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  1. #1
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    Am I done with Mountain Biking?

    Last weekend I was working in the yard pulling up dead bushes and I had a very sharp pain run down my lower back (which had already given me trouble a few months earlier). I immediately was completely immobilized and the pain ran from my lower back and shot through my entire body. Somehow I was able to crawl to the front door and ring the doorbell. My wife came to the door and helped me get to my feet and inside.

    This happened early in the day on Sunday, I went inside and laid on the floor with ice packs on my back. My wife was kind enough to finish mowing the yard. On Monday I saw a doctor and he ordered an MRI. I got the results yesterday. Long story shortened I have 2 herniated discs in my lower back.

    The bad news is that I've gotten back into biking recently and decided to build my 1st bike, a hardtail. The bike I currently ride is an 01' Specialized Rockhopper, a full suspension. I've read so many horror stories regarding this injury I'm starting to wonder if I'll ever get back on the bike. If I do heal up is a hardtail out of the question in the future? Should I get rid of the hardtail? Should I be looking to get rid of both bikes and look into Road?

    Am I just being pessimistic and depressing myself?

  2. #2
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    Oh, I'm 36, 5' 10" 165lbs and in pretty decent shape.

  3. #3
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    You never know with back injuries like this.

    Stay away from strenuous activities for a while and then once you feel fairly "normal", try riding around your block to see how it goes.

    I have friends with this condition and although they have periodic issues, they are able to maintain a fairly regular, active life style.

    Think positive. I'd wager that you'll be riding again and again and again.

  4. #4
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    I've got a buddy with early-onset rheumatoid arthritis in his lower back and he rides rigid faster than I can even think of going. Take it slow to get back to riding. I hang out on the Freeride/DH forum when I get concerned about injuries creeping up.
    Last edited by intheways; 09-29-2012 at 08:43 PM.

  5. #5
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    I think you are 95% likely to recover most of you lifestyle. You might not ever help a friend move a piano, though.....

    I blew up my back on the Bering sea at the age of 23 (couldn't straighten my right leg). These days, biking is almost a non-issue for me as far as back health.

    My experiences is that doctors often know very little about back issues Find a good Physical Therapist (try several). Resist surgery (my primary regret).

    Two activities that were therapeutic for me are rock climbing and backpacking (with a less than huge pack). Both make traction and I'd be pain free after a day of either. Though I would have to stretch to prevent muscle tightness from setting in and causing more pain. For me it goes like that. Biking is fine for me. When my back hurts, I lower my seat 2 or 3mm and I make sure to stretch my periformis muscles and hamstrings. This may be exactly the wrong recommendation for you. You need a good PT to figure it out. But at the end of the day, When you get sore, you need to know what to do. And there is conditioning to prevent you from getting sore in the first place....

    PM me if you want more info. You will find your way....

  6. #6
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    Thanks for the replies guys, got my Epidural today, asked the Doc all kinds of questions. Anyway he's saying he's hoping for a 2 month recovery and 1 more shot in the process in the next 2-4 weeks.

  7. #7
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    About 15 yrs ago, I ruptured a disc in my lower back. While it took about a year to heal completely, I haven't had any problems with it since. I went through 3 rounds of epidural injections. Don't get down if a month after the first one the pain comes back. The second shot seemed to only work for a couple of days; a couple of weeks after the third shot, the pain disappeared. I also did physical therapy and had a really good chiropractor that was into movements of the body rather than bending and crunching.
    While I'm still careful with my back and do things like sleep with pillows under my knees, biking doesn't seem to have any negative affect - and I ride mostly rigid SS. It may seem strange and my chiropractor couldn't believe it but when my back would hurt bad, I'd take my Jeep out on a ride. The bouncing seemed to lessen the pain.

  8. #8
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    Even though I don't have a blown disc, my lower back is tweaked from a 2nd story fall as a 4 year old and 30 years at sea. My back told me to get an FS bike and get rid of the hard tail I had. Glad I listened, but not everybody is the same, so the OP needs to take the time to heal and see what will work best for him. I'd avoid DH racing though...
    Current ride(s) 2011 Santa Cruz Blur LT and a Norco Threshold SL with Di2

  9. #9
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    No

    Herniated a disk in my back almost 20 years ago. It healed itself in a few months. Back bothered me off and on for many years until I bought a Tempur-Pedic mattress. It has never bothered me at all since then.

