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Am I doing more harm than good? Back issue

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Am I doing more harm than good? Back issue

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Old 06-13-18, 02:59 PM
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Am I doing more harm than good? Back issue

For the past four months I've been dealing with back issues. Stenosis, herniated disc and arthritis. I've been trying to work through it and avoid surgery. Physical Therapy, yoga, massage, chiropractor and inversion table have not given me much relief. I'm currently seeing a Physiatrist and have had 2 epidural injections and a facet joint injection without much relief. I can barely walk even with a cane and it takes a good hour to get the pain down in the morning. The thing is I have no pain when riding the bike. Granted I have been riding on Zwift on the trainer, since walking is problematic, as I don't want to get stuck miles from home if I have a mechanical. I've been riding about 10 hours a week or 175 Zwift miles.I'm just wondering am I actually hurting myself by continuing to ride. As I said riding the bike is really the only time I feel normal. Anyone have any experience with a similar situation.
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Old 06-13-18, 03:09 PM
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I have lower back issues (doesn't sound quite as bad as yours) and as far as I can tell cycling doesn't hurt it, might even be helping.

Does your PT involve stretching? Stretching seemed to be the cause of the biggest improvement for me. The stretching regimen I do was prescribed by a physical therapist, and (surprisingly to me) was focused on my buttocks and legs.
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Old 06-13-18, 03:19 PM
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Another one with lower back issues for many years that are not as bad as yours. My back gives me far less pain when I ride regularly, and none while riding.

Both my doctor and physiotherapist say to keep on riding as the stretching out on my road bike opens up the spine. I do not ride in a very aggressive setup, but have my bars at only just below my saddle height.

I have not been able to ride for the past ten weeks following fusion of C3/C4 in my neck, and already my lower back is starting to give me more pain, so can't wait to get back on the bike.
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Old 06-13-18, 04:05 PM
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I stretch in the morning and after every ride, mostly AI stretching. At this point I'm trying everything I can come up with. I recently started using the Melt Method as well. Everything seems to help a bit but I haven't gotten the relief I've been looking for.
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Old 06-13-18, 04:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Gerryattrick View Post
Another one with lower back issues for many years that are not as bad as yours. My back gives me far less pain when I ride regularly, and none while riding.

Both my doctor and physiotherapist say to keep on riding as the stretching out on my road bike opens up the spine. I do not ride in a very aggressive setup, but have my bars at only just below my saddle height.

I have not been able to ride for the past ten weeks following fusion of C3/C4 in my neck, and already my lower back is starting to give me more pain, so can't wait to get back on the bike.
Everyone tells me to keep riding as well. How did your fusion go? The surgeon I spoke to said the fix would be a fusion of L4/L5 but the surgery is a bear and involves a 6 month recovery and a successful outcome is not guaranteed. That being said I'm running out of options.
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Old 06-13-18, 04:52 PM
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If your alternative is spinal fusion surgery, my advice is if your docs tell you it's time, listen. I waited to long and wound up with permanent nerve damage in my leg with the inevitable balance issues to go with it. Walking takes 100% focus to avoid face plants. Cycling is the only outdoor exercise I enjoy. Definitely continue all therapies and conditioning until then to improve recovery time. I was on disability for six months before being cleared to return to work.
Good luck and keep in touch.
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Old 06-13-18, 04:52 PM
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Originally Posted by TCR Rider View Post
For the past four months I've been dealing with back issues. Stenosis, herniated disc and arthritis. I've been trying to work through it and avoid surgery. Physical Therapy, yoga, massage, chiropractor and inversion table have not given me much relief. I'm currently seeing a Physiatrist and have had 2 epidural injections and a facet joint injection without much relief. I can barely walk even with a cane and it takes a good hour to get the pain down in the morning. The thing is I have no pain when riding the bike. Granted I have been riding on Zwift on the trainer, since walking is problematic, as I don't want to get stuck miles from home if I have a mechanical. I've been riding about 10 hours a week or 175 Zwift miles.I'm just wondering am I actually hurting myself by continuing to ride. As I said riding the bike is really the only time I feel normal. Anyone have any experience with a similar situation.
Likely, more harm than good. As someone who suffers from multiple back issues and have for years, I can tell you that physical therapy and exercise is the way to improve your back condition. Cycling won't do that. Its a stressor.

Also, for those with lower back problems have no fear. Its as common as a headache. Almost everyone will suffer from some level of lower back problems at some point in their lives since it can be caused by so many things i.e. standing, sitting, lifting, a poor mattress, posture, walking, cycling, etc. Typically transitory, so no real worries there.

