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Old 09-16-05, 09:41 AM   #1
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Facing The Facts About Backs

I've been riding a Lemond road bike for the past couple of seasons. It appears to fit me well, and it is very comfortable to ride. However, each of the past years, after lots of happy miles, my back has gone s-p-r-o-i-n-g in September.

I was diagnosed with a bulging disc in my lower back. I was told it was due to sitting at a desk and then spending my free time on a bike.

I've faithfully done my stretching and core exercises and worked my way back into shape. In fact, I felt better than ever for most of the past summer.

Now, after this latest sudden back attack, I'm beginning to wonder if I might not be better served with a less aggressive bike, something like a Trek Pilot or Specialized Roubaix. I dearly love the Lemond and in my dreams even see myself on an Italian road machine someday.

Anybody ever face this delemma? If so. Did you try either of the above mentioned bikes--or anything else that you liked? Thanks for any insights.
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Old 09-16-05, 01:40 PM   #2
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I don't know a thing about bulgiing discs, but I have been told by two doctors that moderate cycling is a good way to stretch the spine.
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Old 09-16-05, 01:41 PM   #3
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I don't know a thing about bulgiing discs, but I have been told by two doctors that moderate cycling is a good way to stretch the spine.
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Old 09-16-05, 10:25 PM   #4
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I too have a bulging disc and that's originally why I bought my comfort bike. With the upright position, it actually felt GOOD. So good that I found myself starting to be a little rough on it - too rough for what the bike was designed for. So....I borrowed some money and bought a Gary Fisher Cake. Really nice bike that will let me be a little more aggressive without the body shock. Every once in a while, the lower position of the Cake does bother me (maybe I played a little hard) so I go back to the Trek for a day and I'm good again. But I could never do a road bike. No way.
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Old 09-17-05, 11:33 AM   #5
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I had one herniated and two bulging disks 9 years ago. I was sent to a surgeon but the problem was solved with 3-4 weeks of stretching. Now I do the stretching once per week. No problems since. The bike should not be a problem. My problem was bad posture from sitting so much (improperly) plus sudden twisting motions I get from tennis, golf, and throwing my kids in the pool. The doctor said walking and riding were good. I still play tennis and golf but I stopped throwing my kids and forced better posture with lumbar support. See "Treat Your Own Back" by McKenzie. It includes the key stretching exercises and some explanations.
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Old 09-17-05, 11:51 AM   #6
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I had disk problems nine years ago. I was scheduled for surgery to have things fused together. One week before surgery, I discovered a book by Pete Egoscue, that led to an appointment at his clinic (at that time, he had one clinic and it was in San Diego), and his regimen led me to a full recovery. No surgery.

My back has occasionally teased me with similar symptoms to what was happening back then, but if I just start the exercises again (primarily stretching and yoga-like postures) it gets back to normal. In fact, this just happened a couple of weeks ago. Did the exercises (they're easy, actually) and kept riding.

People with back issues may want to check out his website: The Egoscue Method
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Old 09-17-05, 05:36 PM   #7
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Old 09-17-05, 05:58 PM   #8
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Does it come with the accessory?
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Old 09-17-05, 06:18 PM   #9
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Short top tube. There's a few out there.
http://www.excelsports.com/new.asp?p...ajor=1&minor=1
Waterford is semicustom, so they can take care of you.
The Habanero isn't quite short on the the top tube,
but the ride is so sweet that with a short stem you wouldn't care.
The top tube of the Pilot is just one centimeter shorter, for example.
http://www.habcycles.com/road.html
For a cheapo altrnative the Surly Pacer has classic geometry and a
top tube between the Hab and Pilot..
Brits like Thorn and Mercian will give you anything you want.
Mercian offers so much choice it's confusing.
Oh yeah, try a Specialized Sequoia just for giggles.

