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  1. #1
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    Upset Bulging Disk in Neck

    Hello fellow riders
    Just got a new great bike and few weeks later (not blaming the bike) I am in pain with my right shoulder and arm. It looks like a bulging disk in the neck thing and the proffesionals don't reccomend riding as a mean to improve the situation. They say the riding position with head up and bent neck may emphasize the problem.
    What did you do?. Do you think moving the bar a spacer up can help, getting a high riser bar?, shoetening the stem?.
    Ideas based on experience will be greatly appreciated as I don't mean to give up riding even for a few months!.
    BTW, they don't reccomend running as well (impacts) and that puts me in a stand still since I only run and MTB

  2. #2
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    I have/had bulging disk in my cervical spine as well, it used to be so bad I would get zaps in my arm when I ran or jumped.

    I had a MRI done and decided it did not warrant surgery so I went through PT. Long story short, it no longer bothers me and I ride several times a week. I think the main exercise that helped the most was turning my head 90 degrees right, hold it then full left hold it (chin over shoulder). If you think about it, it is like twisting a wet towel. It tightens up and pushes the bulge in.

    Anyhow, consult you doctor before you do anything. If he recommends PT, do it and do it to the max.

    On my bike setup I dont like a super stretched out setup, slightly upright (yes, riser bar, stem, or spacers. Shorter stem works as well). Also focus on keeping your neck aligned properly. Roll your eyes up to see whats ahead instead of bending your neck, it could be just as simple as that...

    I would play with it, dont give up.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by RipRoar View Post
    I have/had bulging disk in my cervical spine as well, it used to be so bad I would get zaps in my arm when I ran or jumped.

    I had a MRI done and decided it did not warrant surgery so I went through PT. Long story short, it no longer bothers me and I ride several times a week. I think the main exercise that helped the most was turning my head 90 degrees right, hold it then full left hold it (chin over shoulder). If you think about it, it is like twisting a wet towel. It tightens up and pushes the bulge in.

    Anyhow, consult you doctor before you do anything. If he recommends PT, do it and do it to the max.

    On my bike setup I dont like a super stretched out setup, slightly upright (yes, riser bar, stem, or spacers. Shorter stem works as well). Also focus on keeping your neck aligned properly. Roll your eyes up to see whats ahead instead of bending your neck, it could be just as simple as that...

    I would play with it, dont give up.
    Thanks RR!
    Did you change anything in your Office position?, do you continue to do PT?.
    Anything else?. I figure that maybe after getting an Iphone I started looking under my glasses bending my neck in sily way for long minutes?.
    Also I used to ride more seated and now stand more on the technical parts and down hills, hence maybe streching my neck fwd?.

  4. #4
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    I feel your pain, had a bulging disk between C5 and C6 that flared up about 4 yrs ago. Went through pain in right arm, shoulder and tricep. Took 3 months to calm down. Pain actually got worse before it got better as the disk was badly enough damaged that it ruptured. The viscous material inside disks can cause extreme irritation to the already inflamed nerves and cause further inflammation (resulting in pain/burning/tingling symptoms) until the material dissipates/your body gets rid of it.

    Went through cortisone shots, painkillers, and PT. To make matters worse, the radiologist who wrote up the MRI report misidentified the nerve group being affected, so several docs couldn't match my symptoms with what the report was saying. Resulted in a lot of unnecessary testing (EMG... AVOID!) My wife finally got me to go to specialist at the NEBH Spine Center. Doc took one look at the MRI, told me exactly what was happening and why the other docs had been puzzled at my symptoms. He told me that these things get better in only one of two ways: on their own or with surgical intervention.

    Met a lot of people who have had similar problems. YMMV, but some have found yoga or stretching classes helpful, others have had luck with PT. There doesn't seem to be any one answer. IMHO, I would be cautious about seeing a chiro, however. Have a friend who is a chiropractor. Fellow rider, skier, etc. Took one look at the mri and said that he didn't think chiro could be helpful and might cause further damage.

    Took a while, but I'm back skiing, riding and doing the things I love the way I want again. If you do have to have surgery (and I sincerely hope you don't!) do some checking around. Find the best doc in your area or travel if need be. Have a friend who had this surgery in the military and they botched it resulting in his being discharged and having lingering, permanent symptoms. Have another friend who went to a good local surgeon. Long recovery, but she's back on her game.

    Hang in there and good luck!

