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Herniated disk experience?(23 posts)

Herniated disk experience?erikvn
Nov 10, 2002 2:47 PM

I was diagnosed with a herniated disk last week, yea. This caused sciatic pain along with general low back pain and stiffness. I have been getting better as a result of a course of steriods (not the muscle head type, so stop there).

Anyway, I am blaming this on real weak stomach/low back muscles. I know I put little time into gym work last winter. I also had my bike fit checked and it was determined that my seat height was 4cm too high!?

I just wanted to know if any other riders out there have experienced this and what they did to correct/improve the situtation.

re: Herniated disk experience?Akirasho
Nov 10, 2002 3:38 PM
L5 S1...

You should consult with your physician and a Physical Therapist (if your doc is not sports med specific, then seek out a sports med (preferrably cycling) therapist) to develop a plan to your specific needs.

My disc is the least of my current crop of worries, and unless it has flared up, riding actually feels better... and when it does, I can sometimes break out and ride my recumbent (the hardest part being, lifting a 30 pound bike).

At present, there is little corrective measures to be taken for my particular injury that aren't worse than the disease (no surgery or shots)! As you surmize, strengthening certain muscle groups helps (I use, both mat work, free weights and a bit of machines)... as well as good ergonomics in everyday life (one of the worst flareups I had occured while bending to put an empty liner in a trash can (11 days in the hospital and two months off work)... hit the floor like the proverbial ton o bricks.

Currently, I've been free of any severe problems for over a year... though I do have minor episodes (kinda like warning bellzzz... telling me to take it easy) from time to time (perhaps in 3 or 4 month intervals). Again, consult with your physician.

We abide.

Remain In Light.

Be the bike.
re: Herniated disk experience?The Human G-Nome
Nov 10, 2002 5:17 PM
i'm only 31, but i have the same problem and it's always at the back of my mind. really tought climbs where i'm really mashing seem to worry me the most. i bought a "yoga for the back" video that i partake in 3 or 4 times a week as well lots of exercises to strengthen the stomach. i'm hoping it all pays off.
Where did you get that video?...David Ho
Nov 10, 2002 5:45 PM
I too suffer with a bulging L5-S1 disc and it really only bothers me when I get up in the AM and when I dont take care of myself properly.I would love to get a video so I can force myself to take care of it.A website or # would be great.

re: Herniated disk experience?bsdc
Nov 10, 2002 5:41 PM
Yikes! Herniated discs aren't good for anyone ... especially cyclists. First off, I hope your diagnosis is wrong. If it is a herniated disc you can expect the steroids to wear off and you'll be in the same place were were to start with. If you truely have a herniated disc and you want to keep on cycling, you need to find a doctor or physical therapist that is an avid cyclist and knows a lot about biomechanics. Good luck!

Bradley <--- chiropractor
re: Herniated disk experience?Broomwagon
Nov 10, 2002 5:52 PM
I have a herniated cervical disc (C6/7-T1) which causes numbness and shooting pain down my left arm. Also hurts to hold my head up when riding. I've been taking Prednisone for the flare-ups and Vioxx for the normal day-to-day pains. Started to get better until I went to physical therapy which aggravated the disc. Now I have a constant pain in the arm and soreness in the neck.

My Neurologist suggests taking time off the bike. I've cut down but have not totally stopped. Living in Seattle, it's dark by 5pm and more wet than dry so maybe that will force me to stop for awhile.

I've got about 1.5" difference between the top of my saddle and the bars so that should help a little. I think I just need to stop for awhile.

Anyhow, while attending PT, not only did they work on my neck, which ultimately aggravated the problem, but they had me doing more stomach crunches and other mid-section exercises to stabalize the spine.

Good luck on your recovery.
re: Herniated disk experience?gtx
Nov 10, 2002 7:40 PM
I got the same diagnosis from several docs (herniated disk), was told I'd never ride again (after 12 years of riding/racing). I was off the bike for two years with terrible pain. Saw all the PTs, docs, chiropractores, various specialists, did all the exercises, built up the strongest abs, etc. and it only got worse, not better. Then I read this book by Dr. Sarno and was 80% better in two weeks. No joke. A month later I was back on the road bike and a few months later I was 100% better and racing mountain bikes (hardtail) again. It's been several years now with zero pain. Check out the reviews (not just the few that are on top presently--rougly 1 in 10 is a naysayers, but most are 5 star reviews). Good luck.
This is no BSmoneyman
Nov 11, 2002 8:42 AM
I had this problem in January, 2000. Didn't think I would ever ride again. Went through exercises, adjusting bike fit, steroids, pain-killers, chiropractor, acupuncture, pretty much everything short of the steroid shots to my spine and eventually surgery. Pretty much given up hope of sleeping the night through, much less riding a bike. Then I posted the question here and got the same response you have written with regard to Sarno's book. Maybe it was you who responded. Regardless, I read the books and I am now pain-free, riding 4,000 miles a year.