  10. #10
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    Always had a bad back in my younger (16-29) years from playing catcher in Little League and high school baseball. I crashed my dirt bike at age 29 and that healed my back. Go figure...

    I've worked in law enforcement for the last 26+ years and back injuries are the #1 source of medical retirements. Some guys never come back and others heal 100% and are better than they ever were so obviously everybody is different. If I were you, I'd definitely go full suspension just to play on the safe side but obviously there are others that haven't had to go that route from reading the other responses.

  11. #11
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    You're gonna pull through like a champ (In my opinion, which is not that of a medical professional but rather based on anecdotal evidence). Also, you're going to have a good excuse to never help anyone move ever again.

    I believe the 'horror stories' are more likely from when the disc has degenerated and has to be replaced. It's a much harder recovery for most people.

    That, and people really like to whine and moan and complain about stuff to get attention, so many injuries don't seem as bad when they happen to you as when they happen to someone who doesn't know how to htfu.

  12. #12
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    Eighteen years ago I was carrying a full trash can to the curb and stepped in a slight depression in the yard. I severely herniated two discs in my lower back and had to have surgery to fix them. Six months later I re-injured riding up a short slope on my mountain bike. Not anywhere near as severe that time and my doc sent me to physical therapy. I've been riding ever since without issues, both hard tail and full suspension bikes.

    You're going to be fine.
    I'm enjoying my childhood way too much to ever give it up.

  13. #13
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    I'm cleared to walk briskly on the Eliptical at the Gym! I can't wait to go!

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    I'm 39 and herniated a disc about 2 years ago (threw it out doing power cleans with too much weight, no belt, not enough core work). It's still bulging and will never go back in without some surgery to cut it off. It was real sucky the first 6-8 months. I had to be careful and had to stop some activities. Slowly went back.

    Cycling is pretty good as it pumps the disc, they also recommend bouncing up and down while sitting on a bouncy ball to do the same thing. You'll be fine, you just need to address the cause of weakness in your back and try to do more core exercises in the future.

    I have horrible flexibility still and am just lazy about stretching. However, I will do hyperextensions on a GHD and situps, and this is a tremendous help. Also doing plank holds off the floor on your forearms will help prevent these kinds of injuries. Now you need to recover and then focus on slowly building up your core so you have some protection.

  15. #15
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    I’m 37 have had a herniated disc since i was 15 due to playing football. Best advice is to get yourself the best matress you can afford. Ever since i bought a tempur-pedic my back pain has gone away. I ride a hardtail and once in a while get some pain if i push it too hard. Just make sure you give your back enough time to rest before you begin riding again.

  16. #16
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    As I look at my bike everyday as I heal from a broken tibial plateau and calcaneus break with a blood clot, I ask the same question. Is it a sane question?

    I will return I tell myself, but not haphazardly as I once did. My goal is to remain with my DH bike but only pin drops and rock gardens. I hereby on this forum first admit I will not go after doubles anymore. I've had bruised ribs and now thjs incident which had me close to knocking on heavens doors with that clot. I've successfully accomplished very big jumps in my 6 years of riding but at 38 and with a career I can't risk it anymore.

    Yesterday I did 10 pullups and 20 pushups so I'm
    Doing mucho rehab.

    Be smart and have plans if you do become injured is all I can recommend.

  17. #17
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    I'm really not trying to get depressed about this, but today I learned that the very same injection I had on Tuesday is infecting people all over the nation with Meningitis. As hopeful as I was yesterday this news has depressed me more than just about anything. It's 8:45p and all I want to do is go to bed and stare at the ceiling......

  18. #18
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    I'm sorry man. That's just horrendous. Hang in there. Keep us posted.

  19. #19
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    I dodged a bullet, Doctor finally called me back today and said that the Pharmacy they typically use was short staffed and couldn't get it for the procedure so they used a different pharmacy that day who doesn't carry the tainted Steroid. I will say the anxiety I experienced thinking I could be headed for the death bed over the last 24 hours has made me realize that my back injury isn't all that bad

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by mavtek View Post
    I dodged a bullet, Doctor finally called me back today and said that the Pharmacy they typically use was short staffed and couldn't get it for the procedure so they used a different pharmacy that day who doesn't carry the tainted Steroid. I will say the anxiety I experienced thinking I could be headed for the death bed over the last 24 hours has made me realize that my back injury isn't all that bad
    Small miracles!