  5. #5
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    Ouch. I have two bulging disks between c4-c5-c6. It was insanely painful when it first happened and the pain returns occasionally. I had to give up road riding because the position aggravated it to the point that I ran the risk of causing permanent nerve damage. When it first happened I saw specialists, did physical therapy and explored surgery but was advised to manage the pain as long as possible. 8 weeks into physical therapy things rapidly improved and now as long as I don't lift anything heavy over my head I hardly know its there. It sounds weird but running and staying very hydrated seem to make a big difference in how it feels (Dr said the bouncing of the run might help loosen things up in there). I see a Chiropractor every other week and a massause every few months to keep things loose in there. As far as Mountain Biking, I shortened my stem and use a riser bar to get my seating position more upright. Good luck with it, it sucks.

  6. #6
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    Also have one in my neck. Was on the boarder of needing surgery but the doc sent me to PT 1st, the stretching and strength building in the neck muscles worked it out.
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  7. #7
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    forsure get a massage - there are other muscles in the area and it can make all the difference!

  8. #8
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    Thanks guys.
    I hope/believe I am a light case of this problem. What I get so far is I need to have an MRI before I do anything?. So far only my sholder was scanned as the Dr. did not suspect the neck. It was my sister in law who is a PT that suggested that and than I googled it an bingo.
    I did go to a chiropractor yestrday, and she was too aggresive IMO and caused me pain. Not going again before I know more.
    I did run today and felt great during, however now some moderate pain is back. Hoping for a good night sleep that I did not have in the last 10 days.
    Your experience is very helpfull and also the fact that you are back to full MTB riding.

  9. #9
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    I have a bulging disc right about even with the center of my shoulderblades and one at my beltline thanks to some asshat who t-boned my car with his work truck back in Oct 2007. They were not things that the doctors wanted to perform surgery on, so it was PT and learning to live with the constant pain.

    I got myself a full suspension bike to make things a bit easier on my back. I did a lot of walking, some swimming, and a bunch of resistance exercises to strengthen my back muscles as well as my core. My riding position became a lot more upright, with spacers and riser stems. When standing on the bike, I made sure that my legs flexed well at the knees to take any hits that the suspension did not absorb. I had to relearn how to ride light, choosing my line instead of bashing through gnar, like I used to do back in the 1980's when riding a full rigid bike.

    I found the better fitness I have achieved, the less of a problem the bulging disc are. I do have pain that I am never without, but I can ride.

    I do not run at all, because the impact really gets to me, as I heel strike habitually. Perhaps a move to those minimal shoes may help roll me forward and solve that problem.

    Good luck with your injury.
    "You're messing with my zen thing, man!"

  10. #10
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    Passion for pain and injury?

  11. #11
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    I have had a similar problem. Small disc bulge C6-7. Impinges on the nerve foramen causing pain in my left arm. As a surgeon it is a bit of an occupational hazard. Took a few months but it eventually became minimal. If I think about it I have pain and numbness, but it is just part of the background noise of being alive. I never stopped riding, even was bicycle commuting for a few years before we moved. That probably wasn't the best plan - I'm a lousy patient.

    No unsolicited medical advice, here, but it probably is reasonable to have an MRI. Unless you can get an open MRI it is a bit of a small hole and if you're claustrophobic you might hate it. In general the closed MRI give a bit better images (at least for what I use them for). A word of caution: you'll be asked to lie flat, though in some instances a wedge can be placed under your neck, so if that position causes pain, and you can't hold it for several minutes at a time, take some pain meds before. (I couldn't so I basically screamed until right before the scan and then held still).

    PT is the best cure. Yoga would work, too, as the stretching involved is very similar to PT. But certainly try the PT before anything invasive. Best o' luck.

  12. #12
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    I had my C6-C7 disk go wonky right around NYE with no explainable cause. Be really careful with your activities and symptoms. I went from some pain and soreness to loss of my tricep and numbness in my index and middle finger in 48 hours. I was in surgery within a week with full fusion as the treatment. Be really careful with chiro during the process... the damage is to nerves so if you have a bulging disk there's real risk of pinching things using methods that are otherwise safe. I'm in the middle of PT now and feel certain that I'll be back on the rigid bike and running relatively soon but recovery has been a bugger. I'm sure if I had gone to a specialist a day or two sooner my symptoms wouldn't be nearly as severe so be careful!

    DM

  13. #13
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    I had a slightly herniated C5/C6 disc diagnosed in the late 1980s, following a traffic accident whiplash. Following a second whiplash about 15 years later, my PT taught me an exercise to realign and unlock my back, taking pressure off the nerves causing pain in my neck and shoulder. Since then I've been able to control the pain, which now happens only when I haven't been riding enough and exercising my back muscles.
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnGray View Post
    I In general the closed MRI give a bit better images (at least for what I use them for). A word of caution: you'll be asked to lie flat, though in some instances a wedge can be placed under your neck, so if that position causes pain, and you can't hold it for several minutes at a time, take some pain meds before. (I couldn't so I basically screamed until right before the scan and then held still)..
    Yup. That experience was gawd-awful.

