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  1. #1
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    slipped discs and cycling

    I have never had any back problems until a ride a few weeks ago.

    Since then I've had back pain.

    Today my doctor insisted I get an MRI and guess what?

    A protruding disc.

    I'm panacking because the pain is at it's worst when leaning forward in a cycling position.

    Is there a cycling life after slipping a disc?

    Thanx for any feedback.

  2. #2
    Senior Member BlazingPedals's Avatar
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    First, get thee to physical therapy! Your condition might be fixable. If it's not, you have various options including bikes that keep your upper body more upright, and recumbents.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BlazingPedals
    First, get thee to physical therapy! Your condition might be fixable. If it's not, you have various options including bikes that keep your upper body more upright, and recumbents.
    The above is about the best advice you will recieve.

    I started riding again about 4 years ago becuase of a disk issue. The disk issue first showed up when running. My nuero said a big no to contiued running. On came the weight & out came the bike. Physical therapy (PT), exercise, losts of fluid, streaching, etc. & all is well. My nuero counselled to try to make it as long as I can before going under the knife. Explained the terchniques, proceedures & hardware are rapidly advancing.

    Get your Dr. to order PT & go to it. At 1st I thought that PT would be a waste, but it was worth every minute of it.

    Good luck with it.

    Bob

  4. #4
    just keep riding BluesDawg's Avatar
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    +1 on the physical therapy!

    2 years ago an MRI confirmed that the pain shooting down my leg from my lower back was a protruding disc. My physical therapist was able to develop an excersize routine that succeeded in pushing things back in place. He also helped me understand what motions, postures and forces caused the problem to improve and what caused it to get worse. I was very concerned about the riding position on my road bike being a problem. I found though, that by paying attention to posture, making sure to arch my lower back and not let it roll forward, I can ride all I want. In fact, the more I ride the better my back feels. My handlebars remain at the 3/4" below seat height position they were before.
    The problem is not gone, but it is manageable. And it has not given me any reason to ride less. Definitely let a good PT have a go at it. And good luck!
    The more you ride your bike, the less your ass will hurt.

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    Senior Curmudgeon FarHorizon's Avatar
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    As Justin Wilson might have said: You need a pysikal terapiss. I like my Chinese accupuncture lady - she seems to help as much as conventional sports medicine.

    Good luck with getting dialed back in. If you can't bend forward any more, follow BlazingPedals' suggestion and try recumbent bikes.

  6. #6
    Senior Member no motor?'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mongoose
    I have never had any back problems until a ride a few weeks ago.

    Since then I've had back pain.

    Today my doctor insisted I get an MRI and guess what?

    A protruding disc.

    I'm panacking because the pain is at it's worst when leaning forward in a cycling position.

    Is there a cycling life after slipping a disc?

    Thanx for any feedback.
    I'd suggest seeing a Chiropractor instead of the physical therapist. Chiropractors deal with disc problems daily, can tell you if the disc is the cause of your problem, and help you with whatever is causing your problem. 25% of the population has disc findings on MRI without the signs/symptoms to go with the findings. You may be in that 25%, but won't know it until you go see someone with the training to help you.

  7. #7
    just keep riding BluesDawg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by no motor?
    25% of the population has disc findings on MRI without the signs/symptoms to go with the findings.
    I'm sure you have a link to show us the study that produced this remarkable bit of information. Care to share it with us?
    The more you ride your bike, the less your ass will hurt.

  8. #8
    OM boy cyclezen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mongoose
    I have never had any back problems until a ride a few weeks ago.
    Since then I've had back pain.
    Today my doctor insisted I get an MRI and guess what?
    A protruding disc.
    I'm panacking because the pain is at it's worst when leaning forward in a cycling position.
    Is there a cycling life after slipping a disc?
    Thanx for any feedback.
    I'll just echo what the others have written. Consider it just another wakeup call to really pay attention to yourself. There is life after herniated disks. I've had 3 since age of 27 and now almost 30 years later, still have not had to resort to any surgery. Good PT will go a long way to helping you cope.
    its a call to really pay attention to your core/torso musculature. When I don;t do that for any period of time, I can expect an 'attack' that might knock me off my feet for some days or weeks. But it has been years since the last attack. Special attention to the adominals and associated muscles makes a huge difference.
    I've had to make very few accomodations when it comes to activities. I ride as much and as hard as I'm able to, using a fairly aggressive position. The few things I avoid are those that are pounding on the Spine and skeleton over extended periods. I don't do 'runs' of any long period, although I run a lot as a soccer ref. I don't ski moguls hard anymore. I don't do weights that have a significant loading component in line with the spine. I work on flexibility. I now do controlled weights (as in Nautilus) for the core and general musculature.
    You'll do fine. Cycling is really quite good for this condition. High aerobic and lower body strength components and very low loads on the spine.
    There's a good chance that the pain you're feeling now, while leaning forward, is mostly due to the inflamed nature of the injured area. As that settles down the comfort should come back to normal.
    You're now a member of a very big club. Not one any of us really wanted to be in. But it seems cyclists are in that demographic of highly successful fighters of the condition.
    Keep us updated. Its always good to hear from others what works for them and what doesn't.

