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Old 01-29-14, 08:17 AM   #1
Jackmen
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Any Body had Back surgery and Riding again?

I recently had a herniated disk (L5) in my back which required surgery (Micro discectomy). They went in through a small incision in my back and pulled some disc material out that was causing trouble with my sciatic nerve down my left leg.

Have been active and am 54 and did about 3000 miles on my road bike last year. Checking to see what others experience has been after having this surgery. Please let me know your experience with 1) how quick you got back riding, 2) how is your back after the surgery, 3) Do you feel like it was a good thing to do long term.

Please feel free to share your experience and help the rest of us that have recently went through with this procedure.
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Old 01-29-14, 10:13 AM   #2
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I recently had a herniated disk (L5) in my back which required surgery (Micro discectomy). They went in through a small incision in my back and pulled some disc material out that was causing trouble with my sciatic nerve down my left leg.

Have been active and am 54 and did about 3000 miles on my road bike last year. Checking to see what others experience has been after having this surgery. Please let me know your experience with 1) how quick you got back riding, 2) how is your back after the surgery, 3) Do you feel like it was a good thing to do long term.

Please feel free to share your experience and help the rest of us that have recently went through with this procedure.
Good morning Jackmen,
I had been back to cycling when my stenosis first showed up as bad lower right leg pain which disallowed exercise walking (actually any walk over 8 or 9 minutes started the pain!) and certainly running. I had purchased an entry level road bike and loved the whole aspect of cycling, other than the crappy bike!
My first epidural shot worked for about 6 months. Then the pain started again, and after 2 or 3 more months I had a second shot - worked for about 3 months. Next shot about 1 month. The fourth shot did absolutely nothing and that's when I knew that I needed surgery. By the way, this was over a period of 2 years, beginning in April of 2007, with first shot in September of that year. After the 4th, no effect, shot, even cycling caused leg pain, and by that time walking for even 5 minutes was awful.
I finally had a laminectomy and fusion at L4/5 in March of 2010, when I was a month from turning 64. For 2 years or so, I did lots of walking -pain free - and working out with light weights. I was feeling great, and then the cycling bug hit me again.

So, I'm back in to cycling for almost 2 years now, and feeling better than ever. In fact, for the 2 years post-surgery I would sometimes feel lower leg (both legs) pain at night, but turning on to my back caused almost instant relief, as did shifting on to my stomach. I also noticed left and right side lower back discomfort, and that's when I realized (and the doctor explained) it was the SI joints (sacroiliac). This made sense as with a fusion, the levels above and below the fused level are under somewhat more stress.

Interestingly enough, from my first "back-to-cycling" ride almost 2 years ago, I ceased to experience any SI related leg pains - incredible! At this juncture I normally ride 4 times per week, 12-15 miles per ride.

So, while I sincerely apologize for this long winded post, I did want to share my positive experience.

Best regards
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Old 01-29-14, 11:25 AM   #3
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C1-C2 fusion as a result of a bicycle accident. A 5 hr. surgery on July 27th and a 3 hr. surgery on July 29th. Rode 3 rail-trail rides for approx. 90 mi. the first week of Nov. Then rode a 34 mi. road ride in mid-Nov.
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Old 01-29-14, 02:09 PM   #4
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L4-L5 fusion in 2008 here. Best thing ever. I had lifelong wear and injuries from athletics, as well as dessicated discs in the lumbar. Bottom line for me is renewed flexibility and strength. My rules of thumb were: 10 days- well enough to resume work; 10 weeks - well enough to resume full activities; 10 months - fully recovered (in time to remove the hardware, surgically). That only required about 6 weeks for full recovery.

I joke that the only titanium frame I've ever owned was inside my back for a time...
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Old 01-29-14, 02:23 PM   #5
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Compression fracture of L1 in '94 with subsequent stenosis and disc degeneration at all lumbar levels.

Resulting in an L1/L2 discectomy in '04. Because of poor physio before and after surgery, that one took nearly a year to recover from.

Most recently, July '13, I suffered a lifting injury that resulted in an MRI confirmed L4/L5 herniation/prolapse. I really wanted to avoid surgery. Engaged in aggressive physio, gave up cycling almost entirely for 3 months and took up swimming once that was possible. Returned to limited cycling in Nov. Had a refit of the bike and raised my bars a little in Dec. So far, so good. I'm back to riding hard with no increase in back discomfort. I still have core strengthening and flexibility work to do. But, don't we all?
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Old 01-29-14, 03:38 PM   #6
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I had basically the same operation several years ago. Cycling has been about the only exercise I can stay with. All other exercises causes problems. Not sure how long to stay off. I did not discover cycling until a few years after the surgery. I was floundering with my lack of exercise due to back pain and was becoming depressed about my future. Once I discovered road biking everything changed. I am now in good physical condition, well good condition for being 64 years old. Last summer I routinely rode metric centuries in 3 hours or less. For me, that is great shape.

