T Nation

Lifting/Squats with a Lumbar Fusion?

Hey all,
I had a lumbar fusion for L5 senior year of high school in 2012. My spine was in such bad shape that I had to be in a wheelchair until the surgery date. My nerves were being pinched so my left side stopped working. I was told I would never walk normally again but I beat everything the doc said I might struggle with. I’m back to horseback riding and a very active lifestyle. I started weight lifting about 2 years after the spinal fusion and I know my fusion healed completely.

But, I do squat quite a bit of weight now and I wonder if I could possibly be doing any damage? I know powerlifters need to be careful because of the adjacent vertebrae from the fusion possibly slipping over time, but what about 135 ibs (smith machine) for a 120 ib girl? I had a fall recently on ice but the ER doc said everything looks fine. Just incase I’ve dropped the squats to 100 ibs. Is anyone knowledgable enough to know if this would cause issues? And I also have scoliocis. I’m worried that I have to give up squats. I’ll be talking with the surgeon I had in a few months but im a little impatient.

I’m not a doctor and I don’t know a lot about scoliosis.

In my half educated opinion I would NOT squat anymore if I were you, or load the spine at all (squats, deads, OHP).

Because you have a abnormal curve in your spine, when you squat (loading the spine) you are putting uneven loads on your discs. Because of this uneven loading of each disc you are more prone to herniation, and a lateral (side) herniation is very painful because of the nerves it pinches.

I do have a degree in Kinesiology and have worked in the physical therapy field. I believe your spinal surgeon will probably tell you something similar.

But in the end it’s your life and you can ultimately decide whether or not you will continue to squat.

All the best

I think I would be cautious about squatting - with a fusion, a greater load is passed on to the other joints either side of the fusion.
Have you considered exercises for straightening the scoliosis? This guy seems to have some interesting videos on this.

Physical therapist here. I think it’s important to consider what your goals are. If you’re just interested in general fitness and injury prevention, in your case, there are many better options than back squats for lumbopelvic stability, leg strength, and body composition benefits. With a decent scoliosis and already having a (multi-segmental) lumbar fusion, there just isn’t much reason that you should be prioritizing back squats. For most healthy people, back squats are great for developing strength and body composition, and for prevention of low-back injuries when performed properly. For you, it makes a lot more sense to focus on other exercises.