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Old 06-13-18, 05:05 PM
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Originally Posted by FBOATSB View Post
If your alternative is spinal fusion surgery, my advice is if your docs tell you it's time, listen. I waited to long and wound up with permanent nerve damage in my leg with the inevitable balance issues to go with it. Walking takes 100% focus to avoid face plants. Cycling is the only outdoor exercise I enjoy. Definitely continue all therapies and conditioning until then to improve recovery time. I was on disability for six months before being cleared to return to work.
Good luck and keep in touch.
Sorry to hear about your difficulties. I plan to submit to the surgery when I run out of conservative options. I'm just tired of living in pain. Next week I'm having a Radio Frequency Denervation after that maybe stem cell injection if necessary. Hope springs eternal.
If you don't mind my asking how did the fusion impact the flexibility of your back?

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Old 06-13-18, 05:31 PM
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Originally Posted by TCR Rider View Post
Sorry to hear about your difficulties. I plan to submit to the surgery when I run out of conservative options. I'm just tired of living in pain. Next week I'm having a Radio Frequency Denervation after that maybe stem cell injection if necessary. Hope springs eternal.
If you don't mind my asking how did the fusion impact the flexibility of your back?
My fusion was L5-S1 and after healing of course, and six full months of physical therapy, I have better flexibility than before. I think you could improve on the six month recovery time due to prior therapy and conditioning if you don't wait too long. I was just a train wreck waiting to happen, it seems. One day my Chiropractor took one look at me and refused to touch me and sent me directly to the hospital for a MRI. The next day I was sitting in a spine surgeon's exam room.
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Old 06-14-18, 09:35 AM
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Originally Posted by TCR Rider View Post
Everyone tells me to keep riding as well. How did your fusion go? The surgeon I spoke to said the fix would be a fusion of L4/L5 but the surgery is a bear and involves a 6 month recovery and a successful outcome is not guaranteed. That being said I'm running out of options.
Too soon to say yet. Mine was precautionary to avoid potential loss of movement in the future in my hands and arms because of nerves being compressed by damaged disc.

I have some pain and dizziness issues but my physio say that that is only to be expected following a serious operation. I hope she is right.

I will know more with a couple of months rehab exercising.
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Old 06-14-18, 11:29 AM
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Originally Posted by Gerryattrick View Post
Too soon to say yet. Mine was precautionary to avoid potential loss of movement in the future in my hands and arms because of nerves being compressed by damaged disc.

I have some pain and dizziness issues but my physio say that that is only to be expected following a serious operation. I hope she is right.

I will know more with a couple of months rehab exercising.
It does take time to recover especially when nerves are involved. Good luck with your rehab.
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Old 06-14-18, 11:41 AM
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Originally Posted by FBOATSB View Post
My fusion was L5-S1 and after healing of course, and six full months of physical therapy, I have better flexibility than before. I think you could improve on the six month recovery time due to prior therapy and conditioning if you don't wait too long. I was just a train wreck waiting to happen, it seems. One day my Chiropractor took one look at me and refused to touch me and sent me directly to the hospital for a MRI. The next day I was sitting in a spine surgeon's exam room.
Good to hear about your flexibility as that was a big concern to me. I still want to ride my road bike and was worried that I'd have to go to flat bars. I really plan on continuing to do as much prehab as I can. I've done that with every surgery that I've had, and I've had more than a few, Carrying a good level of fitness into the surgery does make for a quicker recovery.
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Old 06-22-18, 08:33 AM
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After 10 yrs on BF I finally realized, at 52, I should check out the 50+ subforum. Interesting reading above. I was diagnosed with severe stenosis at L4/L5 in Feb 2017. Standing can be pretty painful and it's caused me to step back from girls softball coaching which I love. Tried massage and acupuncture with minor relief. Stretching as prescibed by PT hasn't done much other than just keep me limber. I tried one epidural injection and got relief for 2 months but am very hesitant to do many more because of the negative effects of too many of those. Riding is an acitivity both PT and the neurosurgeon said would be helpful beause the posture opens the spinal space and relieves pressure on the nerves.

The only problem now is I have pain and numbness in my left arm from either a pinched nerve or stenosis developing at C5/C6. Working through all the conservative treatment (in PT now) before getting an MRI. It's definitely problematic because lifting my head on while riding causes the symptoms in my arm.

I'm curious if anyone has dealt with both of these simultaneously.
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Old 06-22-18, 02:44 PM
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I'm not sure it's possible to do *worse* with appropriate physical therapy/exercise. The tricky bit is being sure it's appropriate for the physical condition.