  15. #15
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    Okay...

    Quote Originally Posted by GreenBonty View Post
    Thanks guys.
    I hope/believe I am a light case of this problem. What I get so far is I need to have an MRI before I do anything?. So far only my sholder was scanned as the Dr. did not suspect the neck. It was my sister in law who is a PT that suggested that and than I googled it an bingo.
    I did go to a chiropractor yestrday, and she was too aggresive IMO and caused me pain. Not going again before I know more.
    I did run today and felt great during, however now some moderate pain is back. Hoping for a good night sleep that I did not have in the last 10 days.
    Your experience is very helpfull and also the fact that you are back to full MTB riding.
    Go to a doctor and stop asking for treatment advice here. We can't answer your questions.

    1. Should you get an MRI? Ummm, yes? You have no idea what's going on. You don't know if it's a bulge in the disc, an impingement on the nerve or a bone spur that's impacting the nerve.

    2. If your chiro adjusted you without an MRI and X-Rays, you need to get a new doctor. That's negligent behavior.

    3. Stop running and riding until you figure out what's wrong with you.

    4. Like many others, I've gone through what you're going through. C4/C5 on my neck and L5/S1 (completely blown) on my lower back. Like many of us, you'll probably ride and run again. But you really need to get an MRI and X-Rays done.

    5. Get advice from an ortho specializing in spines. Also get advice from a chiro that knows how to read X-Rays and MRI's. Ask your sister-in-law for her advice too. She's certainly helped people recover from what you're going through.
    JPark - 3.5- don't listen to dremer

  16. #16
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    Good Advice from John Gray re: the actual MRI. Take the pain meds before. I was in serious pain as they wanted my kinked neck straightened out for the MRI. A very painful few minutes while they did the MRI. End result - Surgery to fuse C4-C5-C6. That was 9 years ago and I ride as though I was never injured. I ride about 125 days a year in the dirt and on the road. 2011 hilights include Mountain Biking at Bend and Road Biking the Whistler Gran Fondo.

  17. #17
    namagomi
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    Yep... When recovering, after cleared of serious disc damage by the MRI, make sure your upper back and shoulders aren't all rounded forward on the bicycle. Removing the visor on your helmet may help. Make sure you're looking up with your eyes and not "looking" up with your neck.

    Be prepared to give up riding for a few months, at least mountain biking.

  18. #18
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    I had a bulging disc at C5-C6 about 5 years ago. Went through all the procedures, PT, steroid shots, that contraption that tries to pull your head off your body (some sort of traction device I suppose) and after 3 months, it just got worse. Pain, numbness, pain.
    Riding was horribly painful, trying to keep my head up was difficult, and any kind of bike riding when you are staring at your front wheel is pretty dangerous.
    Got the surgery from a local doc, one of top spine docs in the country. Woke up a few hours later with new Ti hardware and a dead guys bone in my neck, and feeling immediately better. 4 weeks later I was in spin classes, albeit with a foam neck brace.
    Within 2 months, back on the road bike and not long after, back on the trails.
    For me it was well worth it, though IMO, I had exhausted all other possibilities.
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  19. #19
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    Whatever you do take it very seriously. It was years before my ruptured discs were correctly diagnosed. This meant that what could have been fixed with physio could only be fixed with surgery. The surgery was not as successful as I would have liked.I now have 2 less discs and metal and bits of my hips in my neck for the fusion. Having said that I still have the use of my arm and I ride a lot now. After 11 years of pain killers I found that just putting up with the constant pain was less destructive than what the drugs were doing. Get an MRI and get treatment.

  20. #20
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    There are many schools of thought on the bulging disc. One of the guys I ride with/childhood friend is a newly graduated Chiropractor (lucky me, free adjustments as needed), always recommends against surgery when it comes to these types of things. Just a little advice I have gotten from him while shooting the breeze on the trail. Get examined thoroughly and exhaust all options before surgery.

    Last year I had my left Piriformis muscle hypertrophy and it was causing wicked lower back pain and the strain was beginning to deform my spine. After many PT sessions, deep tissue massage sessions (not relaxing, but extremely painful mind you) and regular visits to my new Chiropractor (once every two months or so) I have never felt better. I no longer need to go to PT, but I still do the exercises and stretches to decrease my chances of re-injuring myself.

