Some good news, some disappointing news, and a general update on my progress

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I had my first out­pa­tient fol­low-up appoint­ment with my neu­ro­sur­geon yes­ter­day. Today marks five weeks since my surgery. I was hop­ing for a lit­tle more relax­ing of restric­tions than the sur­geon ulti­mate­ly allowed, but got more than I expect­ed in oth­er areas, so I’m alto­geth­er OK with that.

I was hop­ing I could get the all-clear to do some light fish­ing, just for the sake of my men­tal health. Not walk-6km-spin­n­ing-for-trout-in-the-moun­­tain-streams lev­el of fish­ing, but just wet­ting a line at the local lake with a mate handy to net it for me if I got lucky and land­ed one. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the answer was a strict no. I’m not ready yet. In fact I was told I’m at the upper lim­it of what I should be doing already and was encour­aged to back it off just a lit­tle. So I’ll obey that, of course: the surgeon’s the boss. But it was still a bum­mer, men­tal­ly. The fish must con­tin­ue to wait for me. Poor lit­tle dar­lings must real­ly be miss­ing me.

Hit the road, Jack!

The one sur­prise I got in return was that I am allowed to dri­ve again. Small lit­tle dri­ves, baby steps. No more than 20 min­utes, just around town, and only when I haven’t tak­en any extra oxy­codone and/or diazepam, of course. But it was still a nice sur­prise — I thought I was still a few weeks’ off — and it means I don’t have to strug­gle with the Bal­larat pub­lic trans­port sys­tem any longer.

The best ben­e­fit, how­ev­er, is I can now very tight­ly and ade­quate­ly con­trol where and when I do my walk­ing. I have been log­ging my walks on Stra­va as Recov­ery Walks; to allow for analy­sis of my progress and to keep on top of dis­tance and dura­tion dur­ing the walk itself so I don’t over­do it. Now that I can dri­ve, I can maybe walk some more inter­est­ing areas and paths with­out get­ting stuck walk­ing too far; for exam­ple, when tak­ing the bus around town one must often walk to/from the near­est bus stop, and this adds a kilo­me­tre or two to my intend­ed distance.

Walking progress

On the sub­ject of progress analy­sis, I’ve been look­ing at how I’ve improved in walk­ing, both in dis­tance and pace. I feel much stronger, I’m walk­ing quick­er and fur­ther, and though the sur­geon warned me to ease it off a lit­tle, I’m feel­ing great in this area of my recovery.

Recovery Walks: Progress so far

Recovery Walks Progress

Date & TimeLocation/RouteDis­tance (km)Dura­tion (min:sec)Pace (mins/km)Pace Change
30 March at 1715Around my neighbourhood0.513:0025:050
31 March at 1712Sturt Street, Ballarat1.2820:2115:48-9:17
1 April at 1033Sturt Street, Ballarat0.510:0219:45+3:57
1 April at 1128Sturt Street, Bal­larat to Big W, Bridge Mall1.1317:5215:48-3:57
2 April at 1432St. George’s Lake1.9737:0818:50+3:02
3 April at 1259Around my neighbourhood0.5310:3819:54+1:04
4 April at 0911Vic­to­ria Park, Ballarat1.4124:5417:38-2:16
4 April at 0949Lake Wen­douree, Ballarat0.349:2427:37+9:59
4 April at 1537Around my neighbourhood0.6916:0023:13-4:24
5 April at 1613Around my neighbourhood1.530:0020:00-3:13
6 April at 1758Lake Wen­douree Wet­lands near Piper’s, Ballarat1.3224:4818:43-1:17
7 April at 1143Bus into town with my daughter0.397:2318:55+0:12
8 April at 1204Bal­larat Botan­i­cal Gardens1.5232:0521:00+2:05
8 April at 1653Around my neighbourhood1.2723:0018:05-2:55
10 April at 1647Around my neighbourhood0.9214:4015:49-2:16
11 April at 1225Walk to Lake Wendouree1.7626:0114:44-1:05
12 April at 1155Into town on the bus: Legs 
  1. To bus

  2. Around town

  3. Walk home from bus

  1. 0.71
  2. 1.84
  3. 1.2

Total: 3.75
  1. 9:10
  2. 31:43
  3. 18:19

Total: 1:00:12
  1. 12:55
  2. 17:10
  3. 15:15

Aver­age: 15:07
+0:24
12 April at 1806White Flat Oval and Yarrowee2.0432:1415:44+0:37
14 April at 1232Bridge Mall, Ballarat1.530:0020:00+4:16
14 April at 1345Walk home from bus1.115:4114:15-5:45
16 April at 1215Into town on the bus: Legs 
  1. To bus

  2. Around town

  3. Walk home from bus

  1. 0.35
  2. 2.25
  3. 2.48

Total: 5.08
  1. 5:46
  2. 32:48
  3. 36:31

Total: 1:15:01
  1. 16:08
  2. 14:32
  3. 14:42

Aver­age: 15:07
+0:52
18 April at 1438Vic­to­ria Park, Ballarat1.6829:0717:17+2:05
Totals32.18 kms9 hrs 19 min 31 secAver­age: 17:23 min/km

Physio and a return to cycling

I’m still under­tak­ing my dai­ly physio exer­cis­es and have been allowed to engage with a phys­io­ther­a­pist and start work­ing towards get­ting back on the bike in a few months’ time, so that’s also got me look­ing for­ward! The sur­geon del­e­gat­ed the deci­sion for my return to cycling to the phys­io­ther­a­pist, so I’m feel­ing con­fi­dent that if I just keep doing my exer­cis­es and tak­ing it easy, fol­low­ing instruc­tions and keep­ing pos­i­tive, I’ll be rolling down the coun­try roads on Ser­e­na in no time.

