Diving After Spinal Back Surgery

I recently underwent spinal surgery to remove a prolapsed disc with some fused vertebrae. My symptoms have now all gone away. What is the current thinking on returning to diving after spinal surgery? Am I at more risk for a spinal "hit" type of decompression sickness? Can I dive without any problems, or do I need to take special precautions?
Spinal surgery is a general term covering several surgical procedures used in management of degenerative disc disease. The spinal cord should not be affected in this type of surgery. Currently, this surgery is a concern to diving medicine physicians, but it does not automatically disqualify candidates from diving. There is no evidence that surgery would predispose a diver to spinal cord decompression sickness, but there is concern about the disruption of blood supply to the area where the surgery was performed.

The formation of scar tissue and altered blood flow may not allow for the most effective off gassing of nitrogen from surrounding tissue once it is absorbed during the dive. Actually, it is the physical limitations after surgery which may be a more important consideration. A diver with a history of back surgery is exposed to the possibility of a second back injury in two ways: by lifting and carrying dive equipment or by simply moving about with full equipment on board the dive vessel.

Once a diver returns to full activity after surgery and has no residual symptoms such as numbness, tingling, pain or burning sensations in the legs, the back problem is probably corrected. The diver can return to scuba diving as long as symptoms don't recur with exercise or other activities. Extra precautions after back surgery include: donning equipment after entering the water; limiting dive depths and times; increasing the length of surface intervals; and reducing diving frequency. Limiting exposure to high partial pressures of nitrogen is the best way to avoid decompression illness.

2 Comments


Daniel - October 30th, 2016 at 6:14pm

In June 2011, I suffered a severe compression fracture of my T12 vertebra in a foolish kitesurfing accident. The reconstructive surgery was very groundbreaking and my recovery was faster than it usually is with fusions and traditional compression fracture surgeries. Following the surgery, there was no spinal cord damage, but a lot of reconstruction work was involved on the vertebra, including 4 small incisions on either side of my spine. I essentially had to stay in bed for a month and a half, and had to wear a back brace for a while after that. After about 3 months I took up kayaking and by the end of the year I was diving again. Of course the first and foremost thing you should do is heed the advice of your surgeon and your physiotherapist. In my case, the best advice I received from my physio (after she was happy with my recovery) was to let any discomfort be my indicator about what was acceptable to do, and how soon. I would recommend easing into diving, particularly when it comes to the physical aspects of it, such as lifting heavy equipment and climbing into boats. Especially lifting. Ease into new activities slowly, and if you feel any pain or discomfort, stop what you're doing and give yourself more time to recover. Remember that your muscles have been cut through, and they need time to bind together again before you can put too much strain on them. Listen to the advice of your physiotherapist, and don't push yourself unreasonably. However, there can be great value in gradually becoming active again, once you've recovered enough to do so. This can really speed the remainder of your recovery, and does wonders for your mental condition as well - which, I believe, is crucial to your physical recovery. A year after my accident, I was completing my Divemaster course and I was still very actively kayaking. I wish you all the best of luck.