Once your back is under control you can do exercises to make it stronger.
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Old 09-17-05, 09:11 PM   #10
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I agree that sitting and biking are not the best combination, and occasionally my mid back starts to act up. I've done the chiropracter thing and it is only a temp fix. Walking seems to help, but the best is yoga. I tried it for the first time a few years ago. It's the best thing I have ever found for back problems. The poses allow your spine to slowly and gently be pulled longer, and the pressure comes off the disks, to the extent that some people actually gain back that half inch or so they have lost by middle age. Some of these instructors can spot a bad back from 20' away - had one walk up while I was in a pose and press right on the spot where I was having issues - just a subtle alignment but it did the trick. Just go easy at first, go to a good studio, and let them know what is going on.
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Old 09-17-05, 09:37 PM   #11
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Degenerative discs for me, L4-L5 is the worst. I just can't stay bent over for any length of time, so when I decided to start riding, I didn't even try an upright bike.

I ride over 100 miles a week on my recumbent. While it hasn't made my back any better, it hasn't made it worse, either.
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Old 09-18-05, 10:43 PM   #12
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a recap of my situation is 3 partially herniated disks at ages 23 & 24. Some serious attacks over the years, but still no surgery, over 30 yrs later.
In a nutshell, if I don't pay attention to my stretching and torso strengthening exercises I can eventually expect an 'attack'. I don't believe I can ever attribute an attack to cycling. More often than not, my back feels better after any length of ride, than before.
There are times when I can feel my torso muscles seem in a 'weak' state; I make sure I'm taking it 'easy' on those days, especially any climbing I might be doing. I still will do climbs bit make sure i select gearing that allows me to stay in the saddle and have a 70+ cadence (this means a nice, light gear). Staying seated and in a smaller gear assures I'm not overworking my back muscles.
A more upright position is actually harder on my back, so even when on a MTB, I will bend my elbows severly to get some forward position that 'opens' the back. But then that is my condition, which is likely a bit different than yours. Nothing wrong with having multiple bike options.
If this back attack seems to happen consistently every Sept, you might consider reviewing everything you do for the months before that. There may be some other commonality that causes this, other than cycling.
Best of luck in finding good solutions that allow you to get everyhting you want out of riding.
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Old 09-19-05, 08:32 AM   #13
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" when on a MTB, I will bend my elbows severly"

Hi,
you might want to put a longer stem on that.
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Old 09-19-05, 10:41 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by late
" when on a MTB, I will bend my elbows severly"

Hi,
you might want to put a longer stem on that.
130 already, and going longer isn't about to make any real difference. Prolly the bike, but then it seems all the MTBs I've straddled (that are newer - late90s or newer) seem to be considerably shorter in the top tube than a road bike. And have a higher bar position.
But again, its prolly my bike.
Can't really afford to swap to another bike at the moment, and I'm mostly an offroad weenie with no intent to daring do. Still, I luv ridin a nice trail or fire road for all the woodsie reasons. The forward bend is mostly when I'm ridin a flatish road section.
I will try a longer stem, though
can't hurt
thanks
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Old 09-19-05, 11:58 PM   #15
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Well, let's see...
I'm 50, almost 51.
I've been riding a bike, off and on since pre-teen years.
Still riding the Schwinn LeTour (Fuji) I bought over thirty years ago.
I have (2) herniated discs; L5-S1 and L4-5, had them for years.

Note; "bulged disc" is just your doctors way of telling you that your back is screwed up without coming out and saying you have a herniated disc. Trust me on this one.

For those that suffer with back pain;
Find a really good back doctor - mine is an orthopedic doc that also treats the spine
Find a really good physical therapist - It's been my experience that like so many other things in life there are many that are okay, some that are just so-so and a few that are terrific. You really want a great or terrific one.

