Anyone come to riding ss after herniated disc or back surgery?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
    RPG
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    Anyone come to riding ss after herniated disc or back surgery?

    Just found out I have a large extruded herniation at L5-S1 with left leg weakness and pain. Trying to avoid surgery and naturally concerned about my mtb future. Core exercises are going to be a focus.

    Has anyone rehabbed or had surgery and successfully came back to their ss? I know people have on geared suspended bikes. I'm just wondering if a ss would put too much strain on my back.

  2. #2
    WillWorkForTrail
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    Yes. I have (notice present tense use) two herniated disc in my lower back. When it first happened, I actually sold all of my bikes because it was agonizing to ride at all, even on smooth, flat road, just pedaling. The RIGHT chiropractor (spare me the quack comments) and core exercises and stretches have me back on rigid SS and geared FS bikes. No surgery for me. That simply isn't going to happen.

  3. #3
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    Herniated L5-S1 sometime this past winter, probably from shoveling snow, or maybe from a hard fall onto my hips, or maybe from years and years of poor posture - who knows. 41yo.

    Rehabbed by doing trainer rides (lots of spinning) and then gradually working more hills in. Mostly against doctor's orders, but I couldn't sit still and I always felt the best after a spin because the muscles would loosen up. Eventually started riding technical off road again, then eventually single speed. Now 6 months later I ride the single speed once a week and when I do I'm not afraid to jump off the bike and hike a climb that I previously would have cleaned but with considerable effort. I think it's the steep climbs, where you're pulling up on the bars and mashing down at a very slow cadence, that puts the most stress on the back. I now try to maintain a good posture, stick my butt out and try to keep my head high, and not pull up on the bars so much i.e. keep more of the muscle in my quads.

    Also, seated low cadence climbs put a lot of stress on the lower back, so I'm quicker to stand, now, too. If you're seated, keep the cadence high.

    Yes to core work. I've tried different things but lately have been focused on Foundation Training (google it). Religiously 3x a week. And, I got a standing desk at work.

    Also, stretching. While I have no idea what exactly caused my herniated disc, I wasn't stretching at all, and during rehab I was told that I had very tight hamstrings and hip flexors, pretty common for bikers and for desk jockeys. So now I stretch every night before bed and use the foam roller on the legs at least once a week. The Foundation Training exercises are like yoga in that it works active stretching into the holds.

    I've got several riding buddies who've had back problems come and go over the years. Some have gone from SS to 1x6 or 1x10. Some have stuck with the SS, claiming that their back feels better after riding the SS than riding gears, probably because of the emphasis on standing. I think they're something to this theory because standing is a natural motion, like climbing stairs, while seated pedaling isn't so much.

    I'm curious to hear what others' experiences have been.

  4. #4
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    Same problem for me..Herniated, degenerative, arthritic discs L4/5-S1..35yo I think its mostly hereditary..My brother had surgery for a the same problem, much worse than mine. I had to give up riding motocross because it was the main cause for any flare-ups that I was having. That was hard, as I really was pumped on it as I started riding later in life than most.

    I have been able to ride and race the bikes (SS, geared, road, and now 'cross) thousands of miles each of the last 2 years with no issues directly related to riding. I have had to take time off the bike a couple of times because I pushed my luck either at work or home doing labor. I now find that if I don't ride enough, my back aches much more often in the morning. I keep supply of 800mg Motrin for days like those.

  5. #5
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    Yes. Ruptured L4-L5 while jogging and took it easy. Began physical therapy and stretching. This did very little for my bulge. This was when i started mountain biking. One year on gears and 1 1/2 on rigid SS. Three years later of on/off pain, i bent over wrong while picking up my daughters toys off the ground. This began the constant suffering.

    I finally had a series of 3 steroid injections. I was then mostly pain free. I continued to SS on my rigid for another year with no issues. The last straw came while jumping to get a helium balloon off my ceiling. I couldn't stand, walk, crawl, sit, or even lay down without crying.

    I feared i waited for too long. I lost muscle function on my left leg all the way down to my toes. I couldn't raise myself on the ball of my foot any longer and had pretty severe foot droop. My foot would basically flop and drag when i would walk. It was time for surgery.

    4 weeks post-op and i was on my trainer. I still couldn't push with my toes, but, with cleats behind the ball of my foot i could pedal. I could even stand and mash. At 6 weeks, i was SSing on fireroads and trails with only little chatter. This meant sustained standing and mashing. This helped me get my conditioning back (at least, to where it was before the injury).

    I do have a 1x9 FS bike now, but, still ride the SS 50% of the time. Beneficial regardless of bike, is core strength and stretching. The nerve in my spine is now free, but, the nerves still travel down my leg and they get bound up through the muscle fibers. I hurt every morning and the only thing that decreases the pain is a good muscle warm up and stretching.

    Short answer: I had a lot of pain. Lost muscle function. Had surgery. Still ride my rigid SS as often as my FS geared. Bike choice depends more on trail than it does my body.

