Return to exercise following pacemaker + pneumothorax

Hi all :) 

I've had my pacemaker fitted 6 weeks ago and was one of the lucky ones to have a pneumothorax as a complication that required a lung drain (would not recommend). I'm a 25yo who loves running and triathlons so have SORELY been missing my exercise, but have had problems with chest pain (lead dislodgement and recurrent pneumothorax has been ruled out) and fatigue with a graded return to exercise (began the return after the 2 week mark as recommended by my EP and cardiology team). I've had multiple opinions now from a few different health professionals (some telling me to only walk for another 6 weeks, some saying I should be okay to return after short rest), but would love to know if anyone has had the experience of going through rehab for both a recent pacemaker and pneumothorax (or really any complication that has hampered your rehab/recovery) and how you've coped with pain/new sensations! I feel like anytime I get the slightest bit of pain I freak out! It's been a very challenging adjustment for me as prior to my pacemaker I had no symptoms during exercise and all my problems were at rest (bradycardia and intense dizzy spells due to infranodal heart block). 

My goals are to train back up to a 10km, then hopefully a half marathon by July 2023! 

Also sorry, I know this message could belong in the complications thread too, but I'm most interested in hearing peoples experiences with their exercise and rehab :) 


Thank you!

by rdunn24 - 2022-12-12 06:01:51

Yeeees I've got anxiety and am very familiar with panic attacks (been having plenty of them through this experience), thank goodness for therapy! 

Thank you so much for your kind words. Yes it can be very tricky indeed, it's taken me 5 years to get to the bottom of my symptoms in the first place. But yes, I'm finding it hard to remember just how short a time period it's been since everything has happened - it feels like it's been months since I've been in hospital but I think just because everything is so new and confronting. 

I've managed to get a booking with a respiratory physio to start and yes I'm also hoping to find a therapist with some cardiac and aerobic training experience who can help me get back to it! I'm going to have to force myself to get familiar with baby steps before running again 😂

I am feeling very lucky that I've found and signed up to pacemaker club - it's honestly been so reassuring to read that other people have experienced and worked their way through similarly tough times and to see all the incredible support! 

thank you again 😊

"Pace" yourself

by Gemita - 2022-12-12 06:44:54

Hello RDunn24,

I have family near Brisbane (Toowoomba) and in Brisbane itself.  I am so sorry to hear about your complications following your pacemaker implant.  You have been unlucky.

Recovery time following a complication like pneumothorax will be different for each one of us, depending on the degree of the complication, our age and any other health problems we may have.  Until you are fully healed, you cannot expect to reach your goals.  Once the lung is re-inflated and the pleura completely healed, you should be able to slowly and safely return to running and other activities. 

It took my husband and I up to three months to fully recover from our pacemaker implants (which we both received in 2018), from our various complications and to get used to pacing.  My husband who is much much older than you had to have cardiac rehabilitation for several months due to pleural effusion following implant.  This was a safe way to ensure that he learnt how to “pace” himself properly and to listen to his body.  He suffered from worsening chest pain and fatigue while exercising.

Can you breathe easily without any discomfort?  If not, you may still be healing, so would need to work gently towards your goals.  I would work with a cardiac physiotherapist (respiratory physiotherapist sounds ideal) so that you can be carefully watched for any new or difficult symptoms and a programme of exercise found to suit your personal needs as you heal.  I would listen more to your body for advice about when to push and when to hold back, this is the advice we were both given. Chest pain and breathing problems should be reported immediately.

It is frustrating I well know, but if you try to push too hard too quickly, your recovery may be delayed.  I wish you well.  Please remain patient.  You will get back to what you love

Once you're happy/confident that the chest pain isn't a serious internal pain, you'll be able to push

by crustyg - 2022-12-12 13:01:30

I had a serious bout of pocket pain about 7 weeks post implantation and convinced myself that a lead had dislodged (as if - mine are the helix-fixed ones, like most patients these days).  Slowly realised that it was just a bad bout of pocket pain.

I've had pleurisy (lots of shallow breathing) and you may have some pleuritic chest pain post pneumothorax.

It will all become easier once you've convinced yourself that you can distinguish between serious cardiac / recurrent pneumo pain and the twinges that you will inevitably get from the chest drain site, the pocket, chest wound etc.  If you start pushing now without that confidence, as soon as you feel short of breath you'll be thinking 'Another pneumo,' and it will fall apart.  My advice - ramp up the exercise with other people around for a while (group runs, treadmill) and do some upper body work, learn what these new sensations feel like - they disappear after a while) and you'll be back to peak fitness quite quickly.

Best wishes.

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