Exercise!
Flexibility is paramount - see your therapist for specifics (I would probably screw it up)
Once you learn your stretches DO THEM! (I should really take my own advice you know)
Strong Trunk - Strong Adominals
Sitting for long periods is the work of the DEVIL, the DEVIL I say!
(Probably the root of most of my back pain)
Learn Proper Lifting Mechanics (have your therapist or trainer teach you) - Then LIFT PROPERLY! (or die)

My Story;
About three years ago, on tax day, two things happened
1. My employer went toes up
2. My back went out. No, make that way out
No surgery, but a selective nerve root block (hooked up to a flouroscope (spelling) the doctor puts the needle right on the nerve where it exits the spine (about as much fun as it sounds like, but much better than surgery)
That and three tons of PT keep me rolling.
I cannot sit at work (I'm an electronic technician)
Driving for long periods and my spine makes me pay for days

I just started a new job, which is about 20 miles by bike. Rode half way last Wednesday - let's just say that Wednesday night was not much fun. Should have been much smarter about medication than I was (I know better too)

I guess I'm done,
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Old 09-27-05, 05:11 PM   #16
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Work with your ageing body instead of against it. Test ride a long wheel base (LWB) recumbent.
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Old 09-27-05, 05:19 PM   #17
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Should you not opt for the recumbent, consider modifying your existing LeMond. By raising the handlebar height, you'll get less forward tilt while riding. You might also consider modifying the seat tip to bar distance. I find on my red racer that when my elbow is at the seat tip, my fingers are at the bar. Lots of folks poo-poo this concept of fit, but it works well for me and provides a VERY comfortable ride. No sense replacing a bike that you both like and that fits you.
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Old 09-29-05, 10:32 AM   #18
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If you are over 50, it's time to consider a bike that fits you instead of fitting you to the bike. Long wheel base recumbents (Tour easy, Sun ez-sport, rans stratus & others) are the way to go. Your back is straight, some have lumbar support, your neck is straight and relaxed, the shoulders and upper back are relaxed and there is no perineal pain or prostate aggravation. Your hands rest on the bars and do not bear weight. What more could you ask for. Try one and seer what pain free riding is like. bk
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Old 09-30-05, 05:45 AM   #19
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I can't see that age plays much role in limiting cycle activity. Cubicle desk work certainly does. I see quite a few younger folks who can't do very much because of back problems after spending their lives stuck on chairs. And similarly, I see quite good riders (e.g., our local Kent Bostick, former Olympian etc) who ride quite well on conventional cycles.

Two elements come to mind, nicely put forth by Hogg. See the form & fitness Q&A at cyclingnews.com. Also http://www.cyclefitcentre.com/further%20reading.htm. First, the concept of "structural fitness" - which desk work really hurts. Especially in generating tight hip flexors. Next in fit.

My wife (a mere youngster at 40) and I have our bikes set up differently than the measurement based fit systems would suggest. Not by a great deal, but by enough to make all the difference. Both of us have found a very well balanced position with the feet a bit farther over the pedals, saddle a bit back, and a bit longer reach. My position is actually quite aggressive, at least as aggressive as when I was 20.

I find myself more limber and longer after riding than before. I have plenty of snap and power, reasonable endurance, and a comfortable ride on a pretty stiff and very high performance conventional machine through careful fit and good structural fitness.

I don't work in an office and did have discomfort when I did work in an office. I've also had a good deal of deep tissue body work and chiropractic to recover from a couple of accidents. Diagnosed with herniated disks etc, pretty bad whiplash. Now there's no sign of any disk problems and I feel great. But I can see how without continuing to develop flexibility and improving my position that I would have ended up very uncomfortable on a conventional bike with conventional position. A couple of cm make a great deal of difference.
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Old 09-30-05, 09:48 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by late
Oh yeah, try a Specialized Sequoia just for giggles.
Don't giggle; give the Sequoia a serious look. I'm one of four people in my cycling club who ride Sequoias, two of whom have or have had bad backs, and we all love them. They're super-comfortable, light, and quite nimble and fast. Easy to get the drop bars at or above seat level, and the shock absorber in the seat post keeps bumps from jarring the spine.