  6. #6
    Bollocks
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    Another one here... i wasn't riding ss prior to surgery and didn't for another 2-3 years after (i was wrapping up my rugby career! ) but i ride 90% ss at the moment. I've dropped almost 30 lbs since my rugby days which helps tremendously but other than that, i have no real back issues related to riding in general, or ss specifically but have some lingering effects (i can't ride clipless because of weakness caused by nerve damage which makes twisting my right leg almost impossible). Sometimes it gets stiff whilst riding but nothing that slows me down. .. make sure you do your rehab, strengthen the core and take it easy at first. Good luck.
    You only live once but if you do it right, once is enough.

  7. #7
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    I had lower back surgery years ago and it helped but I've had several complications since. Some requiring hospital visits. Had a few herniated discs which were so bad that they formed a mass in my spine which also happened to be pressing against my sciatic nerve. I began to lose feeling in my leg and foot rather quickly. Tried many alternatives but none helped. Chiropractor, massages, epidural injections and eventually surgery. My 29er is SS rigid and my fat bike is 1 x 9 rigid. I get sore now and then but pay more attention to my posture and trying to stay loose when riding. One thing I did learn was to pay attention to your sleeping habits. I tried alot of different positions and some of them made quite a difference. Sleeping on my side with a specific pillow in between my knees helped keep my hips aligned while sleeping. Good luck.

  8. #8
    RPG
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    I'm glad to see there are others that have successfully come back to riding, especially ss. I have an appointment this Friday with a physiatrist and will hopefully start pt next week. I've been off my bike for 5 weeks to play it safe, missing out on the best riding season in NH. My goal is to not miss out on the winter riding season at this point.

    I think I herniated my disc from a combination of posture, desk jockey, and not working out properly (no core exercises, just the gym basics).

    I'll chime in after my appt Friday. Thanks again for the responses and inspiration.

  9. #9
    Bollocks
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    Its worth checking out whether your issues are just injury related or degenerative... in my case, it is both. A lot of people avoid surgery, work with PT, core strengthening, steroid injections etc and if its an injury that will heal, go for it. But be careful! Through not getting it properly diagnosed, I ended up "wasting" a couple of years and getting to the point that I was almost immobile. By the time I saw the neurosurgeon it was an emergency situation to prevent any more nerve damage. Even after the surgery and through the recovery, I still had less pain than I was experiencing prior.
    You only live once but if you do it right, once is enough.

  10. #10
    What's the Hurry?
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    Hi, sorry to about your back problems.
    I have several dehydrated discs in my lumbar region which caused a lot of pain and discomfort. Several years ago I had a rhizotomy (a nerve deadening procedure) which helped greatly. I still wake in the mornings feeling like I shoveled a ton of snow the day before but after a few hours and some stretching it's mostly ok with mild discomfort some days.
    Anyways, as to the riding. I am not able to ride off road, the after effects are just not worth it. I am able to ride paved roads though and most of my riding is done on very hilly country roads with little traffic to worry about. I have found that riding geared bikes I tend to sit in one position on the bike for too long which leads to a lot of after ride aches and pains. On my ss I am out of the saddle a lot more which seems to stretch my back a little and leaves me fresher after the ride. I still ride the MTB with fat slicks and a more upright less aggressive position. I swapped out the racing saddle for a B17 and thudbuster seat post. I guess I'm more of a randonuer than a MTB'er, but I'm still out on the bike a few times a week so all is good.
    I hope you get your back problems sorted out and get back to riding again soon.
    Regards David
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  11. #11
    psycho cyclo addict
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    I've had L4/L5 issues for 12+ years now. Four back specialists (three of them recommended surgery on the 1st appointment!) told me 3 different stories including: rounded vertebrae, degenerative disc disease, sciatica, ...

    The last one said if you are debilitated for < 30 days a year do not have back surgery- strengthen your core, stretch daily and keep active. That's what I've been doing for the last 4-5 years and so far so good. Over the last 3 years I'd say I've averaged better than 2500 miles per year riding knobby tire bikes everywhere (dirt, gravel, pavement, stairs, rocks, etc.).

    I too have tight hamstrings and find stretching them and my quads daily to be the best preventive measure. My back pain flares up somewhere around 5 or less times a year. I get the sensation of something slipping in my back or an unplanned/poorly executed twisting motion while carrying an object often leads to back and leg pain within hours.

    When it happens, I cannot stand up straight (my torso is typically offset ~10 degrees left) and over a couple of days, things start to loosen up. People at work rib me for hobbling around like an old man for longer

    I commute to work on a bike during these bouts with no additional pain and find that riding actually helps keep things loose. I don't ride super technical trails when my back is bothering me- I do keep a full suspension 29er in the arsenal. I can ride my hard tail on the rougher terrain however I'll feel it in my back a couple of days whereas with the FS bike no hint of back pain at all. One guy I used to ride with on occasion (Dan the big Estonian who is stronger than most oxen) referred to it as riding a couch hahaha.

