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Old 06-01-08, 07:13 PM   #1
Corgi
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Experience with riding after a herniated disk?

I am planning to start biking on a regular basis as a means of transportation, exercise and general recreation, but I have some concerns and questions regarding riding after a herniated disk.

This past December I herniated a disk in my lower back while playing tennis, went to the ER and they told me to suck it up and go home. It never felt quite right after that, and then in March I re-herniated it, again while playing tennis. This time they gave me some muscle relaxants and I did the whole physical therapy bit (mainly strengthening core muscles and doing stretches). Problem is I can still feel that it's "off," by this point I've conceded that it is never going to be 100% again and I'm sure it is going to herniate again. At only 18 years old, that really sucks. I'm not playing tennis competitively anymore, only hitting around once in a while.

Anyway, I'm worried about the constant leaning forward positon that it seems like you have to hold on most bikes (I haven't been on a bike since I was about 10), is most of the weight on your arms/shoulders, or do you have to use your lower back muscles a lot?

Has anybody on the forum had a herniated disk and found it affects riding?

As far as bikes go, I'm not sure what kind I should be looking at. I will be mainly riding on the road, but will also need to go on some gravel/rocky roads and I will be pulling a trailer most of the time. And suggestions on what type of bike I should look into would be great as well.

Thanks in advance,
Corgi
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Old 06-01-08, 07:36 PM   #2
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I have three herniated lumbar discs. I've tried many different things to relieve the pain including prescriptions (vioxx ruled), acupuncture and physical therapy. Nothing worked for long. Now, five years after I got hurt, I decided it wouldn't ruin my life anymore, so I got back on my bike. I used to ride all the time and I gave it up. Now, the time I spend on the bike is about the only time I don't feel some discomfort in my back. I ride both a mountain bike and a road bike, neither seem to bother me.

My advice to you would be 1) Find a better doctor and 2) as long as it doesn't make your back worse...RIDE
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Old 06-02-08, 06:00 AM   #3
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I killed a disc in my lumber back in January from too much rowing/running/weights followe by sitting at a desk for the next ten hours.

A couple of months of visits to a good chiropractor, a month in the swimming pool - all led me to realise that sitting in a car for my 45 min commute didn't help much either. So, still in pain, I hopped back on my bike for the commute. And thank *insert your preferred deity here* I did.

Complete relief from pain WHEN cycling, and a faster recovery than before when off the bike. This coupled with a once a month visit to the back-crack doctor, and I'm happier (pain-management) than I have been for a long time.

Herniated? Who knows, but from a really bad slipped disc, my 26 mile commute has helped a lot.

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Old 06-02-08, 08:58 AM   #4
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My advice to you would be 1) Find a better doctor and 2) as long as it doesn't make your back worse...RIDE
Agree with above. You CAN get better! Bicycling helped me a lot, as a better diet, loose weight, stretching, stretching, stretching. There are many of good books on recovering from back pain - check your library. Even if you can't "cure" your disc, by strengthening your muscles and increasing flexibility, you can lead a normal pain free life. It takes time and commitment. You might also looking into Dr John Sarno's books. His is a back doctor big on mind-body healing and his book "Healing Back Pain" (1991) helped me a lot with reducing pain. The main thing is not to be afraid to move, because that becomes a catch 22. The less movement, the stiffer the muscles and the more pain. As long as it is not painful, not just uncomfortable, then do it. Core exercises helped me also - pull ups, push ups, and especially squats. Just start slow and carefully. You CAN get better!
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Old 06-02-08, 06:12 PM   #5
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I was bedridden from 01-03 with 2 badly torn lumbar disks. I've been improving ever since, and last summer i was able to ride across the country.
www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/2391

My back likes my road bike more than my more-upright mountain bike. I think it's because when your leaning forward, your spine opens up, and your disks get more space, with little or no compression.
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Old 06-03-08, 06:55 AM   #6
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Good info on how to manage a herniated disk...........