Categories

 2019
 2018
 2016
Accidents Acid reflux Acute ailments After anaesthesia Air Quality Air exchange centre Air hose failure Airway control Altitude changes Altitude sickness Ama divers Amino acids Anaerobic Metabolism Annual renewal Apnea Apnoea Arterial gas embolism Arthroscopic surgery Aurel hygiene BCD BHP BLS Back adjustment Back pain Back treatment Backextensors Badages Bag valve mask Bandaids Barbell back squat Basic Life Support Batteries Bench press Benign prostate hyperplasia Blood flow Blurred vision Bone fractures Bouyancy compensators Boyle's Law Boyle\'s Law Bradycardia Brain Breast Cancer Breath Hold Diving Breath hold Breath-hold Breathing Gas Breathing Broken bones Bruising Buoyancy Burnshield CGASA CMAS CO2 COVID-19 CPR Cabin pressure Camera settings Cancer Remission Cancer treatments Cancer Cannabis and diving Cannabis Cape Town Dive Festival Cape Town Carbon dioxide Cardio health Cardiomyopathy Chamber Safety Chamber science Charging batteries Charles' Law Charles\' Law Charles\\\' Law Charles\\\\\\\' Law Charles\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\' Law Chemotherapy Chest compressions Chiropractic Citizen Conservation Cleaning products Coastalexcursion Cold Water Cold care Cold Commercial diving Commercial schools Compressed gas Conservation Contaminants Contaminated air Coral Conservation Coral Reefs Corals Courtactions Crohns disease Crowns Crystal build up Crystallizing hoses Cutaneous decompression DAN Courses DAN Profile DAN Researchers DAN medics DAN report DCI DCS Decompressions sickness DCS theories DCS DEMP DM training DReams Dalton's Law Dalton\'s Law Dalton\\\'s Law Dalton\\\\\\\'s Law Dalton\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'s Law Deco dives Decompression Illness Decompression Sickness Decompression illsnes Decompression treatment Decompression Delayed Offgassing Dental Diaphragms Diseases Dive Chamber Dive H Dive Industry Dive Instruction Dive Instructor Dive Pros Dive Research Dive Training Dive Travel Dive accidents Dive buddies Dive computers Dive excursions Dive fitness Dive gear Dive health Dive medicines Dive medicine Dive operators Dive safety Dive safe Dive staff Diveleader training Diveleaders Diver Profile Diver infliencers Diver on surface Divers Alert Diving Kids Diving Trauma Diving career Diving emergencies Diving emergency management Diving guidelines Diving injuries Diving suspended Diving Dizziness Domestic Donation Dowels Dr Rob Schneider Drysuit diving Drysuit valves Drysuits EAPs EAP Ear pressure Ear wax Ears injuries Education Electronic Emergency action planning Emergency decompression Emergency plans Emergency underwater Oxygen Recompression Emergency Enviromental Protection Environmental factors Environmental impact Environmental managment Equipment care Evacuations Evacuation Evaluations Even Breath Exercise Exhaustion Extended divetime Extinguisher Extreme treatments Eye injuries FAQ Failures Fatigue Faulty equipment Fillings Fire Coral Fire Safety Firefighting First Aid Equipment First Aid Training First Aid kits Fish Identification Fish Fitness Training Fitness to dive Fitness Flying Francois Burman Free Student cover Free diving Free flow Freedive Training Freediver Freediving performance Gas Density Gas laws Gas mixes GasPerformance Gases Gastoeusophagus Gastric bypass Gastroenterologist Gear Servicing Gordon Hiles Gutt irritations HELP HIRA Haemorhoid treatment Hazard Description Hazardous Marine life Hazardous marinelife Health practitioner Heart Attack Heart Health Heart Rate monitor Heart rates Heart rate Heart Heat stress Helium High temperatures Hip strength Hippocampus Hot Humans Hydrate Hydration Hydrogen Hydroids Hydrostatic pressure Hyperbaric Chamber Hyperbaric research Hypothermia Hypoxia Immine systems In Water Recompression Indemnity form Indian Ocean Indonesia Inert gas Infections Injections Instinct Instruction Instructors Insurance Integrated Physiology International travel International Interval training Irritation Joint pain KZN South Coast Kidneys Kids scubadiver KwaZulu Natal Labour laws Laryngospasm Learning to dive Legal advice Legislation Leukemis Liability Risks Liability releases Liability Life expectancy Lifestyle Live aboard diving Low blood pressure Low pressure deterioration Low volume masks Lung function Lung injuries Lung surgery Lung