  9. #9
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    mongoose,
    I have had back problems going on 18 years. These problems include spinal stenosis, arthritis and multiple degenerative discs which have resulted in debilitating sciatic pain down my right leg. There was a period of an entire year that I had to walk with a cane for support. I've had MRI's, gone to a chiropractor (who would have chosen to have me continue three times a week forever,) physical therapy, and several spinal epidurals. All produced limited success. Since I began riding in an upright (flat bar) position, I have had essentially no pain. I walk and work without pain as well. Any “minor” pain has subsided after a brief rest period. I attribute my success to the muscle strengthening that goes with riding a bike in an upright position. Having been there, (and still there,) I wish you much relief and success.

  10. #10
    Senior Member no motor?'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BluesDawg
    I'm sure you have a link to show us the study that produced this remarkable bit of information. Care to share it with us?
    I'll check my reference books that are at my office after I get there. Cyclezens comments are pretty typical - or do you doubt him too?

  11. #11
    Senior Member no motor?'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BluesDawg
    I'm sure you have a link to show us the study that produced this remarkable bit of information. Care to share it with us?
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/q...=pubmed_docsum is a search of pubmed for asymptomatic disc herniations. #1 shows a range of 50 - 73% for the neck and #12 shows 20 - 36% for the lower back. Satisfied?

  12. #12
    Senior Member no motor?'s Avatar
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    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/q...sc+herniations

    is the correct link, sorry for the confusion.

  13. #13
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    My wife had some severe degeneration in her cervical spine. The normal DF biking position left her with arm numbness and pain. She thought her biking days were over. We got her a recumbent for Christmas a few years ago. She now has no problem with 40-50 mile rides. After riding her bike without the pain I normally associated with bikes I went recumbent as well. We are now more into biking than ever. The low impact exercize has actually lessened my chronic back pain.

    I second the comment about disc abnormalities not being predictors of pain. As an Xray and CT tech, I see stuff in people's backs that are really abnormal, but have no physical symptoms. I have also read studies that show no direct correlation between bulging discs and pain. It's not that they can't cause pain, it's that sometimes they cause pain and sometimes they don't.

  14. #14
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    Mongoose, I've had disc fusion performed on 2 discs in my neck, so I can identify with your situation. All the advice about seeing an appropriate physician, like an Orthopedist, is the way to go. While my situation was severe enough to warrant surgery, that only occurs in the worst case scenerio. If you're only having pain when you cycle, you may be able to correct or live with your situation with phyical therapy or medication. (I currently use both).
    By the way, after my surgery, my physician encouraged me to ride a bicycle and is partially responsible for my return to cycling. I currently ride mountain bike trails and I ride a hybrid on paved surfaces. I sincerely hope you feel better and the doctors are able to provide you with correction that does not impact your cycling.
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  15. #15
    OM boy cyclezen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyclezen
    ... I've had 3 since age of 27 and now almost 30 years later,
    BTW - my comments are related to LOWER spine, not cervical area. I used to be 6' bare foot, at age 25. I'm now 5' 10 3/4". For me it's not just the 3 herniated ones, but also general compaction between all the lower vertebra, hence the efforts to work on flexibility. When I say 'Attacks', I mean Sciatica. at some point the muscles just say "I need a break!" and they go into spasm and constrict the Sciatic Nerve, which puts me absolutely flat for whatever time it takes to get the muscles to relax again.
    Not surprisingly, I'm not as diligent as I should be. I've not investigated 'everything' that can possibly help; but what I do use seems to be working well.
    I've noted that yoga enthusiasts who have spine problems say good things. The recent thread speaking of Power Yoga really piqued my interest and I hope to investigate a little further in a month or so. Not sure how that is different from 'regular' Yoga (assuming there are a number of variants to 'Yoga'?), but the whole area deserves some investigation. Any of youz, in the back club, doing yoga? Comments?
    Also wanted to ask if anyone has used/uses inversion systems? I know it really is used for short periods and it just might be cool 'alchemy'; but anything that I can do to stave off/retart further compact would be great as aging continues. Any comments on 'Inversion Systems'?
    I note one man in my gym, seemingly quite some years my senior - maybe late 70's/early80s?, who is obviously aflicted with serious spine issues. Yet he's there whenever I go. He works the machines, he rides stationary bikes - both recumbent and upright. He isn't the 'builder' type nor hangs around chatting. Just seems like a normal guy and goes around doing his workout. HE is a stud! as far as I'm concerned...
    Been wanting to strike up a conversation and learn a little of his story; but have been too embarrassed to do it. I'm not quite sure what the right approach might be.
    I'm sure a lot of people just see an old guy, one in not very 'body builder' form. But to me he's an inspiration. I hope I can be like him when I grow up...
    Last edited by cyclezen; 01-03-06 at 11:39 AM.

