Spinal Fusion Patient Competes in Triathlon

Earlier this month, Rafael Rodriguez swam, biked, and ran over 30 miles of winding terrain for the triathlon in Auburn, California—an accomplishment in and of itself, but made even more remarkable because he did it after spinal fusion surgery.



Rafael Rodriguez’s participation in the Auburn Triathalon celebrated the 5th anniversary of his successful spinal fusion.


Diagnosed with spondylolisthesis

For a half decade, fitness enthusiast Rafael Rodriguez pushed through intermittent pain in his hip, lower back, and upper buttocks. He hung on to his active lifestyle with the aid of ibuprofen, but eventually the pain debilitated his athletic abilities, and he searched for a lasting solution.

Rodriguez visited a spine surgeon who diagnosed him with spondylolisthesis, a herniated disc, and a fractured vertebra. Spondylolisthesis occurs when a vertebra slips forward over the one directly below due to a fracture or other spinal instability. To treat these conditions, Rodriguez’s doctor recommended that he undergo a discectomy and interbody fusion with a titanium implant.


Spinal fusion surgery enabled return to active lifestyle

Rodriguez’s surgery was a success, permitting him relief from the pain that once radiated throughout his back, buttocks, and hips.

Within 3 days after surgery, Rodriguez was walking around the hospital. This is common for a patient following a successful fusion, who is typically hospitalized for 1 to 5 days. Light activity, such as getting out of bed and walking around shortly after surgery, is encouraged to limit the chances of complications.


After a few weeks, Rodriguez was off his regular pain medication and running several minutes at a time. Exercises, such as core strengthening and light conditioning, are commonly introduced to patients between 6 and 12 weeks after fusion surgery to help them regain their mobility and independence.


Normal activities are often resumed by patients between 3 to 6 months after surgery, when the spinal fusion is set. By this point in his recovery, Rodriguez was running 5k races again. The fusion surgery helped him return to his everyday, active lifestyle, and he continued to improve his strength and endurance.


Life after spinal fusion surgery

Recently, Rodriguez participated in the Auburn Triathlon to celebrate the 5th anniversary of his successful spinal fusion.

Rodriguez wore the Spine-health logo on his triathlon jersey, thanking Spine-health for educating him and millions of people on conditions, treatment options, and expectations for recovery.

We are glad to hear that Spine-health — in combination with his surgery, titanium implant, and medical team — helped Rodriguez get back to doing what he enjoys most in life.

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