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  1. #1
    11 is one louder than 10
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    Help - anyone deal with herniated lumbar discs?

    I just found out I have a herniated L4 / L5 disc.

    Well, the pain should have been a clue, but I figured just new season tightness.

    So, no surgery for now but looking for any experiences with this? could you ride again and how soon?

    I'm assuming a plusher ride will help.

    Anything, anyone. I'm really bummed right now. Not even 36 years old with a messed up lower back.

    I'll start with PT and losing 25 lbs I figure.

    "The thing is, Bob, it's not that I'm lazy, it's that I just don't care."

  2. #2
    song of the saw-whet owl
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    i could talk your ear off about this ive had a L4/5 like 10 years ago.. but this past winter I started having issues and got an MRI about 3 months ago and showed a L2/3 herniation which explained the issues i was having. Luckily, cycling is actually good therapy for it because your are getting hip movement and flex without much weight on your spine. (unless your bike is setup poorly) You shouldn't need surgery for a disc herniation unless nerve impingement is so bad you can't feel your feet, hold your bowels or cant walk. The pain and spasms go away and the disc repairs itself usually within 2-6 months.

    Get a good stretching program. (piriformis, glutes, it band, hammies, etc.. are all involved) if you have tight muscles or spasms, finding a "good" massage therapist can work wonders. (unfortunately there is like 1 good one to every 5 bad ones it seems) Dont overdue it, but don't take it too easy on the exercising. muscles kinda have a memory it seems.. dont use em for a while, and you lose em. use a lumbar support when driving and sitting in a chair if possible. try and stay away from pain killers too.. as painful as it can be , i think they can prolong recovery in this type of injury.
    just another piece of chaga

  3. #3
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    Get a chiropractor who uses flexion distraction or decompression. There is a lot of wrong ideas about chiropractic and disc herniations, but the truth is chiro is the best most effective treatment for herniated discs with the highest 5 and 10 year success rate. Meaning more patients are still pain free 5 and 10 years later after their chiro treatment. If you have insurance I'd say go flexion distraction, because they pay for it and it has a better long term success rate then decompression. But be prepared. Disc herniations or even bulges take a long time to heal. You must be patient.

  4. #4
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    I have had back issues for 8 years so i know how it is. I agree with oldnoob, a stretching routine will work wonders! I got myself a full suspension bike, i tried a hardtail and my back was pretty sore afterwards. The full suspension really soaks up the bumps so my back doesnt take the pounding so much.
    I started riding as soon as i got the docs ok with it. I hurt myself at work and had to go through the workers comp bs. I dont know how you injured yours, but if it was at work, you might want to check before you go to a chiropractor. I know that with my case, i wasnt allowed to do that because the workers comp insurance company would have had a fit. I am not knocking a chiropractor...i wanted to see one myself, but just make sure you cover your bases.
    You should have no problem being able to ride again though. I dont know much info, but if you are overweight, dropping some pounds definately helps the back. It helped me. Hope that helps a little. Good luck and hope you get back out on the trails soon.

    Mike

  5. #5
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    I herniated L4/L5 last February. Here's the thread. I was riding again at near full strength by early summer and rode a week of really tough stuff in the Rockies in the fall. I still have to watch my back but I am riding stronger than I was before the injury.
    All problems in mountain biking can be solved by going faster, except the ones that are caused by going too fast.

  6. #6
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    Couple of points that didn't make it into that thread:

    1. Get your riding position sorted out perfectly. Change bike if necessary. You need a riding position which keeps a curve in your back. Get your PT to tape your back if necessary so you can tell if you're flexing (they'll know exactly how to do this).

    2. Ride as much as you can without pain. I found riding was REALLY helpful. When I started to get stiff a ride would loosen my back up a lot. In the fall I was nervous about an MTB trip to the rockies... I was stiff after a long plane ride but every day I rode my back felt better and better.

    3. I now wear an SI belt (this one) for all strenuous exercise including MTBing. It really helps dramatically, especially in evening out the power in my legs (it's very common to be weak in one leg following a herniation).

    4. Figure out what caused your herniation. It took for EVER for me to figure out how I herniatd -- I though it was a stiff uphill climb at first but subsequently realized it was shovelling snow a couple of days before that did it. Shovelling snow is a classic herniator, by the way.
    All problems in mountain biking can be solved by going faster, except the ones that are caused by going too fast.

  7. #7
    on the path most traveled
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    I herniated my L5 about a year ago. After looking at the MRI, the physical medicine doc said it was one of the worst he had ever seen.

    I had been dealing with back pain for years and so the back pain didn't bother me as much as the sciatica which set in a couple of months after the herniation.

    I think what brought on the sciatica was my taking on a rigorous mtn bike schedule soon after the herniation. I figured the pain couldn't get much worse, but it did.

    All that bouncing around over rocks and straining myself while in a bent over position probably herniated the disc even more than it already was.