  21. #21
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    FWIW, get a road bike. Don't get on the dirt too soon. As for the hardtail, I would plan on going FS. You'll be able to ride the hardtail, however, if it creates a reinjury, do you want to lose all what you gained.

    Obviously, as mentioned everyone is different. The other thing with a disc injury is that when you ask on the internet, many replies or even original posts don't fully explain the damage.

    As an example, November 2011, I strained my back lifting some rolls of carbon fiber out of the freezer. A visit to the doctor had him say "keep doing what you do, if it hurts don't do it". Rested for a week, felt good, continued riding. Towards Christmas, it didn't hurt to ride, it was constantly sore. Rode the weekend of New Years, and the following got an MRI. Between the time of the MRI and seeing the doctor to go over it, I continued to ride. All rides I would not hurt, but be a bit sore afterwards. Rode the 62 miles at San Felasco. Pretty much couldn't do much after that. So I visit the doctor on the scheduled appointment, he reads the MRI and says, bulged disc. Rest and it will heal itself. After about a week of crippling pain, I see the doctor again. He listens to the chain of events. I insist on a new MRI. Next doctor visit, he looks at the new MRI and compares to the previous one. Now I have a bulged disc that had extruded and is pressing against nerves. So after a couple of months off, I was able to road ride. My initial plan was no off-road until January 2013.

    Yes I am now riding off-road again. But with caution. Ride a lot more on-road though.

    These injuries take a while to heal. Most folks that had surgery say avoid surgery.

    FWIW, our favorite bike was the Fandango tandem hardtail. The last ride on it was the one to extruded the disc. Sadly my and I sold it.

    We kept the full suspension Ventana tandem, and have the road tandem. The single bikes are seldom ridden.

    You will probably heal with minimal issues if you give it a lot of easy time. After that, stretch, stay strong, be careful and maybe buy a FS bike.

    PK
    Reps! We don't need no stickin' reps!

  22. #22
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    I truly resisted the temptation to write some Panglossian crap about everything working out. glad I didn't..... but you are a lucky SOB.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by mavtek View Post
    I dodged a bullet, Doctor finally called me back today and said that the Pharmacy they typically use was short staffed and couldn't get it for the procedure so they used a different pharmacy that day who doesn't carry the tainted Steroid. I will say the anxiety I experienced thinking I could be headed for the death bed over the last 24 hours has made me realize that my back injury isn't all that bad
    Congrats with that!! You're very lucky!
    Current ride(s) 2011 Santa Cruz Blur LT and a Norco Threshold SL with Di2

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by skullcap View Post
    Eighteen years ago I was carrying a full trash can to the curb and stepped in a slight depression in the yard. I severely herniated two discs in my lower back and had to have surgery to fix them. Six months later I re-injured riding up a short slope on my mountain bike. Not anywhere near as severe that time and my doc sent me to physical therapy. I've been riding ever since without issues, both hard tail and full suspension bikes.

    You're going to be fine.
    PT was going to be my suggestion. I was a real mess about three year ago and three months in PT got everything straightened out. Back pain, shoulder pain, foot pain, hip pain. It's kind of amazing how a good physical therapy specialist can sort it all out. Since then I have stayed physically fit and at the slightest sign of trouble I start back in with my PT exercises. I have been pretty good and mostly pain free ever since.

  25. #25
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    my story might help a little bit im a 17 yr old Downhiller and i had oil from my chain get to my brakes i was moving at 50 mph and i hit a 3 foot tall ramp about 25 ft across i tried to slow down but i went off the ramp my rear wheel hit the down ramp and the rim broke in 3 different places my chest bounced off the stem, i did a front flip and slammed on the ground i was knocked out for 30 min and once i woke up i couldnt feel my legs... i called my brother who called 911 later the fire department got me on a back board and in an ambulence lucky as soon as i got to the hospital i got the feeling back in my legs thank the lord.. but after 5 months im back on my bike later i went back to that trail and went over that jump again i overcame my previous fear and it feels amazing

  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by FX4 View Post
    PT was going to be my suggestion. I was a real mess about three year ago and three months in PT got everything straightened out. Back pain, shoulder pain, foot pain, hip pain. It's kind of amazing how a good physical therapy specialist can sort it all out. Since then I have stayed physically fit and at the slightest sign of trouble I start back in with my PT exercises. I have been pretty good and mostly pain free ever since.

