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  1. #1
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    Back Surgery and returning to Cycling?

    Hey there,

    I have been off my road bike for about a month due to reoccurring low back pain. I'm 57 y.o. and have degenerative disc issues(L4-5) from several years ago, and until recently could manage my back pain thru rest, ice, core work etc. Could do doubles, centuries and generally kept fit with riding a bike.

    I've been going to PT and will be getting an MRI soon. With intent to start getting well with facet block injection.

    Anyone with similar situation, who had successful treatment through facet injections and or surgery? Did you stop riding forever, get a new hobby, buy a recumbent? What options presented themselves and how did you fair with those?

    I may trade riding a bike for a life with less back pain, if that's even possible at this point.

  2. #2
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Not me but my neighbour was crippled with back pain and it got so he could not even get into a car. He had surgery and after 2 months- if any heavy lifting or muscle was required- he was the first to do it. I know it was lower back disc they operated on but don't know any more.
    How long was I in the army? Five foot seven.


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  3. #3
    Banned. DnvrFox's Avatar
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    Had severe pain for about a year - could not stand up. Then L-4, L-5 fusion at age 71, back swimming in a week or so, back on bike in 17 days - first a mtn bike, then, a bit later, my road bike. I've been riding since, including today.

    The only thing I could do without pain prior to surgery was swimming and road riding, as the stretched out position actually helped.

    Choice of docs/surgeon is critical.

    I can walk,etc., wothout much pain. I stretch a lot and do atremendous amount of core exercises.
    Last edited by DnvrFox; 05-25-12 at 03:35 PM.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Bikey Mikey's Avatar
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    I herniated a disc in 2000, L4-L5, which resulted in horrible, crippling Sciatica. The Insurance company finally authorized an MRI about 6 months post injury. MRI confirmed the ruptured disc and I had a Lumbar Laminectomy. As soon as I awoke from the anesthesia, I felt 1000X better.

  5. #5
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    in mid april my partner had neuro surgery in her low back, in the area of L 4-5, had to go through a lot of the big muscle to get to the problem. she was sore for a couple weeks. the tried some short easy sessions on the trainer. then at a month a couple of gentle short (<20 km) rides. we are going to try a longer rides this weekend. she is uncomfortable if she flexes in the wrong way.
    ps, walking helped, go for lots of walks.
    Last edited by martianone; 05-25-12 at 07:53 PM. Reason: ps
    ride long & prosper

  6. #6
    A might bewildered... Dudelsack's Avatar
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    Well, I got a bent because of back trouble.

    The good news is I can ride lots without the pain I used to get on a DF.

    The bad news is after the ride things still hurt a lot.

    All in all I wish I had gotten a bent a couple of years ago.

  7. #7
    Team Poseur Metric Man's Avatar
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    I had L4-5 fused in November 2011 due to degenerative discs. That was a Wednesday, walked a mile on Saturday, on my 29'er in 11 days (only for a mile) and fully riding in 18 days. After almost 10 years of sciatic pain, the last year almost constant, it's the best thing I have ever done.
    The thoughts and opinions expressed by this poster are his own and should not be misconstrued as gospel. They are and were not meant to inflame, enrage or otherwise tick anyone off, usually. ©
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  8. #8
    Senior Member downtube42's Avatar
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    For me a partial discectomy in 1995 alleviated the chronic debilitating pain; I'm left with some limitations and occasional mild pain. The difficult part was finding the limitations. I could never get a road bike fit that worked for anything over 15 miles.

    I switched to a recumbent in about 2005 and never looked back. The last three years I've done long-distance riding culminating in Paris-Brest-Paris (1200 km).

    Something you must keep in mind, particularly when you hear about people who ran a marathon a few weeks after back surgery, is that every spinal injury is unique. For some people, walking is therapeutic while for others it's excruciating. The same for cycling, sitting, lying down, etc.
    This has to be a tie between re-frozen slushy uneven dirty ice stuff just right of the nicely plowed pavement, and super-glassy ice with a dusting of fresh powder - SalshShark

  9. #9
    Must... ride... more... Phil_gretz's Avatar
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    L4-L5 fusion here, done in July of 2008. I had excruciating back pain due to a herniated disk and mis-aligned L4. My recovery was in sets of 10. Walking without assistance in 10 days. Completed therapy and had full movement in 10 weeks. Had the titanium hardware removed in ~10 months. I began riding road bikes again and have had no discomfort while on the bike - None.

    Now, I must say that standing for long periods of time causes me some discomfort in my lower back. By contracting/engaging my core muscles, I can stand for longer without noticing it. I also fatigue a bit when doing a lot of lifting/hauling/bending - as in removing a tree stump, or moving furniture - and must adjust my work/rest cycles accordingly. I'm generally pain free now four years post surgery.

    I try to limit my mountain biking and running to reduce compressive impacts to the spine.

