I had my L4 and L5 vertebrae fused. I want to get back to hiking, but I also want to try to ensure that I do not get 10 miles in and have a problem that forces a ranger to have to come get me. I have lost weight and continue to do core exercises to make sure that is strong. So I guess my question is: Is there special equipment I should bring, or things I should modify when hiking? I know that Denali is out, but would like to hit some 14,000-foot peaks in Colorado.
Submitted by - Rob, Webster Groves, MO
First, why is Denali out? I have climbed Denali with a friend who had a lumbar fusion. Next, be sure your doc knows of your intentions and not only approves but offers ideas. If, however, your doc does not approve, find another doc. Losing weight and maintaining core strength are, of course, great uses of your time. Last November I had lumbar surgery, a triple decompression, worked on core strength as soon as possible afterward, and then shouldered a pack for many miles this past summer.
I am also using trekking poles to improve balance, reduce the chance of injury, and prevent at least a little weight from pressing on my lower back. My pack has an excellent hip belt and overall suspension system, which I keep snug, and this is my primary method for lightening the load on my lumbar spine—along with going as light as possible. I am very, very careful about lifting and moving any weight, and I stay focused on not using my low back to either lift or move. I honestly can’t think of any reason why that back of yours wouldn’t have thousands of miles left in it. —Buck