To sum it up, cycling after back surgery has been a life saver.
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Old 01-29-14, 05:08 PM   #7
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Cycling cures most ills of the mind and of the body!
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Old 01-29-14, 05:37 PM   #8
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C1-C2 fusion as a result of a bicycle accident. A 5 hr. surgery on July 27th and a 3 hr. surgery on July 29th. Rode 3 rail-trail rides for approx. 90 mi. the first week of Nov. Then rode a 34 mi. road ride in mid-Nov.
Of course, keep in mind that Bruce ain't right

I intend to use him as a role model when I get injured.
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Old 01-29-14, 06:08 PM   #9
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I intend to use him as a role model when I get injured.
Let me apologize right now. No one should ever do that.
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Old 01-29-14, 06:49 PM   #10
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Yes, you should be able to ride now and do a lot of it! I had a microdiskectomy at L5-s1 in 2005. I was off work 4 days. I didn't do any lifting for a few weeks but I started riding in a week. I was also able to run on trails about 12 mi. per week. In July of 2012 I had a fusion from s1 to L4. I did suffer some nerve damage which causes some medication controlled pain in my legs and numb feet. I had stenosis and spondylolesthesis (discs sliding across each other). The fusion did cure the problem of sciatic nerves going numb on standing and sliding discs. The Doc will not allow me to run anymore but I can cycle all I want. The great thing about cycling is the brain produces Endorphins which eliminate my pain. I currently ride 150 -200 miles per week with around 10,000 feet of climbing. The nerve damage I have is quite rare according to my research. I probably should not have put off the fusion as long as I did but considering all the bad back surgery stories out there I waited as long as I could still function. I am now 71 and have no interest in curtailing my riding.
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Old 01-29-14, 09:22 PM   #11
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L4-L5 discectomy (laminectomy) in January 1981. Since I had that surgery I have:

Ridden 60,000 miles on hardtail mountain bikes, full suspension mountain bikes, no suspension mountain bikes, five different road bikes with traditional drops. I've crashed hard dozens of times on bicycles, hit head-on by two cars, run over from behind by a semi, and crashed a street bike into a big road side boulder when I was knocked out by a thrown beer bottle that broke a cheek bone.

I've also run about 10,000 miles and boardsailed in Hawaiian surf, Columbia River gorge gales, and a Green Bay tornado.

I also competed in dozens of high level racquetball tournaments.

I've also crashed hard on several motorcycles including a head-on crash where the left front tire of the offending car ended up parked on my head.

Bottom Line - I've had no problems with my back since the disc removal in January 1981.
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Old 01-29-14, 09:38 PM   #12
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Bottom Line- Do whatever your body allows and don't worry about it.
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Old 01-29-14, 09:41 PM   #13
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To the OP,

I had much the same as you, microdiskectomy due to a ruptured disk putting pressure on the sciatic nerve and causing pain in my left leg. Surgery was in mid-December, 2013. I got back on the bike after 3-4 weeks, slowly and indoors at first, and then slow, short rides outdoors. Now, almost 7 weeks out I am doing longer rides of 45 minutes plus. The nerve had been pinched for almost 11 mos before surgery (not diagnosed correctly for many months) so it is still a little sore but improving. It gets sore if I ride two days in a row. Otherwise, it's going well, and I am very glad I had it done.
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Old 01-29-14, 10:07 PM   #14
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See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TBaNaP8ydug

Don's back to riding 120-150 miles/week and racing.
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Old 01-30-14, 08:04 PM   #15
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I recently had a herniated disk (L5) in my back which required surgery (Micro discectomy). They went in through a small incision in my back and pulled some disc material out that was causing trouble with my sciatic nerve down my left leg.

Have been active and am 54 and did about 3000 miles on my road bike last year. Checking to see what others experience has been after having this surgery. Please let me know your experience with 1) how quick you got back riding, 2) how is your back after the surgery, 3) Do you feel like it was a good thing to do long term.