    Choose your surgeon/examining doctor carefully. You'll find a range of doctors, some who want to perform surgery, others who would discourage an otherwise good candidate for it. Make certain that you get board certified neurosurgeon/spinal surgeons who have other complimentary disciplines, like orthopedics in their background.

    Good luck.

    Phil G.

  10. #10
    USMC Veteran qcpmsame's Avatar
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    I fell 10' at a job site in 1989, collapsing L4-L5 and L5-S1. Lost the use of my right leg and the workman's compensation insurer strung me along with minimal help for 11 years. Fought them but just wanted to be able to work and make a living so I kept right on working in the field.

    I had the L5-S1 rupture in October 2002, left leg went numb and I had poor control of it. A laminectomy was done that December. Still no use of the right leg still but some back relief. In September of 2003 I started having bad pain and left leg numbness so the neurosurgeon had fascet series started that month. the second one made me feel as if I had been hit in the low back with a 2"X4", the surgeon sent me for an MRI that afternoon, the rupture had recurred, much worse so I had another laminectomy in October of that year. Three days later I was in severe pain, I was sent over to another neurosurgeon for evaluation and tests. The disks at L4-L5 and L5-S1 had both blown out badly and he ordered a P.L.I.F. in January of 2004. I got the right leg back, the pain was gone and I had some expensive titanium in my back. After 4 months of rehab I returned to full time work and racing motocross. No more pain meds for the back, either.

    I have 2 autologlus bone grafts with Ti cages, 2 plates and 4 screws, all Ti and I am pain free to this day on my back. I now limit myself to bicycling due to other problems not related to my back. No bicycling restrictions from any doctors. Riding actually loosens up the back and other core muscles for me.

    Talk to your doctor and maybe a few other physicians for options and recommendations. Best of luck with you back and your riding.

    Bill
    "I Can Do All Things Through Christ Who Strengthens Me" Philippians 4:13

    "We can't control that we have Parkinson's, but we can control how we live with Parkinson's" Davis Phinney

  11. #11
    Senior Member Hairy Hands's Avatar
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    Yes you can ride again, and you should feel much better as well.. In 2009 I had surgery to my L4-5 for Spondleothesis (sp?). Caused by an injury during adolescence that didnt affect me till I turned 49. Needed 2 fusions, and a rod and screws to fix it. I will say to check with multiply drs until you find one you like.. I ended up with a 30 something dr that was skilled in endoscopic (small incensions). Most wanted to filet me open with a 10" cut, with this dr I had a 1" cut in my stomach, and a 1" cut on my lower back. I was out of the hospital on day 3, walking a mile on day 7, 5 miles by day 14, and riding 50 miles by day 21. Best decision I ever made. Pain free since the surgery. I now can ride 300 miles non stop with no pain.
    ~John~

  12. #12
    USMC Veteran qcpmsame's Avatar
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    +1 on finding a really skilled surgeon that does the endoscopic type if you have to have a fusion. Mine was the endo type with only 4 small incisions for the grafts and hardware and one on my pelvis for the autologus bone graft donation site.

    Bill
    "I Can Do All Things Through Christ Who Strengthens Me" Philippians 4:13

    "We can't control that we have Parkinson's, but we can control how we live with Parkinson's" Davis Phinney

  13. #13
    Older I get, faster I was con's Avatar
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    I had crippling back pain; bulged disc, L-5, and a restricted nerve canal at L-5. I would go to work, limp home and sit in my recliner all evening until bed. It was the only way I was pain free. I finally had surgery and I was one of the lucky ones. It was like a flipping a light switch, from the moment I woke up in the recovery room I was pain free. I rode the cycling part of a team triathlon 30 days after my surgery.

    I’m very careful with my back. I try not to lift too much or twist wrong and I have to keep my hamstrings well stretched to remain pain free. Doc said I might need the surgery again in about 7-10 yrs, that was about 15 yrs ago…Still going strong.

    Best of luck to you

  14. #14
    Senior Member Hoss Cartright's Avatar
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    YIKES! I read all of this and I realize I am one of the very lucky ones. I feel for all of you, lived the pain, just dodged some bullets.

    I'm DITTO of the above post. Almost exactly the same successful results and YES, I no longer bench press Toyota transmissions and push cars out of the ditch! Very conscious of not over-doing it! Always wear the back brace when doing any kind of lifting and always ask for assistance for heavier items.

    Starting with me as a 21-year-old, add some anger and adrenaline whilst trying to extricate a snowmobile stuck in a drift in 1978, I wounded myself. I had flare-ups, but long periods with no problems. (Sometimes years) My hernia was on the outside area of the disc of L4~L5. But in the summer of 2009, it was not going to go away. My problem was that I could not stand upright, couldn't lay in the bed, and I walked like a chimpanzee. But also I was about 100 pounds overweight (285 pounds), walking with a cane and terrible left hip and leg pain. So had turned into a couch potato and the pounds were piling on. Was sleeping in the reclining chair. Was on all kinds of meds, steroids, anti-inflammatory drugs, the works. So not much invasive surgery to get at the problem and a quick heal.That outpatient operation got me off the walking cane the same day! In by 09:00, and walked out to my car without the cane at 3:00 in the afternoon!