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/herniated-disk/HD99999

Life has to go on.
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Old 06-04-08, 01:56 PM   #7
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Herniated discs

I've got two. (Caveat is I get epidural injections every 6 months)
I cycle on a traditional frame and in 40K of cycling have had NO problems.
However; I cannot sit in the hammock style Recumbents for 20 min. without serious discomfort.
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Old 06-04-08, 02:17 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Corgi View Post
this past December I herniated a disk in my lower back while playing tennis, went to the ER and they told me to suck it up and go home. It never felt quite right after that, and then in March I re-herniated it, again while playing tennis. This time they gave me some muscle relaxants and I did the whole physical therapy bit (mainly strengthening core muscles and doing stretches). Problem is I can still feel that it's "off," by this point I've conceded that it is never going to be 100% again and I'm sure it is going to herniate again. At only 18 years old, that really sucks.
Have you had an MRI to confirm injury? There are many different treatments for back pain, and nerve damage, some require a good deal of time to heal, but your indication, return to same activity cause same condition, indicates what ever you did corrected the the symptoms, but not the cause.

Poor posture, weak muscle groups, and poor posture, can lend to back ailments masking a herniated disk.

A close friend suffered back pain and problems all is life, learned recently a cracked/broken rib, that likely was result of childhood fall, that was never realigned was causing his issues, as he was always leaning shoulders different direction than hips. Ortho doctor observed and treated.

I would seek other opinion. 18 is young.
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Old 09-06-16, 11:32 AM   #9
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Same here

"Complete relief from pain WHEN cycling, and a faster recovery than before when off the bike."

Same here. I can be hobbling around, and getting on the bike makes me feel 1000% better the next day. I'm not sure why. In fact, that's why I googled the question: to see if this has been other people's experience.

Last edited by AliceNYC; 09-06-16 at 11:32 AM. Reason: Quote
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Old 09-06-16, 01:51 PM   #10
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I herniated my L5 (in my lower back) after a fall two years ago. Many visits to specialists and doctors, they all decided it wasn't bad enough for surgery, so therapy and locally applied heat were the treatments. I have to say that during the first 2 to 3 months I thought I'd never ride again since I was bed ridden most of that time. Six months the after that I was back on the bike again very carefully taking short rides and two years later, I'm like nothing happened.
Point I'm making... back injuries are not all the same but since you are young, with therapy and some light exercise, in time you might just heal.
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Old 09-06-16, 02:08 PM   #11
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I have 3 herniated disks and multiple tears on my spinal column. Been off work for over a year and have in the past 5 months been cycling on a regular basis. It has been a progressive improvement since.

In terms of medical treatments there have been a series of cortisone injections from L3 down to my S1 joints. Although painful they do relieve pain in the longer run.

This with the cycling has been great. Lost a lot of weight and have regained an exciting and rewarding hobby in the meantime.

In terms of bikes. I have tried road bikes with drop bars and when pedalling hard on the drops it aggravates my spine to the point of not being able to carry on. Therefore I went to my LBS and test rode a Giant Roam 2. It is comfortable. Can work out pretty hard and enjoy trail riding as well. Although I have now replaced the front shock with a rigid CX fork. There are many hybrids out there. Just jump on a few and see how they go.

I like the Giant Toughroad and their Fastroad models too.

Best of luck.
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Old 09-06-16, 02:13 PM   #12
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I had a herniated disk betweent the L4-L5, I used to ride all the time when I felt the back pain and it would go away. It seemed to stretch the back and relieve the pressure at the herniation, I did this for years. The herniated disk started to pinch the cyatic (sp?) nerve, I eventually had surgery.
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Old 09-06-16, 04:28 PM   #13
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I had an L4-L5 herniated disk many years ago. Physical therapy helped a lot.

Riding usually increased my pain under the usual training protocol, which I thought was always to go a little farther than I thought I could go. When I started ending my rides when I thought I still could ride farther, riding stopped increasing my back pain, and increased conditioning probably prevented some pain.

