospinal fluid kept leaking out of the incission for a week and the doctors had to operate two more times to stop it. My best friend's father, aged 48, had the operation and almost died from the same problem (fluid leakage). Both had partially lost sensation to their right legs accompanied by intense pain on the leg and waist. My wife has the same symptoms, something not very fair for a young woman in her 30s.
I am not saying that all the operated on patients relapse soon or get worse immediatelly afterwards but one of my best friend which is a well reputed neurosurgeon admits that only if you face paralysis shoulf you go under the knife. And he is adamant on that (most surgeons and orthopaeditians will also tell you that). Even modern approaches to the problem of hiernias such as nucleoplasty (do lok it up on the net) fail to provide a clearcut answer. Untill then do whatever else comes in mind; physiotherapy, accupuncture, sanitary steam/mineral baths as the ones we have in Greece, hypnotherapy, mild training, adjustment on diet with less fats and salts and above all positive thinking.
Just a thought and my warmest regards on being better soon.

11-14-2006, 01:27 PM
Thank you for the info. That's quite horrible things have gone so wrong with the operations. I am under a different impression about the sucess rates. I'm in the process of getting 2 more opinions about my condition etc... Since I'm absent of most pain, I'm not in a real rush to get it done. I suppose more research is needed at this point. Pretty much those that I've spoken to have had positive expierences with the surgery, including my dad and that was 20 years ago and he's now 55.

I really don't wish this on anyone. Ouch.

shodan 83
11-14-2006, 01:55 PM
I'd explore the reason you are now "absent of most pain", and try to see if you can improve without invasive surgery. FWIW

11-14-2006, 05:08 PM
The doc isn't sure why I'm not in pain period, considering the location of the herniation and the size. I did recover from the pain in less than 1 month, as far as improving...the mass is still in the spinal chanel and it's pretty much not simply going to 'go away' no matter how much I'd like it to.

I can do simple activities without aggrivating it, but standing up for more than 6hrs aggrivates it, so does twisting, bending and carrying anything over 35lbs. So carrying a weeks worth of groceries up a flight of stairs...I feel it. Same with moving around the 40lbs water jugs for my salt water reef tank, I've 5 of them and I fill them either 1x per week or bi-monthly. It's not Just about Aikido. I also have issues with being in a car for more than an hour.

Either way I know the disk is hosed and this is the 2nd time I've had to recover. I do not think my recovery will be nearly as complete as it was after the initial herniation. I'm way too active to simply retire to the couch. I just feel I've improved to the point in the past 4 months that it's not going to get much better past this point without surgery.

Ron Tisdale
11-15-2006, 08:45 AM
Try the shot...it seems to have helped me a great deal. At least then you can say you tried it before the cutting...

Best Wishes,

03-05-2007, 12:14 PM
I got to this link by looking at a post that I was the subject of (posted by Karen Wolek for me). I have had back issues for 25 yrs First disc operation was 1982; L5/S1 lamenectomy as a result of discrete trama. (i.e. I know the exact instance that it was hurt...it was in a boating accident)

Second discectomy in 2000; L5/S1 again i know the exact day hr and minute it happened. I worked thru it for many a month before it got to the point where something had to give. Again I had a full recovery in about 4 months

Third last April; L5;S1 again. I was off the mat starting in Feb 2006. was operated on in April was on the mat in late june. NOw all of my pain was in my leg. If i had pain in my back it was masked by the severity of the pain in my leg. Do i still have twinges? yes..... Have i had setbacks? Yes but not due to mat activity. I have hurt is a few times lifting very heavy things.

I take breakfalls and participate in feestyle classes. I do avoid kosha nage if possible but have found that if my technique is good there is no issue.

So there is life after the injury. BTW I know of al least 2 other people who have had multiple dsc operations and on the mat training. Both are Dans at this point although at least one was not when the injury and surgery occurred.

Every MD I have talked to said that if your life is impacted you need to get it fixed. Fixed may mean the shots. They have worked for me albeit briefly. It may mean surgery. It may mean giving up Aikido or other such activities.

There are lots of things by reputitable sites on the web. Given what you told me i would look at the caes where is all leg pain. The course of treatment is somewhat different in my experince and from what my MDs have told me

Feel free to contact me ..........i did a great deal of research last yr. I have a few friends that are MDs so i got their unbiased and frank opinions. I saw 2 orthopediacs and one neurosurgons before i made the decision to go under the knife.

10-30-2007, 02:42 AM
I had spinal surgery (fusion of two vertebrae) about six months ago. My recorvery is without any problem. I hope to restart my training in half a jear. But the breakfalls scare me. I got lot of different opinions wether to continue or not. Some say that one heavy fall could be enough to dislocate one of the pins in my back. But the surgeon himself told me that I had to discover for myself what I can and cannot do (in other words: he didn't prohibited it!).

I wil evently return to the dojo, but I don't want to rush foulishly ahead. I was wondering how other people with similar problems coped. Maybe if I wear some protective (shockabsorbing) belt? Would that help? Has anyone experience with those?


Will Prusner
10-30-2007, 09:10 AM
My situation is somewhat different because I currently recovering from knee surgery that was performed about 2 1/2 months ago due to a torn lateral meniscus. I post because I urge you to thoroughly investigate every non-invasive measure before consenting to surgery. I told myself that I would investigate everything before going with the surgery, and I did alot: acupuncture, chiropractors (three different types), reiki, energy work, qigong, strengthening the surrounding muscles and i'm sure i'm leaving some out. My point is that after I had gone through with the surgery, it was so painful and demoralizing that I wished I had done more on my own before resorting to that option.