    Then after a few weeks to heal and getting the surgeon's OK, I Immediately started walking and worked my way up to 5 miles every day and eating right. Lost 90 pounds in about eight months time. Was entering 5k walk-a-thons and winning them all the time.
    But by late summer of 2010 I got a painful case of Plantar fasciitis in my left foot that seriously cramped my style. I got some orthotic shoe inserts and let it heal all winter 2010-11 while tuning-up my vintage 1970s road bikes.

    When it finally stopped raining in mid-June 2011, l got on my Schwinn Paramounts and worked my way up to almost daily 25 mile rides. Joined the local bike club in July 2011 and did 500 miles with them in two months that late summer and fall. Rode at least 1000 miles from June to November of 2011. I haven't done a century ride yet but can knock off 50 miles like nothing.

    I'm really looking forward to a whole summer of riding in 2012 to see how strong I can get.
    Last edited by Hoss Cartright; 06-01-12 at 05:28 PM.
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  15. #15
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    Thanks for the insight into your back pain issues/solutions. I have PT on board, will consult with a Doc about my recent MRI, and most likely end up getting facet injections to start. One thing for certain, every back is different, and being conservative about treating it is probably best.

    Plus, it may be the right time after recovery to refit myself on the bike, if the Doc clears me.

    I'll post any new developments, if they occur

  16. #16
    Senior Member Ruby13's Avatar
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    Depending on the level of damage done in your lower back such as a herniation or in my case total disintegration of my discs facet injections may or not help. They usually are a series of three and I stopped after the second and went for another MRI and opinion which resulted in fusion of L4-S1. That was in 2002 at age 52. In '07 I had C3-C6 fused, '08 herniated the L2-L3 disc and '09 fusion of the L2-L3 vertebra. Finally diagnosed with degenerative disc disease and recommendation is to insert rods from L2-L6 to stabilize. I am on permanent disability and can stand for limited periods and same for walking short distances.
    However, my surgeon suggested getting back on a bike but not my mountain bike which I was very active in and just ride. Well the result has been amazing. I can't walk a mile, I can't swim long without pain but I can ride 40 miles. There is just no lower back pain when riding. I bought a comfort bike (cannondale synapse), was fitted and shortened the stem to get a little more upright. I've lost thirty pounds, down to 180, working out a bit mostly legs and the riding has strengthened my lower back and stomach muscles to the point my surgeon and I agreed to delay surgery for at least another year. My main negative is my golf game has gone from 60 rounds a year to zero!
    Cycling has been a lifesaver for me.

    2011 Cannondale Synapse 3+
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  17. #17
    Senior Member Bikey Mikey's Avatar
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    @Ruby, super job.

  18. #18
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    June of last year I did damage to my 3 lower lumbar discs (bulged but not ruptured) while working on my firewood supply. Also some degenerative changes due to arthritis. The neurosurgeon I consulted with after an MRI suggested no surgery, in my case. He said that I was a perfect case of someone who might be recommended for surgery by someone else, and be worse off for the experience. I wasn't able to ride last year after the injury. I have been under the care of a very competent physical therapist this year, and have had no issues riding (more than 1000 miles on my bike so far this year) even though parts of my right thigh are still numb. Pain is pretty much non-existent. If I can get the feeling in my leg back, great. If not, I'm not too concerned so long as I can ride my bike and sail my boat. My only advise is to choose your surgeon wisely. My thought is to use surgery as a last resort. If I were in a lot of pain, that would be much sooner than later, but once you decide on a surgical route, you can't go back.

    I have not done any cortisone injections yet. May or may not. The current thinking is that the numbness may be due to swelling in soft tissue areas and not caused directly by pressure on the nerves from the disc bulges. Currently doing a 3 week round of higher doses of ibuprofin which seems to actually be helping. I'm very leery of doing anything that could make things worse because I'm doing pretty well at this point.
    Last edited by sesmith; 06-03-12 at 01:03 PM.

  19. #19
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    I have had 3 back surgeries in the past. I had ruptured disc and I had a Lumbar Laminectomy 3 different times.

    I didn't ride bike at the time, started riding a few years later, but I have to say; riding bike is the best thing for my back next to losing weight. I had lost 50 pounds when I started riding & I feel between weight loss & riding my back, it's been the best thing I could do for my bike. Sure my back gets sore, but its a sore that goes away....
    2007 Specialized Roubaix

  20. #20
    Senior Member Frankfast's Avatar
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    Had a partial disc removal due to severe sciatica 10 years ago and last year had another surgery to free up a severe stenosis. i couldn't walk any distance. I still have arthritis and my back stiffens from inactivity or after manual labor but I find stretched out on a road bike doesn't bother me at all. I'll keep riding.

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