Rowing Machine after Spinal Surgery

General discussions about getting and staying fit that don't relate directly to your indoor rower
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Rowing Machine after Spinal Surgery

Post by ms2187 » November 19th, 2019, 5:11 pm

Hello everyone,

This is my first post on this forum, so please excuse me if I am posting this in the wrong sub-forum. I have a question about post-surgery rowing.

I am wondering if anyone has had any experience rowing after spinal surgery. Last month I underwent surgery on the C5/C6 section of my spine. For those who are probably unfamiliar – the C5/C6 section is in the upper area of your spine (in your neck region). In my case, the surgery involved removing a bulged/herniated disc and replacing the disc with a new fake disc that is being held in place by a small plate. The surgery sounds intense, but it really is not that bad. In many hospitals this is a same-day surgery and you will return to work a few days later.

I am now 1.5 months removed from surgery and I am itching to get back into the swing of things. For the past few weeks I have just been on the treadmill five days a week walking/jogging, just trying to keep myself in the habit of going to the gym. Before surgery, I was a fairly novice gym-goer with only about four solid months of weight training/rowing under my belt. Fast forward to a couple weeks ago, I just had my four week follow-up at which time my surgeon cleared me to resume VERY light weight-training. He said no lifting weights over five pounds, so I am going to put weight training on hold for at least a few more months (if I ever even go back into it at all). I asked him if I could ease back into rowing, and he advised me that I would probably be better off using the StairMaster for the time being, as my fitness goals are to primarily get more toned. With that said, I love the rowing machine and I wanted to know if it is okay to slowly get back into this. I do not care about gaining or losing weight, I care only about looking and FEELING better.

With that said, can anyone offer some input on my situation/rowing in general. I know that rowing is a great workout, but can I achieve my fitness goals of getting toned/feeling better while just using a rowing machine (and obviously adjusting my diet accordingly)? What type of rowing workouts should I focus on? Is it okay to row every day, or should I focus on rowing three days a week while continuing some light jogging on alternating days for the time being? Are there any type of stretches that help specifically with rowing?

For reference: I am a 30 year old male, 5ft 9in, 160lbs, and I am very much a “skinny guy with a small gut.” Before surgery I was using the rowing machine 3-4 days a week. My rowing workouts usually looked something like this: 5min warm-up, followed by 15 intervals of 90 seconds work, 30sec rest, on a setting of 5 (based off 1-10. The machine in my gym is not a Concept machine, but I am guessing the settings are similar).

For the record: I have never experienced any pain while rowing, and working out is NOT what caused my bulged disc. I spent many days and hours working on my rowing form long before I began taking it seriously, and I am confident that my form is on par with what it should be.


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Re: Rowing Machine after Spinal Surgery

Post by lindsayh » November 21st, 2019, 2:58 am

sounds like you are doing well so far
IMO in the longer term the erg will be a great rehab tool as it is a safe non weight bearing exercise
I really wouldn't take the advice of forum members in a situation like this - your medical condition is complex and professional advice best.
I would engage with a sports physio and/or exercise physiologist and follow their advice.
There is likely to be very little or no relationship at all between the settings on the erg in your gym and a Concept 2 rower and also very little relationship between one C2 machine and another in the gym - search here for drag factor and damper setting information. There is no way to compare the numbers between one brand of rowing machine and another.
Your interval training session is not the most effective way of gaining fitness - again there is a lot of information in the training thread about what works best. That is not to say you cant just keep doing it once back on the erg.
This thread is a good overview of the things you need to think about even if not a complete newcomer:
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Re: Rowing Machine after Spinal Surgery

Post by Dangerscouse » November 21st, 2019, 4:44 am

I agree with Lindsay as I wouldn't feel comfortable in advising what is suitable or not, but hopefully as a bit of comfort is the fact that my wife had L4/L5 disc replacement surgery almost four years ago and she competed in a 5km obstacle course race seven months post surgery.

Admittedly my wife has notably benefited from having done lots of Pilates over the years prior to surgery which given it was a lumbar issue Pilates was far more relevant, but her back hasn't given her any issues since so hopefully the prognosis is equally as good for you
46 HWT; 6' 4"; 1k= 3:09; 2k= 6:36; 5k= 17:27; 6k= 21:09; 10k= 36:21 30mins= 8,428m 60mins= 16,317m HM= 1:18:40; FM= 2:45:49; 50k= 3:21:14; 100k= 7:52:44; 12hrs = 153km

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Re: Rowing Machine after Spinal Surgery

Post by left coaster » December 2nd, 2019, 12:24 pm

Likewise, this isn't a place to seek medical or rehab advise.

I am intrigued by your story though and hope you will continue to post updates! I protruded my c5/6 disc about 10 years ago and had a very difficult recovery. It was touch and go for a while as to if I would need a disc replacement. Back then they were only doing fusions so I really suffered through a lot of nerve pain with the hope of not needing to go that route. The disc is pooched though, I believe it will eventually need to be replaced. The new ADR technology looks really promising!!

I took up rowing years, not months, after my disc injury. Given how brutal and debilitating my symptoms were, I would be doing only lower body exercises in your situation and would follow the doctors recommendations to the letter. It sounds like you can do some upper body mobility work, which is great. It's easy to get the 'feel good' effect of exercise on a stair master :)

If you're up for it, perhaps continue posting as you work through recovery.
100m: 15.5, 1Min: 353, 500m: 1:29, 5K: 19:41.2, 10K: 40:46

"The difficult is what takes a little time; the impossible is what takes a little longer"

6'1", 235, 49yrs, male
Started rowing September 2015

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