    It took about 8-9 months before the burning sciatic pain behind my thigh finally subsided.

    What helped control the sciatic pain was core strengthening stuff like free-handed serpent stretches and lower back extensions.

    I call them "serpent stretches", but I think they're actually called something else. That's where I lay flat on my stomach and then try to lift my torso into the air like a cobra. At first use your hands of course. Eventually try it free-handed.

    The other stretch consisted of my lying on my back and thrusting my pelvis into the air.

    Another thing that made a tremendous difference was modifying how I get out of bed in the morning. I now use this technique where I first lay on my side, then bring my knees up to my chest, then lift my body up so that I'm in an upright sitting position as I finally put my feet on the ground.

    What helped even moreso beyond that was just making sure that I put all of my weight on my good leg (the leg not affected by sciatic pain) when I first stood on my feet in the morning.

    To my amazement, it turned out that a majority of the pain that I experienced throughout the day was caused by that very first moment of putting weight on my legs as I stood up in the morning.

    So, nowadays my doc tells me that bicycling, while being helpful because it keeps the muscles active, can also be risky because of the flexion, which puts pressure on the disc as I'm straining myself.

    I do definitely have my seat somewhat lower than optimal so that I am in more of an upright position.

    I do feel your pain about being so young while having to deal with something that in my mind is an affliction of the aging segment of the population. On the other hand, I wake up every day feeling lucky to be walking. There are many people in the world who have to deal with so much worse.

    What brings me down is when I think of my father, who is in his late 50's and is still active Special Forces. He still parachutes, scuba dives, distance runs, practices martial arts, does heavy bench pressing, and so on so forth and he is so much older than I am. He has put his body through an exponentially greater amount of abuse than I have to mine, yet here I am the one who is hobbling around. I try not to think about that. It's just the luck of the draw.

    I saw a couple of neurosurgeons and one of them did give me the green light for a fusion. But, as I told my doc, "I do not want to be the guy who got a penis implant 6 months before viagra came out."

    Fusions are a major surgery which can go either way. Like another poster mentioned in this thread, only in the case of an emergency would I want to take that route.

    Also, yes, it is a very good idea to lose weight. And also keep in mind that when and if you ever have to go under the knife, it makes the surgeon's job a whole lot easier when there isn't a huge layer of chunky stuff in the way. And when he's poking around an area such as your spine, the easier you can make the surgeon's job, the better.

    My final thought is that even though bicycling helps because it is after all exercise and exercise is just all-around great, be careful and watch out for signs that things are worsening. Like I mentioned, the sciatica was brought on by hitting the trails while I was still recovering from the initial herniation.

    If you have to, just try swimming for awhile. Also, like another poster mentioned, proper massage techniques along with seeing a chiropractor are both invaluable maintenance strategies.
    Last edited by sponger; 05-27-2008 at 03:13 AM.

  8. #8
    11 is one louder than 10
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    Everyone, thanks for the information.

    It turns out my news over the last 2 weeks has been what I would call good, and mixed.

    My L4 / L5 is not herniated, it's bulging severely but as I understand it, it has not herniated yet. That's the good news. Further good news is that rest and treatment are helping. I can do a number of things that I couldn't even two weeks ago. So much so that this weekend my PT said an easy bike ride would be OK. Today and tomorrow are some final testing, then it's a home based program with 1x a week PT.

    The mixed news is that I have a congenital problem at L5 / S1. My disc never really formed that well and it looks as those the discs may be partially fused. It limits some mobility, and ultimately causes the L4 / L5 that is bulged to do more of the work.

    My bummer is that I still get a lot of muscle tightness at times after sitting or standing for long periods, things I didn't get that bad even 6 months ago. My PT says that some scarring is likely occuring and that as a result we need to stretch that also, and that the muscles still try to protect things.

    My other problems are a real lack of flexibility in my lower back and left hip in particular (that was broken years ago). I get a strange tightness at times in the front of my pelvis, that is bad when riding.

    So, I was a bit leary when he said to take some easy rides as I still have some stiffness. But, he feels the disc is likely stable now with 3 weeks off of the bike.

    I would love to hear from others if they were totally pain and stiffness free when they started riding again, or if there was a gradual period where the rest of the pain and stiffness goes away.

    My PT has a great rep, just looking for opinions. Thanks.
    "The thing is, Bob, it's not that I'm lazy, it's that I just don't care."

  9. #9
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    yoga

    ahhh.. back pain. I have degenerative disk disease... no it's not the same as what you have... but when my back starts getting really tight I pull muscles and I'm generally flat on my back for a week... I found yoga was the answer to keep everything loose. if focuses on aligning your spine and keeping everything where it supposed to be. When my back starts acting up when i'm riding i use some of the techniques to keep my spine straight and take the weight off my lower back. try it.. buy a beginners video. you don't need to do any of the pretzel poses.. just the ones that focus on the back.

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