I'd say to definitely try Qi gong if you have not already. It may help your back, and if not, your state of mind. It will also help you to become aware of the channels the Qi (or ki (or chi)) flows through up your back and around your legs, which is of major benefit when training Aikido. It's also a great meditation. There are thousands of different forms, if you can find a reputable instructor in your area, then go with them, but if not there are many books and videos which are incredibly easy to learn from. You might even be able to locate instruction free online if you look around enough.

I just turned 29, 3 days ago. So I was also unwilling to allow this problem to negatively impact my future. My recovery is still ongoing, I'm still doing physical therapy, still experiencing some pain (but different). Sitting in seiza is not an option at the moment. Just trying to get it right and remain optimistic.

hope it helps!


p.s. - if you do a web search, try looking under "qigong", "Qi Gong", "Chi Kung" and other variations of those (different written translations for chinese characters that mean "energy/breath" and "work").

03-20-2008, 10:45 AM
So there have been postings on surgery and herniate disk. I am the victim of 3 surgeries for this precise diagnosis. I train at least 3 times a week and i would like to think very vigorously including participation in freestyle class. Recovery for me was 4 months to being able to go thru a beginners class with no concern. Within six months i was able to restart my training for 1st Kyu. Within 10 months being ready for my kyu test and at 12 months helping a buddy train for his shodan test. Breakfalls are not an issue even on a VERY hard mat. Koshanaga is a concern and I carefully chose my uki (at 6'2" I try to avoid fireplugs for these techniques but I surely do love the tall lanky guys.)

Now you all have to keep in mind that every case is different but you also must recall that many professional athletes have disc surgery and return to hall of fame seasons.

Ron Tisdale
03-20-2008, 12:18 PM
One of the recent UFC contests had a guy who'd had cervical disk surgery...I believe they'd fused 2 or 3 discs in his cervical spine, and put in a plate. Dude was back at it at a professional level.

Not sure *I'd* be willing to take that kind of risk...but hey, more power to him!


09-15-2008, 05:59 AM
It has been a year sinds I had my surgery (TLIF: fusion of two vertebrae (L5-S1)). During this year I've been working on a daily basis with a fysio program to strengthen my body (the goal is to create a 'muscle-belt' around your lower-back).

I have now restarted training a couple of weaks ago and have (so far) not encountered any problems. Breakfalls seems to pose no problem. The loss of flexibility and movement range seems marginal (5%) and poses no real hindrance.

I wear a brace during training, for support and protection. I have the feeling that I don't really need it, but it eases my mind and worries. And there is of course the occasional stupid move that you or your uke makes against which it protects well.

I realise that for others, things might work out differently and that for some, surgery marks the end of training. So I advice not to do anything stupid and to listen your body.


PS: The belt I use, I've found on the net. http://www.proline-sports.co.uk/acatalog/kidney_belt.htm

Michael Hackett
09-15-2008, 11:16 AM

Sorry to hear about your problems. When you decide to do the second opinion thing, contact Dr. David Hackley and his associate Dr. Thunder in La Jolla. They are amazing folks in the orthopedic world and treat lots of world-class athletes and martial artists. They are close by you.

Good luck!

09-15-2008, 02:23 PM
I'm not a Doctor, don't play one on TV.:)

Sounds like you're being extremely thorough in your research. I'd suggest getting a second opinion, but as you're on your 3rd and 4th opinion, it's not necessary.

My day job involves health profession licensing, so I can add additional information from that informed background.

Doesn't sound like you are leaning towards a complimentary/alternative solution for long-term, but that you may be open to it as something, well, complimentary.

If you do choose a complimentary/alternative medicne, do your homework about the therapy, learn the pos and the neg, and make sure that your doctor knows what's going on so care can be co-ordinated.

Also keep in mind that, whether successful or not, many alternative therapies do not have the same oversight and regulation that MDs, DOs, and most licensed physical therapists do.

Now, this may be a feature, and not a bug, to some people's thinking. Less regulation means cheaper, and more control of the individual over his own care.

But it also means more responsibility and oversight on the personal level. The regulations help to ensure that things are safer (not safe, for everything involves risk). If something is unregulated, it could be the best thing since sliced bread, but it could also be dangerous.

Quick example: Recent study of Ayurvedic meds bought online showed that 20% had dangerous levels of heavy metals. Link is here: http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/asection/la-sci-heavymetals27-2008aug27,0,1051003.story
Does that mean Ayurvedic meds are bad or ineffective? Not at all. But you can't argue that lead, arsenic, and other heavy metals are bad for you. Reducing lead exposure is one of the main reasons that we put filters on coal-burning power plants, limit our intake of fish, and make sure kids don't eat paint chips.

But it does illustrate a need for the individual to be aware and do his research. Not trying to scare here, just providing my perspective. Went off on a bit of a tangent, I suppose. I'm awfully wordy today.

Best of luck to you. I hope you can continue training and that you make the right decision for you regarding your treatment.

07-14-2011, 10:42 AM
One of the recent UFC contests had a guy who'd had cervical disk surgery...I believe they'd fused 2 or 3 discs in his cervical spine, and put in a plate. Dude was back at it at a professional level.

Not sure *I'd* be willing to take that kind of risk...but hey, more power to him!


Ron I believe that was Tito Ortiz and he just won last weekend against one of the top 5 in his weight class. He may just be in the hunt for another title. Just saying. Anyway I am fed up of suffering with back issues. Done it all. Got a fantastic accupuncturist, world reknowned, great exercises, etc etc, but yesterday popped my back tying my shoelaces! I am seriously now considering surgery due to the lack of certainty of when the next event will occur. Fortunately it happened at home, my wife is a nurse and we are well stocked and trained on the meds required to sort swelling etc. But this is no way to live.