    Your mileage may vary... good luck!
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  12. #12
    RPG
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    Ok so I had my dr appointment. We are going to go with an injection and follow up with pt. it's an L5-S1 herniation and my doc feels it can be easily managed conservatively. No go on riding for a while due to positioning, but eliptical is fine. So much for snow biking this year, but need to keep the eyes on the prize, and that's just getting back to riding. Thanks for all the updates and will be sure to post on progress.

    The biggest bummer...I just bought an allcity macho king that is getting built as we speak. Now I have to stare at it until I get the green light. I'll call it motivation.

  13. #13
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    After my second back surgery, I took up endurance mountain bike "racing" because it would be lower impact than Brazilian jujitsu, etc. and other high impact work/play pursuits that had caused the problems.

    Riding a geared hard tail the first year (starting 4 months after the surgery), I could barely walk that fall. Then, for the next year, I adjusted my bike fit, moving my seat more than an inch forward and experienced much less low back/nerve pain in year two.

    Year three, I bought a cheap single speed for training--theory was the climbing would help regain some of the strength lost from reduced nerve connections in my left leg. I have noticed that my back feels better than it has in 20 years and this is correlated with lots of rigid single speed riding on Montana trails. My theory is this improvement is due to a different riding position (standing instead of seated on both climbs and descents), and better core strength from "rowing" the bike up hills.

    For context, I also do yoga regularly, focusing on selected ashtanga or "power" yoga asanas that work for me--from lots of experience I know many asanas are not good for people who have had low back surgery. If it hurts like hell, don't do it. In general, if something hurts your back it is probably hurting your back, so change your position or technique until it does not hurt.

    Long answer to your question--yes, surgery can help especially if you are experiencing foot drop; and yes, you can ride single speed after that surgery, in my opinion. My surgeries were L4/L5 and L5/S1 (lumbar laminectomy) at age 32, followed by L4/L5 (microdisk to remove shards of a shattered disk that were lodged against the nerve) 13 years later. More or less full recovery, but I wasn't going to accept any other outcome so I guess that's also part of it...

  14. #14
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    Two herniated disc in lower back. Just worn out from 30 years working for ups. Too much of a chicken shyte to get cut on. Got an inversion table and do core work and am still working with ups and riding single speed mtb. Had I not gotten an inversion table I would not be doing either. The first time I strapped myself in an inversion table I could feel the release in pressure and tension almost immediately. They work period.

  15. #15
    CS2
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    Quote Originally Posted by timsmcm View Post
    Two herniated disc in lower back. Just worn out from 30 years working for ups. Too much of a chicken shyte to get cut on. Got an inversion table and do core work and am still working with ups and riding single speed mtb. Had I not gotten an inversion table I would not be doing either. The first time I strapped myself in an inversion table I could feel the release in pressure and tension almost immediately. They work period.
    I only made it 21 years at Big Brown before I blew a few out. PT helped out a lot. Never tried the inversion table but only hear good things about it.
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  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by edubfromktown View Post

    I too have tight hamstrings and find stretching them and my quads daily to be the best preventive measure. My back pain flares up somewhere around 5 or less times a year. I get the sensation of something slipping in my back or an unplanned/poorly executed twisting motion while carrying an object often leads to back and leg pain within hours.

    When it happens, I cannot stand up straight (my torso is typically offset ~10 degrees left) and over a couple of days, things start to loosen up. People at work rib me for hobbling around like an old man for longer
    This is my exact situation for the past 7 years. It sucks.
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  17. #17
    singletrack bound
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    Yep, 58 yo. here. Herniated L5 four years ago. had been riding SS exclusively for 8 yrs prior. I thought the same thing you were thinking. No more SS'ing.
    I now have three bikes, 1x10 HT 3x10 HT and SS HT and mix them all up. last three rides have been on the SS and that is what brought me back to this forum. I had two epidurals and that helped me a bunch. I do have some sciatica now and then but working the core and being aware is key. riding 3 to 4 days a week. You will get back on the bike......

  18. #18
    RPG
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    I just got my epidural steroid injection. Start PT next week. Hoping to be back on a bike by spring. Stinks too, because winter biking in NH is great. I'm going to miss my snowbike.

  19. #19
    singletrack bound
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    I was off my bike for about five to six weeks. started back very slowly but quickly bounced back. hang in there.

  20. #20
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    I herniated a disc early this year, and had sciatica down my right leg and couldn't even think of riding. Went to a back specialist who didn't even touch my back but was ready to cut before I could even finish describing my symptoms.
    What ended up working for me was rest for about a month(but still plenty of movement and walking, just nothing too intense), acupuncture, and massage therapy by a therapist who practiced myofascial release (I had great results with that on a messed up, impinged shoulder too). The massage therapist also taught me all kinds of stretches and body work I can do myself with a foam roller and yoga balls, and helped me adjust my posture, etc. to help avoid further problems. So far so good.

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