Patient Returns to Running after Back Surgery

Authored by: Dr. Colin Haines

Lindsay loves to run. She does it a few times a week, a few miles at a time. It’s not only one of her favorite forms of exercise. It’s a stress relief. 

But her love of running was long impacted by lower back pain. She first hurt her back diving into a shallow lake in 2003. She experienced lower back pain on and off through the years but it really started to bother her in March 2018. Steroids resolved it that time but the pain returned and intensified in October 2020. When injections didn’t help, we realized surgery was going to be necessary and scheduled a spinal fusion. 

Oftentimes runners are worried about surgery and how it will impact their ability to run in the future. Lindsay wasn’t one of those patients though. Her husband had a lumbar fusion with Dr. Christopher Good in our practice in 2010 and had amazing results. In fact, after surgery he was stronger than ever. 

“My husband is an ultra marathoner. He had back surgery a decade ago and since then has continued running and competing in 100 mile races that take as many as 35 hours to complete. Because of him I knew that it was possible to get back to running after surgery,” Lindsay says. 

She also knew it was time for surgery. She’d exhausted all other options and her pain was seriously interfering not only with her running – but with her life. 

“During 2020, I experienced 5 times where my back was so tight and painful I could barely move. They were all triggered by normal everyday activities and were so random when they would happen.  It made life during Covid lockdown even more miserable because I never knew when my back would flare up and I’d be stuck at home immobile.  In February of 2021 my back was so bad I could not stand up straight or put on my own clothes. That was my breaking point,” she says. 

lindsay l with dr. colin haines

I performed a lumbar fusion/laminectomy on Lindsay and even though she’d seen her husband’s recovery, she was amazed at her own. Within months of the April 2021 procedure, she was not only running again; she completed a 10K. She did it a bit earlier than I typically recommend. I usually like runners to begin with lower impact activities and exercise and then build their way back up in their training before getting back to a full running schedule. But Lindsay really wanted to run this race and she did – and did well. 

Dr. Haines was honest with me that surgery was the best option and I’m so glad I listened and faced this head on. The recovery wasn’t always easy but I’m back to my very active lifestyle and now I don’t have pain anymore,” she says. “It is now 6 months post surgery and I am feeling amazing. Not only am I running but my husband and I biked around Chicago, Detroit and Indianapolis in September. I’m back to my active life and am forever grateful.”

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