MOD Maintenance Malaria Mammalian Dive Response Mammalian effect Marine Scientists Marine parks Marinelife Master scuba diver Maximum operating depth Medical Q Medical emergencies Medical questionaire Medical statement Medication Middle ear pressure Mike Bartick Military front press Mixed Gas Mono Fins Mooring lines More pressure Motion sickness Muscle pain Mycobacterium marinum Nausea Nautilus Neck pain Neurological assessments Nitrogen build up Nitrox No-decompression Non-rebreather Mask Normal Air Nosebleeds O2 providers O2 servicing OOxygen maintenance Ocean pollution Open water divers Orbital implants Oronasal mask Out and about Oxygen Cylinder Oxygen Units Oxygen deficit Oxygen deicit Oxygen dificiency Oxygen ears Oxygen equipment Oxygen masks Oxygen supply Oxygen therapy Oxygen P J Prinsloo PFI PJP Tech Part 3 Phillipines Photography Pills Pistons Planning Plastic Pneumonia Pneumothorax Pollution Pool Diving Preparation Prepared diver Press Release Professional rights Provider course Pulmanologist Pulmonary Bleb Pulse Punture wounds Purge RAID South Africa RCAP Radio communications Range of motion Rashes Rechargeable batteries. Recompression chamber Recompression treatment Recompression Recycle Regulator failure Regulators Regulator Remote areas Renewable Report incidents Rescue Procedure Rescue breathing Rescue breaths Rescue training Rescue Resume diving Risk Assessments Risk assesments Risk assessment Risk elements Risk management SABS 019 Safety Stop Safety Saturation Diving Save our seas Science Scombroid Poisoning Scuba Air Quality Scuba Injury Scuba Instructor Scuba children Scuba dive Scuba health Scubalearners Sea Horses Sealife Shark conservation Shark diving Sharks Shoulder strength Sideplank Signs and Symptoms Sit-ups Skin Bends Skin outbreak Skin rash Snorkeling Snorkels Sodwana Bay South Africa Spinal pain Splits Squeezes Standars Stay Fit Stents Step ups Stroke Submerged Sudafed Sulawesi Supplemental oxygen Surface supplied Air Surfaced Surgeries Surgery Suspension training TRavel safety Tabata protocol Tattoes Technical Diving The Bends The truth Thermal Notions Tides Tips and trick Tooth squeeze Transplants Travel tips Travel Tweezers Unconsciousness Underwater photographer Underwater pho Urinary retention. Vaccines Vagus nerve Valsalva manoeuvers Vape Vaping Vasopressors Vasvagal Syncope Venting Volatile fuels Washout treatments Wastewater Water Resistance Water Weakness Weigang Xu West Papua Wetsuit fitting Wetsuits White balance Winter Woman in diving Work of Breathing Workout Wound dressings Wreck dive Wreckdiving Yoga Youth diver abrasion air-cushioned alert diver altitude anemia antibiotics antiseptics bandages barodontalgia bent-over barbell rows bioassays body art breathing air calories burn carbon dioxide toxicity cardiovascular checklist chemo port child clearances closed circuit scuba currents cuts dead lift decompression algorithms decongestants decongestion dehydration dive injuries dive medicing dive ready child dive reflex dive tribe diver in distress diver rescue diver training dive diving attraction doctors domestic travel dri-suits drowning dry mucous membranes dry suits dry e-cigarettes ear spaces elearning electrolyte imbalance electroytes emergency action plans emergency assessment equalizing exposure injuries eyes fEMAL DIVERS fire rescue fitnes flexible tubing frediving freedivers gas bubble gas poisoning gastric acid health heartburn histidine hospital humidity immersion pulmonary edema (IPE join DAN knee longevity lower stress marine pathogens medical issues medical procedures medical risk assesment medications mental challenge micro-organisims minor illness mucous membranes nasal steroids nasal near drowning nematocysts neurological newdivers nitrogen bubbles off-gassed operating theatre operations orthopeadic outgas pain perforation phillippines physical challenges pinched nerves plasters polyester-TPU polyether-TPU post dive posture preserve prevention psychoactive pulmunary barotrauma rebreather mask rebreathers retinal detachment risk areas safety stops saturation scissors scuba equipment scuba single use sinus infections smoking snorkeling. spearfishing stings strength sub-aquatic swimmers ears tattoo care tecnical diver thermal protection toxicity training trimix unified standards vision impaired warmers water quality