    Different treatments for different people. Good luck in your search for a resolution hope you come back riding strong.
    No compromise.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken in KC View Post
    Go to a doctor and stop asking for treatment advice here. We can't answer your questions.

    1. Should you get an MRI? Ummm, yes? You have no idea what's going on. You don't know if it's a bulge in the disc, an impingement on the nerve or a bone spur that's impacting the nerve.

    2. If your chiro adjusted you without an MRI and X-Rays, you need to get a new doctor. That's negligent behavior.

    3. Stop running and riding until you figure out what's wrong with you.

    4. Like many others, I've gone through what you're going through. C4/C5 on my neck and L5/S1 (completely blown) on my lower back. Like many of us, you'll probably ride and run again. But you really need to get an MRI and X-Rays done.

    5. Get advice from an ortho specializing in spines. Also get advice from a chiro that knows how to read X-Rays and MRI's. Ask your sister-in-law for her advice too. She's certainly helped people recover from what you're going through.
    This is great advice. Right now it is just speculation what the problem is, so the potential solutions are only guesses. Establish the problem first, the you can make informed choices on how to proceed.
    Riding slowly since 1977.

  22. #22
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    i have dealt with a neck issue lately as i also surf my neck is bent up from surfing and biking

    The problem was muscle not disc***

    If you had not already - get a deep tissue massage. Its painful as already mentioned but will get rid of the knots that might be causing the problem.

    Once my knots were removed i learned some stretches and then recently my PT showed me how to bend the neck properly when cycling (keep the chin down and in instead of up).

    So dont write it off as a disc issue unless you are totally sure thats what it is. I had burning pain and thought it was a nerve issue - well it might have been a nerve issue but it was caused by the stiff inflamed muscles

  23. #23
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    oh and yes - move the bars up as you asked - makes it easier to see ahead and bend the neck properly. Also ice the neck like crazy - try to do it 3-4 times a night if you can - ice on for 15 minutes and off for 20 then back on. This with the stretching will work wonders

    my seat is an inch or two below the bars now

  24. #24
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    GreenBonty,

    I work with a couple of spine surgeons - first things first: Get an MRI - the pain you're feeling is the result of nerve compression, and unfortunately, the discs do not just heal themselves. You will have good days, and bad days, but ultimately, there is damage to the disc, and it is a degenerative process which PT and chiropractors cannot prevent.

    Do NOT go to a chiropractor without an MRI first. The MRI will show the extent of degeneration(basically just loss of water content in the disc), etc. This is really the only way to tell what is wrong with you.

    The good news: Spine surgery today is not what it used to be. Minimally invasive techniques have been developed which mean the now, in a situation like yours, where they may just need to trim off a little bit of the offending disc, you will have a couple of 5-10mm incisions, and no hospital stay.

    The best part - the procedures have been pretty much perfected now(fear any surgeon who wouldn't address this using a minimally invasive approach), and I can tell you that after you have a procedure like this, you'll feel literally instant relief. And hey, you might not need surgery anyway!

    With that said, only your doctor can diagnose you properly, but don't worry, even though spine issues are scary and intimidating, the technology is proven, and incredible. Good luck, and if you've got any questions, feel free to PM.

    p.s. There are some very good information resources out there - just google 'minimally invasive spine' , etc, and that'll get your started.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Plummit View Post
    .

    Went through cortisone shots, painkillers, and PT. To make matters worse, the radiologist who wrote up the MRI report misidentified the nerve group being affected, so several docs couldn't match my symptoms with what the report was saying. Resulted in a lot of unnecessary testing (EMG... AVOID!) My wife finally got me to go to specialist at the NEBH Spine Center. Doc took one look at the MRI, told me exactly what was happening and why the other docs had been puzzled at my symptoms. He told me that these things get better in only one of two ways: on their own or with surgical intervention.


    Any chance the cortisone was injected into the wrong area due to the error in the report?

    I am currently dealing with low back/nerve pain and a constant ache in my right calf. MRI shows I have a herniated disc L4L5. I had the EMG done which came back stating no permanent damage to the nerve. While that was painful and irritating to the lower back it wasn't to bad. What it did do is verify that the correct disc had been diagnosed as the problem. Plummits comment makes me wonder if its more painful in the neck or upper back.

    I have been doing PT for 8 weeks and it has helped some. I will be going in on Mar 5 to have the Cortisone Injections and have hopes of that offering some relief.

    To the OP you need to get into see a doctor. Let them get some test run to try to identify your problem. Doing so will get the correct treatment started so you can get better.
    Best of luck to you on your recovery!
    C

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