Please feel free to share your experience and help the rest of us that have recently went through with this procedure.
By now you realize there have been lots of folks here who have had back surgery. Some relatively minor and some major. You probably have also discovered that all were different to some degree. So, what is the take away from this and the many other similar threads?
-First, and most important, take ownership of your specific situation. While all similar surgeries have a lot in common no one else is exactly like you. No one else has exactly the same nerve impingement or muscle impact.
-Talk it over with your doc. No one knows the exact condition of the affected portion of your spine like your doc.
-Push your rehab as hard and heavy as you can considering what condition you are in.
-When others tell you their stories nod politely, acknowledge their hard work, or lack thereof, and go on with your own thing. In a very real way you are an experiment of one.
-Most of all realize that no one, no one has as much invested in your recovery and long term health than you. The surgeon's goals are not your goals. Most docs do not have your best interests at heart. They have their success at the front of their mind. They will help you along the way. But, ultimately, it is up to you what kind of life you have.

Me? I had major trauma and, according to my surgeon and others, a big time procedure. Today I am walking, riding a bike. swimming and making good progress to full function. I have met exactly one other person in my same situation. If I waited to take control until I met that person, or had I copied other people's mechanisms I would still be on a walker, or even in a wheel chair.

As I said earlier. After talking with your doc do whatever your body will allow.

Last edited by HawkOwl; 01-30-14 at 08:07 PM.
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Old 01-30-14, 09:06 PM   #16
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Crushed my L1 vertebra after a fall pushing the limits of my ladder balancing skills. They took some bone from my hip and fused T10-L3 with rods and hooks (IIRC). A month later (no lie, and don't tell my doctor) I was at the home improvement store loading bags of cement wearing my hard back brace.

I get a little sore on my road bike, but I rode 3 or 4 centuries last year. I do pretty much what I've wanted since the surgery, must have had a really good doctor/good luck.
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Old 01-31-14, 07:21 AM   #17
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I recently had a herniated disk (L5) in my back which required surgery (Micro discectomy)Have been active and am 54 and did about 3000 miles on my road bike last year. Checking to see what others experience has been after having this surgery. Please let me know your experience with 1) how quick you got back riding, 2) how is your back after the surgery, 3) Do you feel like it was a good thing to do long term.

Please feel free to share your experience and help the rest of us that have recently went through with this procedure.
Im older than you, and in June of 2012 I was on my way to a 5000-mile year of commuting and road cycling, and was hit by car while riding. I sustained a fractured sacrum and right upper leg soft tissue injury with debridement of some skeletal muscle. The fracture was stabilized with pins and wires, still in place.

I was in acute care, and rehabilitation hospital for about six weeks, off work for about three months, and had weekly physical therapy for about two months after discharge. I was pretty compliant with my home exercises. I first got onto a heavy-duty, step-through bicycle at about four months, resumed my 14-mild one-way commute about five months, and as the weather got better, was doing rides of up to 60 miles by the summer of last year.

It feels to me that my posture has been significantly altered by re-configuration my sacrum. Along with the physical muscle loss, I seem to have much less power walking and going upstairs. Currently, walking distances of greater than about a quarter mile, without a cane, and prolonged sitting (which I do at my job) are tolerable, but increasingly uncomfortable as the day progresses. Thankfully, sitting on the bike is pretty comfortable, with only a dull, easily ignored ache. I think that's because I lean forward and support a significant amount of weight with my arms.

Back in my 20s I had a case of sciatica that eventually resolved on its own, but was severe enough to drastically alter (for the better) my career plans. Cycling however, was still pain-free. So cycling has been well-tolerated, and indeed a boon to my health since it provides excellent cardiovascular exercise when weight-bearing is limited. I think the concomitant leg and core strengthening also aid my back.
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Old 02-02-14, 10:07 AM   #18
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I have herniated discs at c3 though 7, and am not to the point of wanting surgery. I seem to do better when I don't ride, at least physically, if not emotionally.
Any experiences with position changes, raising the bars on a road bike? I apologize if I am hijacking a thread, I had no idea so many riders had similar issues.
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Old 02-02-14, 04:26 PM   #19
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I had basically the same operation several years ago. Cycling has been about the only exercise I can stay with. All other exercises causes problems. Not sure how long to stay off. I did not discover cycling until a few years after the surgery. I was floundering with my lack of exercise due to back pain and was becoming depressed about my future. Once I discovered road biking everything changed. I am now in good physical condition, well good condition for being 64 years old. Last summer I routinely rode metric centuries in 3 hours or less. For me, that is great shape.