The cost of meds, MD visits, DC visits, PT sessions, and surgery far outweigh the $15 it cost for the books.

The really tragic part of the back-injury industry is that nobody ever has just ONE back surgery.

Good luck.

great news!!!gtx
Nov 11, 2002 9:34 AM
It was probably me. I've been like a broken record on the subject since it fixed me in '98. Quite a few people on this site and have come back reporting similar results.
re: Herniated disk experience?dstahl
Nov 11, 2002 12:24 PM
I experienced the same thing. Doctor after doctor, PT after PT, steriods, etc. But, the pain still existed. I saw a show on Dr. Sarno, bought the book and have been pain free for three years. I went from not being able to lift my kids to playing basketball three days a week, cycling 2500 miles per year, participating in triathlons and, best of all, carrying and playing with my children!
very cool nmgtx
Nov 11, 2002 3:14 PM
re: Herniated disk experience?Book Boy
Nov 10, 2002 8:18 PM
I'm having a similar problem. I have not suffered from any chronic back pain ever. I suffer more pain in the back of my thigh, rather than lower back. At first I thought it was a result of a back strain I had 2 mos prior to my first flare up. It first hit me the day of a century.

After visiting my ortho for xrays and some quick tests, he diagnosed me w/ a herniated disc. At PT we went through strenghtening exercises, stretching & lifting techniques and posture. I didn't ride for 5 weeks and I haven't seemed to make much progress in eliminating any pain.

I've now begun to ride again, lowering my seat has eliminated much of the pain while riding. I also have temporary relief from the pain and increased range of motion after a day or two of spending considerable amount of time on my feet. When I get chained to my desk the pain returns.

I'm returning to my doctor this week and I'm going to question the usefulness of an MRI in making a more exact determination of the source of pain. Best of luck.
re: Herniated disk experience?siclmn
Nov 10, 2002 10:19 PM
Try to get bars level with seat. Stop the exercises they just anger the injury. Your body will heal it's own self if you keep everything mellow. Read Dr Sarno's book.
re: Herniated disk experience?ghoss
Nov 11, 2002 4:50 AM
L5 S1 also, diagnosed last year. I tried the chiro, steroids (3 corisone injections over 4mths) , exercise nothing seemed to work.

I had Microdisocotmy (sp). The ortho removed part of the herniated disk. I was doing fine until I lifted something that I was not supposed to, anyhow a second surgery (on the same disk) in March.

I am on the bike again, riding 150-200 miles a week, intervals..whatever (no weights!). The back does give me trouble at times and I lower the intensity or stop for a few days.

My advice: although the surgery helped me, do not do it until you have tried everything else.

Good Luck!
How does this happen?GMS
Nov 11, 2002 6:01 AM
Is there any warning? How do we prevent this from happening?

It would be terrible if you could get a herniated disk just from riding in what you think to be a comfortable position.

Physical therapy is highly recommended from everyone I know with back problems, particularly if you want to keep cycling. Good luck.
How does this happen?bsdc
Nov 11, 2002 7:30 AM
There are often not a lot of warning signs. It's not usually one specific incident that brings about a herniated disc. It's usually caused by repetitive bending and twisting. The flexed position of cycling puts a lot of pressure on your discs. It's important for your bike to fit correctly and also to sit correctly on the bike. There is a lot of information about setting up your bicycle but not a lot of information about how to sit on your bike.

I see a lot of people riding with their back humped. It's important to maintain the natural curves in your back. Rotate your hips so that your belly sags towards your top tube. This will help maintain the natural curve in your low back. You'll also notice your head will come up and it will take pressure off your neck as well. The problem most people have with this position is tight muscles. You will likely need to stretch your hamstrings and gluteal muscles to get comfortable in this position.

By maintaining proper posture on the bike you can help prevent back problems and help manage the back problems you already have.
Herniated or bulging? It gets really complicated trying to sortbill
Nov 11, 2002 7:27 AM
it out, because lots of radiologists will call a non-surgical bulge a herniation. Even sophisticated myelogram, MRI, and CT examinations don't always show what's really going on (depends on the angle of the view, depends on the position of the defect, etc.). Sometimes it's not until the surgeon is in there do they know for sure.
If the disc is bulging, it may not be causing any, repeat any, of your problems. Lots of people have asymptomatic bulging discs. If it's herniated, with bits of the gelatinous material filling the disc squeezing out into your spinal cord space, really only surgery can fix it, although there are different surgeries that are possible depending on the condition, everything from discectomies and laminectomies to percutaneous (through the skin) removal of the extruded nucleus pulposous (the gelatinous material inside the disc).
Be wary of the diagnosis, and certainly try to treat it conservatively with anti-inflammatory drugs and exercise. Get a good doctor -- be wary of the doctor who is too sure of the diagnosis or the therapy. In my experience, other than in rare cases the good doctors recommend trying a series of progressively more aggressive therapies. I know a guy who was diagnosed with a surgical disc situation 18 months ago. No question about it -- MRI diagnosis, nerve involvement in a dermatome pattern (actual nerve impingement will reveal itself in a well-defined, not necessarily intuitive pattern of pain, numbness, and tingling on your extremities), the works (he's a doctor himself). The minute he was scheduled for surgery, he started to feel better. He's been asymptomatic since.
I'm not a doctor (any doctor would guess this, I would imagine) but a lawyer who has both prosecuted and defended lots of back cases.
Re: Herniated or bulging?bsdc
Nov 11, 2002 7:46 AM
Herniated or bulging discs are esentially the same thing. Radiologists have not come up with clear definitions for describing these findings. Other confusing terms are protruding, sequestered, fragmented, slipped disc, etc.

You are right about false positives and false negatives on MRI's and about overconfident doctors. Any diagnosis is a best guess and any treatment is a trial treatment. A doctor has to add up the clues and get started. Hopefully the doctor will start with conservative care and consider surgery only when all else has failed. On the other hand, if conservative care does not work, don't wait too long for surgery. One of the key signs for considering a quick jump to surgery is muscle weakness. Permanent neurological damage can occur if one waits too long.
who says that herniated and bulging are the same thing? I'vebill
Nov 11, 2002 8:11 AM
always understood that a bulge means that the disc is not round -- there simply is an asymmetry. The asymmetry may indicate some dessication or loss of flexibility of the disc, it may indicate a stressed, weakened section (more or less the same thing, I guess), or it may just be what it is. No one really knows for sure. Whether a bulge causes symptoms is, I suppose, controversial, but I believe the doctors who say, look, maybe it ain't the way it's supposed to be, but lots goes on in perfectly normal bodies that isn't ideal. Neither logic nor other than anecdotal evidence suggests that a bulge is a problem. A G-town medical center study of some years ago found that fully one-third of asymptomatic, normal people had bulging discs by diagnostic test.
A true herniation, on the other hand, is when the disc tears and an anulus, or hole, developes through which the gelatinous material extrudes. Free-floating material can be very dangerous if it presses against the sac around the spinal cord. That's the one that nearly everyone agrees needs to be addressed.
Re: who says that herniated and bulging are the same thing?bsdc
Nov 11, 2002 8:48 AM
My point is the language on MRI reports isn't always clear and the terms used tend to get mixed up. I think of bulged and herniated almost the same thing and find I have to read the details of the report to find out if the nuclear material is still maintained within the anular fibers.

I'm aware of the report you mentioned. An MRI is not the end-all, be-all of back pain diagnosis. It must be put together with other clues such as the history, examination, nerve conduction studies, response to treatment, etc. However, MRI's are important tools for diagnosing difficult back problems.

The other term that gets mixed up in situations like this is "sciatica". Sciatica is a more generalized pain, tingling and/or numbness that usually doesn't go too far below the knee. It's usually caused by a relatively mild biomechanical problem of the low back and/or pelvis. Neurological exams is usually negative.

The term for the neurological problems associated with a herniated disc is "radiculopathy". A radiculopathy usually has a more defined pattern of pain, tingling and/or numbness. The patient can often clearly define the pattern running down into their foot along a specific path. A neurological exam will usually find alterations in sensation, strength, and/or deep tendon reflexes in specific locations.

Bradley C. Sikes, DC
Nov 11, 2002 5:50 PM
..i am in the "business" but not an MD.

I have never heard a spine surgeon ever use the term "buldging disc". Its always heriated. Some herniations rupture and expel the free fragments that you speak of.

in any case. back surgery is a bad deal(even though i make my living on it).
re: Herniated disk experience?silroadbike
Nov 11, 2002 6:08 PM
I had a bad case of herniated disk that left me laying on the floor for 3 weeks so no work or play. It was excruciating pain with nerves shooting up my legs and back.

Dr. said I needed surgery asap. I declined and instead, bear the pain, then started walking, stretching and hot jacuzzi. About several months later, I started yoga and then walking more. I didn't run till 2 years later but was able to bicycle with alot of spinning.

Honestly, I believe it was the yoga that helped me and then the bicycling.
re: Herniated disk experience?erikvn
Nov 12, 2002 9:35 AM
My condition is not nearly as bad as you or the others that have chimmed in. The pain never had me doubled over or layed out!

Just to fill in some blanks, I am under the care of an orthopedic surgeon specializing in spine. I had an epidural based on his advice. I was feeling much better in the days prior to the epidural, but went ahead with it anyway.

I'm happy to say I am still feeling good a week later. I have been working out my abs, low back, and hips to hopefully strengthen my "core". As I stated before, I did little to none of this work in the past.

I am also being dilligent with regards to streching, especially my hamstrings which have always been tight. I've read this can also put a load on the low back.

I am going to see a PT today just to see if there is any other exercises I could be doing. I am interested in trying yoga out too.