    I actually cannot say enough good things about PT to do it justice. The results are just amazing. Sometimes you have to ask your doctor for it, it's well worth it to do so.
    I'm enjoying my childhood way too much to ever give it up.

  27. #27
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    I know how you feel. A few years back I herniated 3 discs while rock climbing. Really it had been a long time coming due to to a lifetime of poor posture interspersed with bouts of intense exercise.

    My recovery was probably around 6 months until I was back on the bike in a "normal" capacity. Echoing what others have already said, I'd also advise PT. Try to find someone knowledgeable with sports injuries and rehab and do what they tell you to. Also, I still believe that what you do outside of your specific rehab/preventative exercises makes at least as much of a difference as the exercises themselves. For most of us, working on strength, flexibility, etc to help with an injury or help to prevent an injury is probably going to occupy somewhere between half an hour to an hour a day. You need to pay attention to what you're doing the other 23 hours as well...there's a lot of good information available about sleeping, driving, sitting at a desk, etc that will make a big improvement in your recovery and chances of re-injury.

  28. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by ebarker9 View Post
    I know how you feel. A few years back I herniated 3 discs while rock climbing. Really it had been a long time coming due to to a lifetime of poor posture interspersed with bouts of intense exercise.

    My recovery was probably around 6 months until I was back on the bike in a "normal" capacity. Echoing what others have already said, I'd also advise PT. Try to find someone knowledgeable with sports injuries and rehab and do what they tell you to. Also, I still believe that what you do outside of your specific rehab/preventative exercises makes at least as much of a difference as the exercises themselves. For most of us, working on strength, flexibility, etc to help with an injury or help to prevent an injury is probably going to occupy somewhere between half an hour to an hour a day. You need to pay attention to what you're doing the other 23 hours as well...there's a lot of good information available about sleeping, driving, sitting at a desk, etc that will make a big improvement in your recovery and chances of re-injury.
    This is truth. About to go another round with deep tissue work, chiro and PT myself due to a flareup that occurs about every 3-5 years. I should be back to "normal" in a couple months but I'll spin on the road bike some when I am cleared to ride some. Then, back to dirt. No more helping friends/family move, either, no matter how much of a d-bag I may seem.
    Sometimes, you need to go fast enough that the trail is a blur to find clarity. -- Wild Bill

  29. #29
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    Thanks for all the advice guys, a little update, I got on the road bike last week and this weekend I took my Full Suspension out to the bunny trail. Biking really doesn't seem to be an issue, At least moderate biking that is, I'm watching everything I do and I'm seeing the pain doc next week to see how I'm progressing.

    One thing I have been doing is closely watching my diet. I've dropped 8lbs or so, my hope is that reduced overall weight will be easier on my back. I've also heard a bit about Fish oil as an anti inflamatory so I started taking that daily. Overall I think things are going well.

  30. #30
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    I also have two ruptured discs in my lower back, happened about 2 years ago. Before that I used to run 5 miles a day 5 days a week. Running DEFINITELY hurts the back. The discs would swell and press on my sciatic nerve. Started cycling, road biking to begin with, no pain. Moved over to mountain biking, some pain at first, but as I built up my core muscles, my is not any more sore than the rest of my body, and i ride a hard tail. Don't give up at all. Road cycling I think is a good way to build up the core muscles. I do a mix now of road and mountain and the only time my back hurts is when I am lifting ****. So i don't do that anymore...it interferes with my biking

  31. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by mavtek View Post
    Thanks for all the advice guys, a little update, I got on the road bike last week and this weekend I took my Full Suspension out to the bunny trail. Biking really doesn't seem to be an issue, At least moderate biking that is, I'm watching everything I do and I'm seeing the pain doc next week to see how I'm progressing.