To sum it up, cycling after back surgery has been a life saver.
This is the same for me. After years of chronic back pain I experienced a herniation and back surgery 1999. I am 63, will be 64 in August. I started riding last March, joined a small group in May and ride nearly every day. I was quite weak to begin with but in time I grew stronger. The past few years my back had started to bother me more, waking up with discomfort and needing to work it out. After just a few months stretched over my new Specialized Dolce Sport I noticed my back bothered me less and less. Since then I have bought a few more bikes a Trek 520 and most recently a Surly Pugsley fatbike to continue riding through the winter. My car remains in the garage when I have to grocery shop and other in town errands. BTW .. the fatbike is such a blast to ride, so much different than any other bike I own.
I honestly believe biking helps post back surgery. Still, follow your doctor's advice before you get back on. I have a friend who just had surgery right after Christmas. Turned out there was more damage to his spine than what his MRI showed. He is anxiously waiting to get back on his bike.

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Old 02-02-14, 08:57 PM   #20
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I'm glad to see this thread, as I am currently in the middle of the first steps of trying to sort out my own back issues. The Doc said I have a damaged disc low in my back. It gives me immense pain and causes Sciatica pain in one leg. I can't walk more than 2/10 of a mile before the pain hits me. Cycling has been curtailed a great deal due to the resulting pain. The complication is that I MUST exercise to try and control my diabetes. I have gained 20 hard fought pounds back that I lost last year as a result.

Doc says PT first, and then shots to control my pain. He assured me there are many steps in between where I am now and surgery. It hurts so much, I find myself just wanting to jump to surgery and skip everything before it. I suspect I will end up with surgery and have been worried about my ability to cycle as a result. At the end of a lousy few weeks of pain, everybody's postings give me great hope.

Thanks!

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Old 02-02-14, 10:58 PM   #21
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Also had a rupture on the left side of L4-L5. When the rupture occurred it was the worst pain I have ever felt. Had surgery in Jan of 2004 and today I ride/race road, cross, mountain, tandem with the wife, have played tennis, racguetball, Lift weights, and do a ton of core work and yoga. I did have to give up basketball and volleyball.
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Old 02-03-14, 08:28 AM   #22
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And dont forget that many people with neck and back injuries can comfortably ride a bent bike or trike with no pain at all.
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Old 02-03-14, 03:07 PM   #23
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And dont forget that many people with neck and back injuries can comfortably ride a bent bike or trike with no pain at all.
...and DF, step-through, hybrid, comfort, etc.
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Old 02-03-14, 04:09 PM   #24
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I recently had a herniated disk (L5) in my back which required surgery (Micro discectomy). They went in through a small incision in my back and pulled some disc material out that was causing trouble with my sciatic nerve down my left leg.

Have been active and am 54 and did about 3000 miles on my road bike last year. Checking to see what others experience has been after having this surgery. Please let me know your experience with 1) how quick you got back riding, 2) how is your back after the surgery, 3) Do you feel like it was a good thing to do long term.

Please feel free to share your experience and help the rest of us that have recently went through with this procedure.

Yes. Had the same problem and fix. Walked out of the hospital 2 hours after, rode my trainer 2 days later and was on the road 10 days later. Very successful, especially since I was delivered to the hospital on a back board.
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Old 02-05-14, 08:11 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by AerobaticDreams View Post
I'm glad to see this thread, as I am currently in the middle of the first steps of trying to sort out my own back issues. The Doc said I have a damaged disc low in my back. It gives me immense pain and causes Sciatica pain in one leg. I can't walk more than 2/10 of a mile before the pain hits me. Cycling has been curtailed a great deal due to the resulting pain. The complication is that I MUST exercise to try and control my diabetes. I have gained 20 hard fought pounds back that I lost last year as a result.

Doc says PT first, and then shots to control my pain. He assured me there are many steps in between where I am now and surgery. It hurts so much, I find myself just wanting to jump to surgery and skip everything before it. I suspect I will end up with surgery and have been worried about my ability to cycle as a result. At the end of a lousy few weeks of pain, everybody's postings give me great hope.

Thanks!
This is usually the docs first response, but because this same pain had been happening every fall for a couple of years and because I had been riding a bunch of miles, (so he knew my core strength was good), I requested that we try the surgery. The biggest hurdle was convincing the insurance company that it was necessary and worthy of their funds. The neurosugeon had to send them some more stuff and it got approved, one day before the surgery. It definitely brought relief from the sciatic pain in my left leg.

Keep after the doc to get the surgery, it works.
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