I really recommend physical therapy, though. Also, Tom Danielson's Core Advantage has some exercises that are likely to help if you do them correctly.
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Old 09-06-16, 05:34 PM   #14
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I really recommend physical therapy, though. Also, Tom Danielson's Core Advantage has some exercises that are likely to help if you do them correctly.
Unfortunately it doesn't work for everyone. After leaving hospital I was treated as an outpatient in the physical therapy clinic for 3 months or so. The pain worsened and the injury persisted. Upon receiving a 2nd opinion from my current specialist it was established that physical therapy was the wrong course of action. Incorrect stretching or compression would tear and or inflame the hernias. Sometimes just bed rest, pain management and patience is required to heal. Once the initial recovery had progressed I began cycling at the surgeons recommendation. He still refuses to send me to physical therapy.
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Old 09-06-16, 09:15 PM   #15
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I had three herniated discs and nerve compression. Did one year of physio three times a week, and it didn't help. Had a discectomy and a laminectomy and it didn't help. Did two more years of physio after the surgery to no avail. I can ride a mtb for thirty to forty minutes and my back is okay. I also have tennis elbow in both elbows which I finally had surgery on them the past 4 months. The elbows wouldn't allow me to ride, just crazy pain, and they are not much better after the surgeries. I just ordered a Townie 21 in the hopes that it will allow me to ride without elbow pain. I just hope the riding position doesn't put too much strain on my back so I can take longer rides. I think it all comes down to each individual as far as if you can ride. Good luck.
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Old 09-07-16, 10:51 AM   #16
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Be thorough, Corgi

Maybe some or all of my comments have already been covered in above posts, but here's my take nonetheless:

Go to an orthopedic spine specialist or neurologist. While chiropractors and a GPs are good, you need to get a workup by someone who deals with this everyday. You say you're not feeling quite right. Well, advocate for yourself, follow your gut, and get to a qualified physician who can help you understand the extent of your injury and assist you in putting together a solid plan for returning to a more active lifestyle.

Me:

- Downhill mountain bike crash 30 years ago
- Fractured two vertebrae in lumbar spine
- Herniated two discs in lumbar spine
- Set off cascading events resulting in two reconstructive neck surgeries with a total of 5- level cervical fusion (C3-T1)
- Lived 10 hellish years going to chiropractors, GP, physical therapy
- Finally sought out orthopedic spine specialist after a chiropractor session brutalized me with pain and motor deficit
- Only then found out going to the chiropractor was the worse thing I could be doing because of previously undetermined spine injuries

Point is....skip all the maybe solutions and just go to the specialist now. It may save you pain and unnecessary suffering, as well as unnecessary curtailment to your active lifestyle.

And I do agree with many posting here before me. Cycling can very much help you feel better. You build core muscles that help support your spine and take pressure off your discs. It seems counter-intuitive, but it can, in many cases, help one feel better.

Last edited by motmcd; 09-07-16 at 10:54 AM.
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Old 09-07-16, 02:10 PM   #17
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Anyway, I'm worried about the constant leaning forward positon that it seems like you have to hold on most bikes (I haven't been on a bike since I was about 10), is most of the weight on your arms/shoulders,
No. Most of your weight is supported by reaction forces pedaling or your core muscles.

Quote:
or do you have to use your lower back muscles a lot?
Yes.

Quote:
Has anybody on the forum had a herniated disk and found it affects riding?
Mine (L4-L5) became asymptomatic after a while, and until then I rode a cheap fitness bike.

Quote:
As far as bikes go, I'm not sure what kind I should be looking at. I will be mainly riding on the road, but will also need to go on some gravel/rocky roads and I will be pulling a trailer most of the time. And suggestions on what type of bike I should look into would be great as well.
Gravel grinder with a triple crank (your power to weight ratio will stink with a loaded trailer, a compact double low gear like 34x34 is far from the 26x34 you could run on a road triple), and higher closer handlebars.

Last edited by Drew Eckhardt; 09-07-16 at 02:14 PM.
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