T Nation

Rehab: Herniated Disc, Hysterectomy

I am female nearing 60 years old, have been for a few years a sometime weight-lifter, youthful for my years.

July 2006 I had to have an abdominal hysterectomy, leaving ovaries behind. In preparation for it, I got in the best shape, lifting, cardio, nutrition, I had been in a couple of years. I did Waterbury’s TBT.

Was back at gym 6 weeks later, doing great. Also went back to demanding professional life – mistake. Got sick and drained for a few months. Workouts became infrequent.

By X-mas time, I was exhausted and drained. Reduced my workload in spring, intermittently got back to gym –

Did sumo DL’s in April 2007 and developed osteitus pubis. http://www.thestretchinghandbook.com/archives/osteitis-pubis.php Apparently women with hysterectomies are vulnerable with wrong exercise which sumo DL’s were. But it took 2 months to diagnose problem. PT, gradually back to weights after 3 months, this past August.

Probably went too intense too soon… September 4 I herniated a disc. MRI shows several bulging discs as well. Pain unbelievable for a month.

Pain is now gone. PT says: No weights for 8 weeks. Can do cardio on elliptical and fast walk on inclined tread mill. Can do workouts that just use my body.

I need a workout routine I can do for 8 weeks that do not involve weights. My body now sucks. Nutrition has been bad due to no motivation.

I’ve read here about reverse hypers and Glute-Ham raises. I am not sure if my gym has them. I think I can do those or at least build up to them. I read about the squat hip belt – but that will be for later. There is an assisted chin-up and chest dip machine.

I need to rebuild my core but I need to do a real routine or I will go crazy. I can’t seem to design my own – my experience and intuition isn’t good enough. I have tons of books, access to internet to figure out how to do exercises. But no routine.

My schedule permits 45 min appx workout 3 times a week. A full body or 2 day split would be ideal. I will do fasted cardio in the Am for 3 times a week. I know the debates pro & con cardio – but it keeps me sane.

Can anyone suggest a routine to start, give exercises, reps, rest, etc?

Hi, Justitia. You look 40 in the avatar.
This subject is one I know all too well, having had herniated discs, bulging discs, crushed discs, nerve impingement with radiculopathies, and three surgeries. The first thing I can tell you, is that it can be overcome, I am living proof. I would never have believed that I am squatting and deadlifting and Olympic lifting again, and with real weights, not pink ones.
The next thing I would say is for the time being, rethink “routine.” The exercises which a fragile, healing back can tolerate are so gentle, they can be done everyday and you shouldn’t need a “split routine” in order for muscles to rest.
Which exercises to do is a subject of great debate, and I went through three separate rounds of physical therapy and had different routines each time. There is one common starting point-NO FLEXION. Bending motions put pressure on damaged discs. You have the right idea about movements like hypers that do the opposite, but the range of motion in the beginning should be smaller than regular hypers.
I am not an expert in the subtle rehab exercises, like the use of bands, yoga positions, and other posture movements which were used with me, and so forth. To be honest, I found this part of rehab very difficult to accept, and I hope another poster will come along to help you with this part. The first rehab, I tried to be a “rehab superstar,” trying to accelerate the timetable of healing and get back to weights sooner than recommended. Please listen-DO NOT DO THIS. It only caused my discs to further herniate and may have contributed to my radiculopathies.
Some other things I would add is to avoid prolonged sitting, try and get a MacKenzie roll (a firm foam roll) for your back when you do sit. You never needed a good mattress like you do now-I got a Spring Air, pricey but worth every penny. And don’t forget walking and swimming, two exercises that you CAN do that are back friendly, until you are ready for weight training again. Good Luck, Doc

Thanks so much for responding Dr. PowerClean – I guess your name says it all :slight_smile:

Thanks for the tips. I have a great mattress but am getting ready to buy a new one.

Don’t worry about my being a rehab surper star. I recovered so fast from my osteitus pubis – my PT was amazed. It was that overconfidence that got me back in the gym at too high a weight level. I had not considered how much my strenght had atrophied. A few weeks later I herniated that disc. I will never EVER do that again.

Do you care to share any one of the “routines” you did when you were first recovering?

[quote]Justitia wrote:

Do you care to share any one of the “routines” you did when you were first recovering?[/quote]

Well, the problem is each of my three rehabs followed an arthoscopic back surgery (IDET, disckectomy, rhizotomy).
So in the early going (first month), there was only carefully monitored movements lying face down on a PT table and lifting one leg up, then the other, same with the arms. Along with this came electrical stimulation treatments and ultrasound. After a month, they would graduate me to a variety of gentle movements including lunges, upper body work with various colored rubber bands, and work on a specialty machine which realy just was a fancy hyper machine. Table work continued, and they introduced yoga movements like laying on your back and moving your arms and legs above in synchrony like a dying cockroach. Another one was “Superman”, lying on your belly and acting like you are flying, lifting arms and legs up at same time. (Tough)

At about the two month point I believe they let me "play" with little dumbells, various colors (Ugh, I really hate reliving this, that's part of why I don't remember all of the exercises.) Or maybe it was the painkillers. With the dumbells I got to do familiar exercises like curls, tricep work, flyes, bench type presses. They then let me start doing pull downs on a machine. Sets were usually three per exercise, and reps high (15 to 30).

Ab work was a HUGE fighting issue among the different PT's. Some advocated it early on (crunches), others stongly protested against it for three months (it involves flexion). The most conservative ab work would simply be contracting the abs, holding for ten seconds, and repeat for 10 sets.
As I write all this, I know there was more, it may come back to me. These were the Vicodan years-a five year block of time I suffered through. It is very difficult to put yourself in the right mindset to do these things if you are used to your serious workouts being a major source of stress relief or sanity. T-Nation helps.                         Doc

Sounds similar to what I went through during my surgery 15 years ago for a herniated disc. It was about 5 years before I was really solid.

I never thought I would have to go through that again. I am definitely not doing surgery this time. But I was in my early 40’s then… I am approaching 60 now… I did recover very fast … thanks I believe to all the weight-lifting and work-outs and general knowledge of my body over these last 4 years.

But I went grocery shopping tonight. And though I was extremely careful that bags were not packed heavy and my movements from cart to car carefully monitored… I still felt a twinge – not painful mind you – in my shin which is where this particular herniated disc shot its pain down to.

I can understand the debate over abs. It is tricky to figure out how to work the abs in ways that don’t tax the back. I lie on the floor and let my legs do the work. I am also doing bridges at the suggestion of my PT.

But I have developed that little pot belly of fat that is hanging over my incision from my hysterectomy. That place has been cut twice before for other surgeries in earlier days. But I never had a bag of fat hanging over it until these last 2 months. I hang my head in shame… :frowning: