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Bad discs - are my cycling days doomed?(13 posts)

Bad discs - are my cycling days doomed?E3
May 23, 2001 3:33 PM
My next to last two discs - L4 and L5, I believe - are thin, dark, and bulging, which causes great pain, particularly when cycling. I can stand one, sometimes two hours at a time in the saddle, but I pay for it the rest of the day. I fear losing my ability to cycle.

Has anyone else dealt with this problem? I remember fairly recently someone on this board had a similar problem and received the epidural injections. I had one three weeks ago, but it did not help. I'm scheduled for a second.

I guess it could be worse, as I saw folks in the waiting room wearing braces and using walkers, but I can't stand the prospect of not being able to ride.

Sorry to sound like I'm whining, but not being able to ride is unacceptable.
You sound like recumbent bait to me...Retro
May 23, 2001 3:57 PM
Lots of people with bad backs have switched to recumbents. I thought about it myself for awhile, but my problems weren't serious and I can control them pretty well with exercises. An occasional poster named Akirasho seems to know a lot about 'bents--if you can track him down, he may be helpful.
re: Bad discs - are my cycling days doomed?Akirasho
May 23, 2001 5:18 PM
I've got the classic L5/S1 herniation... but riding an upright (when the condition hasn't flared up) acutally feels pretty good to me... kinda takes some of the pressures off the disc. I've had the condition for nearly 10 years and so far, have avoided the knife (when it does flare... I'm off my feet (literally) for a week minimum... with anti inflammatories (Naprosyn) and PT(including ultrasound)). Generally, I succumb perhaps once a year to the condition... I can usually feel it coming on... a sharp twinge in the lower left back (usually created by improper body mechanics or heavy lifting) which eventually moves across the entire back and down the left leg. Unfortunately, if I can feel it coming on... it's too late to avoid!

What did your doc say??? Epidurals treat a symptom and may allow some relief from pain and time to heal, but if it isn't linked to some other forms of treatment, you're bound to be stuck in that boat for a long time. If possible, consult a Sports Med Physician who also cycles... they'll be much more sympathetic to your long term prognosis.

A recumbent may be a viable alternative... contrary to many opines, a well designed short wheelbase (SWB) 'bent can handle nearly as nimbly as an upright road racer. They can be a bit of a bear to get up steep inclines (my running joke is to scream "Look at me, I'm standing!!!" when riders ahead of me stand to make an ascent) but proper gearing can make it easier if not faster. They can be extremely quick of flat to rolling (did a rolling to hilly metric last weekend and held an 18.1 average till about the 55 mile mark before the hills started to eat me alive... still ended with a 17.7)

I ride a couple of SWB's, both Visions. Both have under seat steering (USS) but can be converted to OSS (over seat steering). It's a matter of some aerodynamics... ergonomics and personal preferences.

Recumbents use the muscle groups in slightly different ways, so it takes a bit of time to acclimatize to them. And you can do both... I've got 16 bikes and only two are 'bents. I use the recumbents for a bit of cross training and an alternative when other parts of the anatomy could use a rest but the legs still gotta go. I still enjoy my uprights.

Recumbents have an extremely quick learning curve... if you can ride an upright... and know how to sit in a chair... you've pretty much mastered it.

Check out other HPV/'bent options at

Good luck and...

Be the bike.
Hey, cool-looking bent!look271
May 23, 2001 6:39 PM
Aren't you Warren S. that used to post @ Bicycling Mag's board way back when?
I own two 'bents.E3
May 23, 2001 6:44 PM
A Trek R200 (no fun, a dog), and my prized custom Reynolds Wishbone RT, a low, fast, comfy bike.

So, yes, I log more miles on my RT than on my upright, and I love it. But, ultimately, it's just not as satisfying. No standing to slog up a hill, no sprints, can't enter any races, and although I haven't taken the RT to a group event, I suspect I might not be welcome in some pacelines.

It doesn't help to watch the Giro. Watching racing only serves as a grim reminder of why I love to ride my upright.

My problem has been brewing for about 12 years, but only in the last two has it gotten progressively worse. I've been cycling for 5 years, and initially, it helped.

I like the idea of finding a cycling-friendly doc, if I can find one.
re: have surgery and get it over with.mdooley
May 23, 2001 6:58 PM
I had surgery on L5-S1 4 weeks ago, a slipped disc that had hurt for years off and on and 24/7 for the past 6 months. I went to the hospital at 6am and was home by 4pm, 2 weeks off from work and after 4 weeks I'm riding again. My only regret is that I didn't have surgery months ago. I haven't had a pain pill in 4 weeks. Have surgery and start living AGAIN.

L5/S1 surgury hereJohnG
May 23, 2001 7:18 PM
There are lots and lots of things that you can do about your situation. The first is probably STOP riding!!! This problem can turn real ugly if you don't get some rest and recovery going. IMHO, this also means doing some research and NOT relying on docs to "fix" you with a shot or worse. :(

BTW: "Bulging" disks are VERY common in the general population (something like 50%) so don't let docs poke around in you "because" of that.

There are quite a few posts about this subject on RBR. Do a little research here and then dig around on the web for general info. I'd need more info before I could make any more concrete recommendations than that.

good luck
re: Bad discs - are my cycling days doomed?got2ryd
May 24, 2001 4:57 AM
sorry about your back, e3. ive got problems at L5/S1. there is evidence of an old fracture of L5 and its moved foward over S1 a bit. i sought the help of a chiropracter who helped me out tremendously. i had to go to full susp on my mtn bike and i recently upgraded to a new road bike with a vertically compliant rear triangle. i dont have disc problems, but i agree with john g. do some research, get second and third opinions and try to find a sports medicine doctor (md or chiro) that wants to help you avoid the knife. and if youre a bit overweight, shed some pounds. also, with the help of a PT, work on your abs and back muscles and stretch. good luck!
re: Bad discs - are my cycling days doomed?Len J
May 24, 2001 5:24 AM
Myn wife had the same problem. She bought a recumbant & hasn't looked back.(Pardon the pun) Try several different ones as seats support differently.

Good luck
re: Bad discs - are my cycling days doomed?RickMTB
May 24, 2001 8:56 AM
I have a degenerated L4-L5 and I had a laminectomy to remove the L5-S1 which had herniated (and part had broken off). After six months recovery (and forced time off the bike) I bought a recumbent (BikeE AT) just so that I could ride again. I increased my mileage on that to the point I was commuting 12 miles each way to work. After another couple of months I resumed MTBing (on a Cannondale SV2000). About two years laer I bought my first road bike (to ride the MS150) and though I can get as "aero" as others I find I can ride distances on the bike (Lemond Buenos Aires).

My advice: go to a doc and listen/follow instructions. Lose some weight and strengthen the area around the waist. Learn proper posture (seated and standing). Learn to pick up things correctly.
re: Bad discs - are my cycling days doomed?charleyadams
May 24, 2001 10:14 AM
I just got back from the doctor. He gave me the L4-L5 bad news, too. He asked me to start swimming and that I might want to leave the bike alone. I DON'T THINK SO!!! I think the last reply before me was the wise way to take care of this problem for me. A lot of ab work and better preventative care to keep this from becoming a REAL problem in the future.

Thanks for the advice and sentiment.E3
May 24, 2001 10:23 AM
For the record, I'm age 38, 5' 10", 158 lbs. I do at least 200 ab crunches 5 days a week, and I stretch. Other than my back, I feel great, and I'm in the best shape I've been in since high school.

That's what's so maddening; I feel like my body's 20, and my back's 90.
Thanks for the advice and
May 25, 2001 2:27 AM
If a person can walk lower back pain free but is tortured by lower
back pain when he attempts to ride a 25 mile TT, there is a complete
cure for that problem. The problem is caused by the normal recommended
pedaling style which places all the necessary strain in the lower
back area, this strain will aggravate any imperfect area in the lower
back and varying degrees of cumulative pain will be the result. This
pain can only be ended by climbing off the bike and ending that
strain. A completely different pedaling technique will place all the
strain in the hips and leave that same imperfect lower back feeling
relaxed and completely pain free. It is the pedaling that was used by
J. Anquetil in the 50's and 60's and which was frowned upon by the
experts. It is being tested next month by an independent sport's
technologist as the cycling experts still have no time for it.
Speaking from experience, if one continues to endure the pain, he/she
can cause further damage to that already imperfect area.