  16. #16
    I need more cowbell. Digital Gee's Avatar
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    I'll chime in. I had sciatica really bad several years ago, and a disc problem as well. Was told I needed surgery, and there was no other hope. Went to a bookstore and found a book, turns out the author had a clinic in San Diego, went to see him, and within 8-10 weeks my problem was gone. I never got that surgery.

    Not cured, because it flares up now and then, but certainly manageable. In fact, it's come back (slightly) in the last couple of months, but doing the excercises this guy taught me seems to take care of it. Riding a bike doesn't accerbate it; it makes it feel better.

    So, check this guy out. He's got clinics in many places now. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend him.
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  17. #17
    OM boy cyclezen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Digital Gee
    I'll chime in. I had sciatica really bad several years ago, and a disc problem as well. Was told I needed surgery, and there was no other hope. Went to a bookstore and found a book, turns out the author had a clinic in San Diego, went to see him, and within 8-10 weeks my problem was gone.
    So, check this guy out. He's got clinics in many places now. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend him.
    Kool DG! Which of the 4 titles shown is the one that started you?

    Note a P-3 workshop in West LA in a week. If I can't make that one I'll plan for a later one.
    Thanks a bunch - You Rock!

  18. #18
    I need more cowbell. Digital Gee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyclezen
    Kool DG! Which of the 4 titles shown is the one that started you?

    Note a P-3 workshop in West LA in a week. If I can't make that one I'll plan for a later one.
    Thanks a bunch - You Rock!
    I think Pain Free (but it might have been The Egoscue Method) is the one I bought. He may have changed the title by now, as well. I went to him about a dozen years ago? I see he's really gotten huge (not personally, of course).

    When I went to his clinic, there was always a top athlete or two there, being treated for one thing or another. A San Diego Charger, perhaps, or a teen age girl on the world tennis circuit. It was fascinating. One time I was there and an absolutely HUGE thing of flowers and chocolates, etc. was delivered. Pete said it was from a woman in New Zealand that he had treated over the phone on an emergency basis. This was her thank you gift.

    He wasn't doing seminars back then, so I'd be curious to see how they are.
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  19. #19
    just keep riding BluesDawg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by no motor?
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/q...=pubmed_docsum is a search of pubmed for asymptomatic disc herniations. #1 shows a range of 50 - 73% for the neck and #12 shows 20 - 36% for the lower back. Satisfied?
    no motor,
    Thanks for the research. Sorry to snip like that. Could be related to the fact I was watching my team give up 28 points before remembering they were playing in the Sugar Bowl. Talk about an aching back! I should learn not to mix football and forums.

    I guess I misunderstood what you meant since the OP did have symptoms before getting the MRI. By your response I guess you are in a related profession. No intention to doubt your expertise (I plead ignorance.)
    The more you ride your bike, the less your ass will hurt.

  20. #20
    Senior Member no motor?'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BluesDawg
    no motor,
    Thanks for the research. Sorry to snip like that. Could be related to the fact I was watching my team give up 28 points before remembering they were playing in the Sugar Bowl. Talk about an aching back! I should learn not to mix football and forums.

    I guess I misunderstood what you meant since the OP did have symptoms before getting the MRI. By your response I guess you are in a related profession. No intention to doubt your expertise (I plead ignorance.)
    Early morning hours aren't my best, and I could have been more tactful too. I forgot to mention that while I missed the early days of MRI, we're seeing something similar with the Heart Check America scans that are common now. Patients leave with test results that look pretty serious because there isn't enough data out there yet as to what is "normal", and become worried when they don't have the symptoms that match their test reults. Treat the patient, not the test results.
    And yes, I'm in a related profession. I'm a Chiropractor and Acupuncturist (that would help immensly too) who's ridden motorcycles for many years and should pass the 100,000 mile mark this summer. I've treated plenty of folks with bad discs/spinal arthritis/wrist problems, some of whom are bikers with more years and miles under there belts than mine.

  21. #21
    Wheezing Geezer Bud Bent's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mongoose
    I have never had any back problems until a ride a few weeks ago.