IMHO Specialized mis-markets this bike as a "comfort bike"--in fact, it's a terrific all-rounder.
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Old 09-30-05, 02:14 PM   #21
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Don't giggle; give the Sequoia a serious look. I'm one of four people in my cycling club who ride Sequoias, two of whom have or have had bad backs, and we all love them. They're super-comfortable, light, and quite nimble and fast. Easy to get the drop bars at or above seat level, and the shock absorber in the seat post keeps bumps from jarring the spine.

IMHO Specialized mis-markets this bike as a "comfort bike"--in fact, it's a terrific all-rounder.
I can vouch for the Sequoia. It's a great bike. So is the Roubaix if you can afford it, but even the low-end Sequioa is a nice bike. Very comfortable and your right, a good all-around bike.

Steve
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Old 09-30-05, 05:15 PM   #22
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I was in for an MRI last week and saw the Dr. early this week. Bulging of the disc at L5 and S1. I'm 56 and it's just come on in the last several years. Running has been out of the question for three years now as it brought on sciatica that lasted 18 mos and was very bad. Interestingly, riding my road bike brings on no problems at all but a walk around the block really bothers me.

Rather than pain injections (which I had a few years back) I'm now seeing a PT who specializes in back pain. Long term they told me to plan on surgery, but they think that exercises will give me at least 5-6 years. I sure hope that riding never becomes a problem.

Good luck guys....back pain and sciatica can really change your life.

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Old 09-30-05, 09:55 PM   #23
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I herniated L4-L5 and severely bulged L5-S1. I opted for the Kennilog injections on a regular basis and the PT. I am now riding a Trek 1500. I am 6' 00' and ride a 56cm bike, mainly for the short top tube. A 58 is more the right size, but with the seat post up and the handlebars up and a +15 degree 100mm stem the bike fits pretty well. I have the drop bars and they are the same height as the seat. I sit up fairly straight compared to a 'normal' road bike, but it is comfortable, I feel better and I like it. It don't get much better than that. As smoore said, a herniated disc can change your life, I know it changed mine. Good luck and keep spinning.
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Old 09-30-05, 11:25 PM   #24
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Quote:
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I was in for an MRI last week and saw the Dr. early this week. Bulging of the disc at L5 and S1. I'm 56 and it's just come on in the last several years. Running has been out of the question for three years now as it brought on sciatica that lasted 18 mos and was very bad. Interestingly, riding my road bike brings on no problems at all but a walk around the block really bothers me.
OMG! 18 months of sciatica! I've had it for precisely 3 weeks, and I'm complaining

Same deal with biking for me. It's the only time I've been pain-free for those weeks. Can't walk at all, and trip to the grocery store was a milestone. But biking? Bring it on!

Take care!

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Old 10-08-05, 10:11 PM   #25
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OMG! 18 months of sciatica! I've had it for precisely 3 weeks, and I'm complaining

Same deal with biking for me. It's the only time I've been pain-free for those weeks. Can't walk at all, and trip to the grocery store was a milestone. But biking? Bring it on!

Take care!

Steve
I have had severe pain and numbness for the last three years. The steroid injections help. But, I ride two road bikes and get great relief from riding them. I have drop bars on both, but have them set high. I am 6' 00", used to be 6' 2", but after herniating L4-L5 and bulging L5-S1 and having degenerative disc disease in C5-C6, I have lost 2 inches. The moral of this story is riding gives me relief. Not a cure by any means, but I get relief from it. You spoke of a trip to the grocery store as a milestone. I know where you are coming from, when I first injured my back, taking a shower was a major accomplishment. My wife had to put my socks on for me. Not complaining, but rather recomending riding as wonderful therapy. Everyone with back pain may not get the relief I have, but everyone should give it a try. You may be very pleasantly surprised. Keep spinning.

Best regards,

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