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  1. #1
    mtbr member
    Join Date
    Jan 2004

    Cervical Spinal Stenosis, End to MTB? OH NO!!

    Cervical Stenosis with Myelopathy: Symptoms, Treatments, Surgery

    Well, after years of racing DH and trail riding rock-infested singletrack, my neck and shoulders have constant, unlenting pain and muscle tension from spinal stenosis at my C4,5,6 vertebrae.

    The MRI report read,"Severe stenosis with mild encroachment on the cord..." Not good.

    Interesting, much research says its more common after age 50. Voila, I turned 51 this year. Dang, I hate getting older!

    I read about surgery but of course, they usually try to treat the symptoms first with pain meds, Physical therapy, joint manipulations, cortisone injections, range of motion exercises. But those only treat the symptoms, not the cause - the stenosis. Surgery is always risky too, especially when we're talking being next to the spinal cord.

    Sooo, I'm coming to a reality that I may have to give up my most beloved sport in the world. Or I could just cruise XC style and just do mellow trails not technical. But I may get bored and I'm not a fan of climbing all the time. I love fast DH. And trails aren't supposed to be smooth so I'm not going to get off the bike and walk every time there's some rocks. I wanna ride the damn trail.

    Maybe I could get into enduro motorcycles, just trail riding and get some speed that way.

    Anyone else out there going through or have gone through these issues? I'm about ready to
    Last edited by myitch; 06-15-2014 at 02:28 AM.
    We Ride In God's Country!

  2. #2
    mtbr member
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    It's common over 50 because it's normal. Your pain may not even be from your neck. A correlation doesn't mean the stenosis is the generator. What about all those old guys with severe stenosis and no pain. See a PT that knows current pain science and graded exposure. Surgery outcomes for necks are pretty much a coin flip. PT is too but it's not 50 grand of a waste. I have gnarly pain in my neck and shoulder that persists if I ride when it hurts and when I don't do good balanced upper body exercise. I love what an MRI can find but unless there are significant pins and needles that were sudden I don't feel they are necessary. They end up finding problems that weren't problems to begin with. Imagine if your doc diagnosed you with reduced follicle pigmentation disorder or gray hair. It's the same thing. Have you tried a couple months of therapy yet?

  3. #3
    I Tried Them ALL... Moderator
    Reputation: Zachariah's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Too much can go wrong with surgery.....and, it's irreversible. Stick with the PT and meds. Heal well....
    "The mind will quit....well before the body does"

  4. #4
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    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Thanks for the replies fellas. Yes, the acute muscle spasms may not be from the stenosis itself but it is from nerve impingement. The impingement is likely from the vertebrae compressing on the axillary cervical nerves, hence why I only experience it unilaterally on the left side only, same pattern as my chronic neck/shoulder pain.

    It's also possible to have stenosis w/o symptoms as the nerve has been contacted by the lamina. In my case, the lamina are encroaching on my spinal cord "moderately." That's the scary part. "Moderate cord encroachment" If I continue subjecting my vertebrae to impacts, jarring, or other trauma such as associated with rocky or bumpy terrain while riding, it MAY get worse. That's the caveat: May get worse. So the stenosis and disc herniation MAY get worse or stay the same. I have to listen to the pain.

    Yeah, surgery is usually the last resort with the inherent risks involved. But myself being in the medical field, I have seen what happens to those who haven't listened and are now years later paying the price. I don't want to be one of them.

    I was reading in another related post here that one dude had a prosthetic disc inserted at his lower back. This sounds promising. But still, it's not like replacing a shifter and you're back to new again.

    Enduro motorcycle riding might be the way for me to go. Gobs more travel on those bikes and similar trails. I can still get my high speed thrills with more kush.
    We Ride In God's Country!

  5. #5
    mtbr member
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    What would the problem with symptom management be, If it allows you to be out riding?
    Pain meds in the correct dose wont make you high, and you will build tolerance but it will allow you to bike as you will, once they find the right treatment/regimen for you.

    I personally would never have cash to throw at a surgery like that and I love to bike, so I would opt for management and just keep biking, see what happens. I am also half your age though, at 25.

    I am not the most fit, far from it, round actually :F but I do enjoy light technical trails, never done downhill but I am dropping weight and increasing skill.

    Even started riding a bmx after treatments of my crash, and I am waiting to hop back on the 29er again. No trick riding with the bmx, but the single speed is fun!

  6. #6
    mtbr member
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    read Mcgill's work He is publishing a lay book very soon. Go to interview section and read. Also check out Dr. Lyftogt neural prolo. Fascial impingements can mimic cord and peripheral pain generators.

  7. #7
    mtbr member
    Reputation: smilinsteve's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    My neck MRI looks like I was in a skydiving accident and I should be paralyzed from the neck down. But, my symptoms have only been some numbness and tingling in my hands and an achey neck.

    I didn't put much faith in the cortizone injection idea, because like you said, that's not going to make those discs go back to normal or those bone spurs disappear.

    But I did the injections and it got rid of 80% of my symptoms. Docs say results can be good for 6 months and sometimes people have relief for years from an injection.

    Bottom line is that sometimes things aren't as bad as the MRI would lead you to believe.

    I will avoid surgery as long as I can, but if the choice becomes surgery or stop riding, pull out the scalpel and cut away.

  8. #8
    mtbr member
    Reputation: danorano's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    The best thing you could probably do is change your diet to one that promotes reduced inflammation. Also, learn a couple of neck flexing exercises and do these a couple times a day. This is a several year process, but with time you will will be able to ride. Don't go jumping or taking on highly technical trails. The real problem is if you wreck, since your neck most likely has a considerable amount of bone spurs and a sudden jar could compromise it. Try to get a seatpost that has a shock absorbancy like the thudbuster or nitro pro.

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