    Since then I've had back pain.

    Today my doctor insisted I get an MRI and guess what?

    A protruding disc.

    I'm panacking because the pain is at it's worst when leaning forward in a cycling position.

    Is there a cycling life after slipping a disc?

    Thanx for any feedback.
    It's degenerative discs for me, L4-L5 is the worst. Like you, leaning forward gives me more pain than anything else.

    As others have said, there are many treatment options, and you'll have decisions to make for which way you'll go. If, after all is said and done, you still have back pain from leaning forward, you can still cycle. There are 4 recumbent bicycles in my garage, and I rode 5,013 miles last year.

    Perhaps your treatment will enable you to return to your original bicycle, but keeping in mind that even if you can't, you'll have other options, may serve to keep you encouraged. Good luck with your treatment!
    Bud
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    They told me it's ok to post mileage over in the commuting forum, so you'll probably find me there these days.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by mongoose
    I have never had any back problems until a ride a few weeks ago.
    Since then I've had back pain.
    Today my doctor insisted I get an MRI and guess what?
    A protruding disc.
    I'm panacking because the pain is at it's worst when leaning forward in a cycling position.
    Is there a cycling life after slipping a disc?
    My problem was a little different to yours - Spondylolisthesis - where the vertabrae shifts and applies some serious pressure to some delicate nerves. I saw the doctor on a Monday afternoon and was operated on Tuesday morning. Apparently there was a very real risk of paralysis etc. I'd had a laminectomy 12 months earlier.

    The good news is that after the surgery (an L4/5 fusion) I was back on the bike after about 4 weeks. The surgeon encouraged cycling and swimming. I'm riding up to 50 klms with little or no pain. My surgery was in Oct 2005 and I feel great.

    I had in my mind that a fusion would be the end of my active life but it's actually been the opposite - I'm far better off now than anytime in the past 5 years. I see no reason why you shouldn't be able to continue riding after appropriate treatment.

    My final tip, don't ignore serious numbness of the legs or pelvic region (I don't mean occasional riding numbness, I mean serious numbness in normal day to day activity)

    regards

    kim

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    Quote Originally Posted by kim kohen
    My problem was a little different to yours - Spondylolisthesis - where the vertabrae shifts and applies some serious pressure to some delicate nerves.
    Kim; "Spondy"... Exactly the same thing with me, just different disk (lower). Fortunately, PT, exercise (same recommendations as your Dr) has keep the knife away. Glad to hear the your operation when so well.

  24. #24
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    I want to thank each and everyone of you for responding. Your advice has been invaluable, not only to me but I'm sure to alot of others on this site.

    My Neurosurgeon said lie down flat on your back for ten days and keep your spine as flat as possible and there is every chance the disc will stop swelling and shrink back into place.

    Today is day five and already the pain has gone. I'm using a medical brace and it's helped enormously.

    Five more days to go. He is extremely reluctant to operate and wants it all to settle down and retract naturally.

    I've worked out how itall happened. First of all although I am fit for cycling I have little strength aroung my stomach and torso area which strengthens and supports the spine. (something cycling doesn't strengthen)I wrenched it by lifting the bikes off the pickup while standing on the ground and twisting my body at an unusual angle while carrying a load. A warning.

    Thanx for all the advice. After all this brushes over I'm into yoga or anything to strengthen those muscles.

    Afterall....Life without cycling isn't worth living.
    Last edited by mongoose; 01-09-06 at 03:38 PM.

  25. #25
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    I've had chronic lower back problems for 25 years (high school trampoline accident, I think). Coincidentally it has flared up in a really bad way just these last 8 days. I'm in constant pain EXCEPT when I ride. I can't walk, sit, stand, lie down without pain, but I went to work today anyway including a bike ride to the train station. Very strange. The arm-supported-semi-crouch position on my bike is absolutely pain free. I guess everybody's problem is different. Mine is lower (L4 L5 S1 with varying herniation in each disc)

    Scientific American had an interesting article on back pain about 12 yrs ago. Their study roughly concluded (if memory serves) that 20% of the population has significant back issues, AND 20% of the population has some noticeable disc herniation. BUT there was no clear correlation between the groups. NOt everybody with herniated discs had back pain, and not everybody with back pain had herniated discs. They also quoted (memory correct??) that 75% of back surgeries have significant sucess in pain relief. And of the those that didn't help some significant portion got worse after surgery.

    I'm a huge fan of PT but my success is dwindling as I get older and I'm noticing less strength in one leg. MRI tomorrow. We'll see. The fact that cycling doesn't bother my back at all is a HUGE shining light in my life right now.
    David Green, Naperville, IL USA "The older I get, the better I used to be" --Lee Trevino

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