    One thing I have been doing is closely watching my diet. I've dropped 8lbs or so, my hope is that reduced overall weight will be easier on my back. I've also heard a bit about Fish oil as an anti inflamatory so I started taking that daily. Overall I think things are going well.
    Also, focus on core strengthening, not just flexibility. In fact, getting your back stronger is more important at this point than anything else.

    I've run into the same issue - buldged discs leading to debilitating sciatica (once I puked involuntarily after a spasm).

    If you sit all day, such as at a desk, that's likely what's causing most of your problems. Try to get up as often as possible and walk around, and keep working out your core.

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    Very good information in here. Just an idea, you can also try form roller exercise. I do this when my back becoming so stiff after few rides. Form roller exercise really helps relaxing / straigthening my back.
    I read a blog of a marathon runner, he said eversince he started doing form roller exercise, he very rarely got injured.
    Also swimming may help too.

    Good luck.

  33. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by inter View Post
    Very good information in here. Just an idea, you can also try form roller exercise. I do this when my back becoming so stiff after few rides. Form roller exercise really helps relaxing / straigthening my back.
    I read a blog of a marathon runner, he said eversince he started doing form roller exercise, he very rarely got injured.
    Also swimming may help too.

    Good luck.
    +1

    My new favorite recovery technique, other tha. 16 oz curls
    "Paved roads...just another example of needless government spending"—paraphrased from rhino_adv

  34. #34
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    Swimming is actually one of the best exercises for the body. It uses all your muscles while supporting your bodyweight. Running in fact is the worst as your intestines are bounced around and your knees and hips are pounded too.
    And who doesn't like those 16 oz curls???
    Current ride(s) 2011 Santa Cruz Blur LT and a Norco Threshold SL with Di2

  35. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by inter View Post
    Very good information in here. Just an idea, you can also try form roller exercise. I do this when my back becoming so stiff after few rides. Form roller exercise really helps relaxing / straigthening my back.
    I read a blog of a marathon runner, he said eversince he started doing form roller exercise, he very rarely got injured.
    Also swimming may help too.

    Good luck.
    What are form roller exercises or do you mean foam roller?

  36. #36
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    I have two herniated discs in my lower back as well. I only ride hard tails. PT was the key for me getting back to a normal life. Keep your core strong and it will keep your back and discs in proper alignment. i have had this issue for about 10 years and whenever it flares up, I just do the stretching exercises I was taught in PT and it helps to get back to normal. Mainly hamstring and quad stretches which will loosen up the muscles in your lower back and take the pain away.

  37. #37
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    I had a 'moderate disc protrusion' of my l5/s1 doing deadlifts on october 22 2012. I am a little over 3 months into recovery. My healing/recovery technique has been lots of cardio (road bike), stretching (quads, hams, and iliospoas) and developing leg and core strength. Strong hips and strong glutes are important for lower back support. I think stretching the iliopsoas (Iliopsoas - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia) is often overlooked and extremely important. I went mountain biking for the first time 2 days ago, back felt ok, a bit tight afterwords but no increased pain. went really easy didnt do any big jumps, which i am itching to get back into doing again.

    From my experience and research, dont do ANYTHING that will aggravate your back for as long as possible. I know one guy that wished he just took a whole year off. I am aiming for four months. I really want to be competitive with the oregon enduro series this summer. really hoping i am back to 100% by then.

    increased blood flow, stretch, core strength, rest, and time.

    I hope i can be 100% again. But from what i learned, i just need to be patient. Stay positive.

  38. #38
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    didnt read through all the replies but its always a very GOOD idea to get a second opinion. The last thing you want is this guy saying something that is off. I cant tell you how many times docs have given me or people i know bad advise -- somtimes dangerous advise.

    there are many stories where the doc says "you'll never walk, you have 3 months to live, you'll never see again...." so on a soforth. However, i cant tell you how many times i did not listen to my doc and its cost me.

    take it step by step. seek second opinions. looks at the docs credentials. i always go for docs that have gone to highly rated schools. all that info is online. Its no guarantee but it helps. the bast docs ive seen and know all have gone to good schools. not to say there arent some phenomenal docs who didnt go to highly rated schools but its a reference point

    again, there are more docs who are hit or miss than there are docs who are very good. also there are some who are out-right dangerous. Ive see a few of them.

    most importantly -- think positive.

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