surgery & climbing


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lars johansen

Trad climber
West Marin, CA
Feb 18, 2014 - 05:34pm PT

Good on the swimming part. It has definitely helped me rehab numerous ortho injuries/surgeries. Best of luck to you.


Trad climber
Poughkeepsie, NY
Feb 18, 2014 - 07:20pm PT
I am most worried about losing the bit of fitness I've gained in the last year, and *turns red* gaining weight.
also worried I won't climb as hard as I do now (not hard at all) and fear the uphill battle of working as hard as I have to regain what I had before the procedure.

Well, those are perfectly sensible worries. The weight gain is up to you, but I'd say the others are pretty much guaranteed.

I had ACL/meniscus dissection surgery almost exactly two years ago. I have to mention that I was 68 then and 70 now, so that obviously affects recovery. With that understood, I can report that I am just now starting to feel close to where I was before the surgery. (I should perhaps also mention a bout of Lyme disease set me back considerably.)

Reasonable goal-setting, as advocated above, is what seemed to work for me. I actually found myself almost exhilarated to begin working on rehab, because I knew I would be able to make a lot of progress (unlike climbing, where after 56 years my efforts are all devoted to slowing the decline). Just keep at it and don't push past reasonable limits and end up being a candidate for more surgery.

I mention two years here (with the age factor revealed) not to sound a discouraging note, but to emphasize that everyone recovers at a pace determined by their body, and it is not going to be productive to look at what others have done and hope for something analogous. So-and-so came back in three months, someone else came back in six months, poor old rgold took two years (or more), it's going to be your journey, not anyone else's, and you should make sure it is your path you are trying to stay on.

The challenge of confronting and resolving difficulties is part of what drew us all to climbing. You are about to be challenged, and rather than thinking about it as something you have to get past to get back to the real challenges, I'd suggest thinking about rehab as THE challenge now. Its your proj, embrace it the way you would a climbing objective, and get some of the pleasure from progess you get from climbing. No, you can't really make rehab fun, but you can make it a whole lot better and more interesting than it might be if it is some endless annoyance you just want to have over.

It sure doesn't hurt to be lucky too, so best of luck as well.

Trad climber
Monrovia, California
Feb 18, 2014 - 07:40pm PT
RGold nails it as usual.

Most decent PT places will have an arm bike. I really like arm bikes, a great combination of upper body and cardio. I'd have one at home except for the price. I have to settle for a rowing machine.

Trad climber
crack addict
Feb 18, 2014 - 09:14pm PT
Big Mike- what kind of back break did you have? I had a t-12 burst fracture last summer and i am almost 100% now with no pain and no surgery. All the doctors i saw said i was a f#%king miracle. I couldn't disagree....
'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Ontario, Canada, eh?
Feb 18, 2014 - 09:14pm PT
"Actually, I am lengthening my R leg"

What do you call a girl with one leg shorter than the other?





Good luck, Anita. I missed one season with a busted ankle, but crutched back to the base of the wall wearing my removable cast a few months later.
Big Mike

Trad climber
Feb 18, 2014 - 10:07pm PT
Mastadon- I compressed my lower spine by landing on my butt going 90k while snowboarding.

Burst l2 and completly disintegrated the spiny processes and dislocated l1 for good measure. I also managed to pinch my spinal cord. They had to fuse t-12 to l-4 to put me back together and i lost all feeling on my left side below my waist. I couldn't even use my left leg at first, and spent about three and a half weeks in a wheelchair.

Without intensive pt and a three month rehab at GF Strong, I highly doubt i would be walking right now. Considering all this, the fact that i'm climbing and snowboarding again is pretty fricken amazing!! ;)

Anita- The best thing to come out of my physio was the body awareness it gave me. I never knew i was using so many of my muscles the wrong way!!

If you can swim, you're golden. No reason to gain weight, go swim your butt off. It's awesome cardio and excellent for endurance as well as bring a low impact way to strengthen muscles. Use the hot tub while you're there too. I'm betting those legs will be real tight after the surgery.

Trad climber
Northern California
Feb 19, 2014 - 01:05am PT
Oh, I've been there, and it really, really sucks. Ksolem's idea of a cardio arm bike is golden. Swimming is golden. Do not discount the strength it takes to negotiate crutches and haul all your groceries up stairs in a back pack while crutching it. It's the cardio that will help with the weight anxiety. The strength comes back, slower than you want, but it does come back.

Serious injury helped me rediscover my love of fiction. I saw more of my friends more often than the mountains usually allow. I fell in love with my work all over again. I learned so much about myself and how to be more gentle with myself. There are silver linings all over the place, and since you HAVE to go through the storm, just be watching for them.

Feb 19, 2014 - 01:19am PT
Bummer Anita.

One day at a time and before you know it you will be back in action.

I spent 4 months in cast once and a year in rehab and well time heals as they say.

Good luck.