I have a bum back and neck from a 2001 injury, and am nursing a busted shoulder from being hit by a car last month. After four weeks off -- doing moderate physical therapy and range of motion exercises, but no bicycling -- I was getting antsy and started using my road bike on an indoor trainer. I've used the trainer every day for a week, starting at 30 minutes and working up to two hours (usually while watching TV or movies). Really helped to relieve the chronic aching pain while I was on the bike, and for a couple of hours afterward.

However the aching would return in the middle of the night. I asked the ortho doc about it this week and he said to continue with my own self-directed physical therapy at home because it's the same thing their in-house clinic would be doing anyway. He doubted the exercises and cycling on the indoor trainer were making things worse. The pain was just a normal response to healing and the body getting accustomed again to exercise.

As it turns out, the normal body posture of riding a bike is the same as the physical therapist would recommend for my shoulder injury -- a very modest body weight effort with mostly steady pressure and some range of motion without exceeding the limitations of the healing joints.

So at least in my case the aching pain in the middle of the night doesn't mean I'm doing it wrong. And I'd already modified the bike slightly before the recent injury to accommodate the previous injury and neck limitations -- just minor tweaks to bike fit with a new saddle, shorter stem, etc.
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Old 06-22-18, 04:01 PM
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Originally Posted by scozim View Post
After 10 yrs on BF I finally realized, at 52, I should check out the 50+ subforum. Interesting reading above. I was diagnosed with severe stenosis at L4/L5 in Feb 2017. Standing can be pretty painful and it's caused me to step back from girls softball coaching which I love. Tried massage and acupuncture with minor relief. Stretching as prescribed by PT hasn't done much other than just keep me limber. I tried one epidural injection and got relief for 2 months but am very hesitant to do many more because of the negative effects of too many of those. Riding is an activity both PT and the neurosurgeon said would be helpful because the posture opens the spinal space and relieves pressure on the nerves.
They know that cycling is low-impact, so I'm assuming that's the reason why they gave you the go-ahead. Yours is in your lower back (more common) mine, is in my neck.


The only problem now is I have pain and numbness in my left arm from either a pinched nerve or stenosis developing at C5/C6. Working through all the conservative treatment (in PT now) before getting an MRI. It's definitely problematic because lifting my head on while riding causes the symptoms in my arm.
This is why I recommended conservatism when cycling. Although I can still ride, it takes some amount of focus, and if I go over a certain threshold, I will pay a heavy price for my lack of caution.


I'm curious if anyone has dealt with both of these simultaneously.
I haven't gotten any specific diagnosis, but I have all the symptoms you described. Standing isn't a terrible issue at the moment, but that's only because it was a part of my job for many years. I was also in excellent shape before, so even though I'm now half the man I was, few people notice unless I tell them.


The pain can be excruciating at times but the real issue is that it's always there -- at some level -- and therefore, effects my quality of life. I'm now working with a new doctor (whom I've lost complete confidence in, but continue simple because I have no other alternative at the moment) who wants me to take yet another MRI and more X-rays.

My view is some things just can't be fixed -- not completely -- so I'm just trying to get my condition manageable so I can move forward. As you know constant pain, causes depression, and after that happens, everything in your life falls apart.

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Old 06-22-18, 05:26 PM
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I have lumbar spinal stenosis and riding my road bikes (leaning over the bars) is what my spine doc recommended. I don't have problems with walking or serious back pain except when its time for my next pain injection. I usually go about 5-6 months between injections.
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Old 06-22-18, 06:04 PM
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Originally Posted by RonH View Post
I have lumbar spinal stenosis and riding my road bikes (leaning over the bars) is what my spine doc recommended. I don't have problems with walking or serious back pain except when its time for my next pain injection. I usually go about 5-6 months between injections.
I've had two epidural injections and two facet joint injections with the second facet joint injection yesterday. This is the first injection that gave me any relief so far but I'm still having pain when weight bearing. Still riding the bike on the trainer and doing stretching and strengthening exercises at home. I stopped going to PT because I wasn't getting any better and the therapist didn't seem to have anything else to offer.
As I said in my OP I have stenosis and arthritis in the lower back. and I'm doing everything in my power to avoid fusion surgery. I have a Radio Frequency Nerve Denervation scheduled in two weeks and if that bears no fruit I'm sorry to say I'm s.o.l and will most likely go under the knife. As someone pointed out earlier living in constant pain really does wear you down.That being said I'm not giving up yet...no way.
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