Restrictions/limits at this stage of my recovery

The restric­tions are very much the same:

    • No bend­ing above the hip at all.
    • No lift­ing of any­thing more than 1kg.
    • No twist­ing at all. This one was described as Rule Numero Uno.
    • No sit­ting for more than 20 min­utes, 30 min­utes as an absolute maximum.
    • Lay­ing flat in bed, no raised hos­pi­tal bed, no sit­ting up in bed. I am allowed to have a pil­low beneath my knees to neu­tralise the cur­va­ture of my spine a little.
    • I can walk 1.5 kilo­me­tres at a time with a walk­ing stick. My sur­geon told me today that’s my absolute lim­it for the next few weeks.
    • When I am out of bed, I must wear a Don­Joy Duos­trap sup­port­ive lum­bar back brace.

Spinal Rehabilitation Exercises

Exercise/ActivityWeek 1Week 2Week 3Week 4Week 5
Walk­ing: Assist­ed~100m laps of ward
4× daily
Using walk­ing frame
~200m laps of ward
4× daily
Using walk­ing stick
250m–500m out­doors × daily
Around gar­den daily
Using walk­ing stick
500m-2km out­doors × daily
Around gar­den daily
Using walk­ing stick
500m-2km out­doors × dai­ly using walk­ing stick
Walk­ing: Unas­sist­ed50m indoors × daily100m indoors × daily250m indoors × daily
Hip knee rolls10 left, 10 right
4× daily
15 left, 15 right
2× daily
20 left, 20 right
2× daily
20 left, 20 right
3× daily
20 left, 20 right
3× daily
Mini squats5 reps
2× daily
10 reps
2× daily
15 reps
2× daily
20 reps
2× daily
20 reps
2× daily
Glute squeezes10 secs × 10 reps
1× daily
10 secs × 10 reps
1× daily
10 secs × 10 reps
2× daily
10 secs × 10 reps
3× daily
10 secs × 10 reps
3× daily
Calf rais­es10 reps
2× daily
20 reps
2× daily
20 reps
4× daily
20 reps
4× daily
20 reps
4× daily
10 reps each leg singly
2× daily
Seat­ed leg exten­sions5 left, 5 right
2× daily
10 left, 10 right
2× daily
15 left, 15 right
2× daily
15 left, 15 right
2× daily
Swing back leg5 left, 5 right
2× daily
10 left, 10 right
2× daily
15 left, 15 right
2× daily
15 left, 15 right
2× daily
Stand and sit10 reps
2× daily
10 reps
2× daily
10 reps
2× daily
10 reps
2× daily
Trans­verse abdomi­nus con­trac­tionsHold 10 secondsHold 20 secondsHold 30 secondsHold 45 seconds
March­ing on the spot20 steps (10 per side)
2× daily
30 steps (15 per side)
2× daily
40 steps (20 per side)
2× daily
40 steps (20 per side)
2× daily

Exercises

Walk­ing has been encour­aged as the ulti­mate recov­ery exer­cise for spinal surgery, by every­body from the neu­ro­sur­geon to the phys­io­ther­a­pist, occu­pa­tion­al ther­a­pist and nurs­es. Walk­ing was assist­ed with a walk­ing stick.

Lay­ing on my back, with my knees bent togeth­er at 45 degrees, then slow­ly and gen­tly drop­ping both knees to each side. By the time I left St. Vincent’s I’d worked up to being able to do 10 drops each side.

Very care­ful­ly and gen­tly squat­ting from a stand­ing to a sit­ting pos­ture with­out bend­ing my back, using my glutes and hamstrings.

Lay­ing in bed and squeez­ing my glutes togeth­er, hold­ing for 10 sec­onds for ten repetitions.

Stand­ing against a bench or oth­er sup­port, lift­ing up on my toes to stretch my calves, 10 each side.

Sit­ting upright, and lift­ing each leg to straight­en it as far as pos­si­ble, push­ing down with quads.

Whilst stand­ing, swing each leg back behind as far as it will go. A sort of reverse hokey pokey.

From a seat­ed posi­tion, stand­ing up, then sit­ting back down again. Rinse and repeat.

Lying on my back with knees bent and feet flat. Tight­en stom­ach mus­cles, pulling navel towards spine, with­out hold­ing breath. Hold for some time, then relax and repeat a few times.

March on the spot, bring­ing knees up and keep­ing feet about 12″ apart. Can hold a chair light­ly for sup­port if needed.

= New exer­cise intro­duced this week

Other posts about my spinal injury and recovery

Category: Cycling, Fishing, Spinal Injury & Recovery
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