Social climber
Feb 19, 2014 - 04:27am PT
hey there say, anita... best wishes and prayers...

say, yes, do the swimming, :)
wayne w

Trad climber
the nw
Feb 19, 2014 - 07:09am PT
Hi Anita, I won't bore you with details of my physical travails. I have spent more time in PT and recovery from injuries than most, but with the exception of torn muscles in my back bilaterally, (I was forced to take three months off from everything for that one), I have always found a way to stay pretty fit. Concentrating on eating a healthy diet will help with your healing, and keep off the pounds that come with empty calories. Some combination of swimming, walking with hiking poles mainly using the better of your two legs once you are ready for it, light weights, pull ups, core exercises (the Ab carver pro has provided me with great results) should keep you fit if you keep at it for 5 days a week religiously. I always set a goal for myself to come out of setbacks fitter than I went into them. You will be back cranking in no time, with legs that are even, which your back will always thank you for, and an ankle that will be much more reliable!

Sport climber
mammoth lakes ca
Feb 19, 2014 - 07:58am PT
Anita...Enjoy your down time and take it easy....Climbing will always be there...

Feb 19, 2014 - 01:11pm PT
I did two shoulder surgeries, each with a 6-month recovery, one year apart. The second was hard because the injury was pretty bad and I came into it weak. My advice:

1. Go into surgery as strong as you can.
2. Get as much activity as you can handle and do it in the company of others as much as possible. I found myself driving to the gym to do 10 minutes of PT and 20 minutes on the stairs and the sense of community helped. As I built some strength, I climbed what I could on toprope in the gym. If you miss hiking, get outside on flat easy trails with friends, even if it's on crutches.
3. Climbing will come back faster and stronger than you expect. Your body will re-learn much more effectively the second (or third) time around. It was over a year after my second surgery before I was really taking risks while climbing, but I was onsighting in the gym and trad climbing at nearly the level I left off at within a few months of that 6-month recovery point. I'm 2.5 years out from the second surgery now and am officially stronger than I was before I got hurt.
4. Ask for help! My first time I was hesitant, but having lived through the recovery once I asked for everything I needed the second time. You'll be strong again soon.
5. I don't know anything about your surgeries and I know some are more effective than others, but I know I'm stronger now than I ever could have been without the surgery, even though I was actually able to climb before both. Both were 100% worth it.
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
U.N. Ambassador, Crackistan
Feb 19, 2014 - 01:18pm PT
Take lots of selfies going into, coming out of and recovering from surgery. Post them here. Tell us a story. It will help you too and we get to see more of Anita! :D

Win win

Surgery is easy. You just lay there.

Desire, now that's the CURE.

You have to want it.

Do you still desire climbing?


ps. Well do ya???
John Duffield

Mountain climber
New York
Feb 19, 2014 - 01:21pm PT
Anita has been going ice climbing, nearly every w/e since like November.
The Glowering Sailor

Mt. Humphreys
Feb 19, 2014 - 01:23pm PT
Anita has been going ice climbing, nearly every w/e since like November.

She even did a little bit of improvisational field surgery a couple/three weekends ago.

It's training for the main event.

Trad climber
Fresno CA
Feb 19, 2014 - 02:17pm PT
Let me pile on to something rgold said. The recovery rate depends on your body, and none of us can generalize what you will do. That said, I suffered my accident when I was 60, and my physical therapists said my recovery was faster than anyone else's they'd seen at any age. Unfortunately (or so it seemed at the time), that didn't prevent my orthopod from keeping me earthbound for the recommended nine months. Still, the quite rapid healing enabled me to get in better overall shape while I was waiting to get off the ground.

Since you've been keeping fit, your recovery may also be quicker than "normal." Hang in there, do what you must, and let us know how it turns out. You have a lot of us on ST rooting for you.


Trad climber
colo south
Feb 19, 2014 - 03:18pm PT
Try 2 years !! really sucks a lot. I had hip #2 done and was recovering pretty well when heart issues arose big time...

Big 3 Swimming, sticks (hiking) and slabs for now. just one word about rehab..I for one, can ONLY self great

Feb 19, 2014 - 03:30pm PT
Nothing quite like having your guts cut wide open for eliminating core strength.

I'll second that! I still have no core strength, but I'm still on the up-side of the dirt, so don't have many complaints.

Sportbikeville & Yucca brevifolia
Feb 19, 2014 - 06:08pm PT
When I was 25, I ripped my right knee to shreds and had to take off 7 months from any serious physical activity.
Just after surgery I was laying in the recovery room feeling sorry for myself and thinking about how much I'd be missing.
I asked the guy in the next bed what he was in for.
He smiled and told me it was his third hip replacement in as many years. He had rheumatoid arthritis and was given a %50 chance of seeing his 20th year. He was 17 years old.

Meeting him was a life changing experience for me and when I think of him I am grateful for all that life has given me.

Modesto Mutant

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, CA
Feb 19, 2014 - 09:19pm PT
Good luck with your procedures Anita. I had surgery on my achilles to repair a rupture mid June of 2013. By September I was back on my bike and was posting faster times (I'm a Strava junkie) within a month. I'm sure I was overly amped and that helped. While no procedures are the same and I'm not fully familiar with the procedure you've described, I think as a general rule you should be back in full form shortly after the projected time line expressed by your Ortho and PT. Hang in there, it gets better. Focus in on getting past the surgery part and getting on with the healing part. Good luck and report back!
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