View Full Version : Training & racing with severe joint & disc disease in neck

May 4th, 2013, 10:15 PM
I have been going to physical therapy to work on strengthening muscle imbalances with the goal of staying injury-fee, so I can swim competitively for the rest of my life. Having had major shoulder surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome (prior to returning to swimming), I thought this would be helpful; especially since the P.T. I am going to is a USMS swimmer (Skippy Mattson).

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), the exercises that were prescribed ended up aggravating an old neck injury from when I was rear-ended on the freeway, back in '92. (And, I am guessing my new backstroke bucket turn didn't help...)

Skippy worked on my neck a bit to check out what was going on and recommended getting an x-ray, because, as she put it, "There's a lot going on with your neck." As it turned out, the doc said the exact same thing when she saw the x-rays, and added, "Your x-rays are all lit up!" I took one look and just about fainted at the changes since my last neck x-rays, 10 years ago. There was white all over those vertebrae! (But, I guess it's good I know about it now...)

Diagnosis: Severe degenerative joint and disc disease, C2-C7; bridging osteophytes (bone growths) that are almost connecting C2-C3 and C5-C6; an abnormal curve in the cervical spine (to the right). I am still waiting for the official report, but this is what she said as I took notes. And, she added that the cause was mostly genetic; no surprise there as I had back surgery at a young age, just like my three siblings and father.

I am being referred to a sports medicine neurosurgeon for a consultation, however, the goal will be to do everything I can to AVOID another surgery, if possible.

At this point, until my consultation, the immediate changes I made were cutting out the dryland exercises that are causing pain. And, as much as I LOVE doing the backstroke bucket turned I had worked so hard on, it's causing to much torque on my neck. I am also changing up my freestyle open turns for the same reason. (Too bad flip turns are out for me, due to having Meniere's.)

If there is anybody out there dealing with these types of neck issues, I would be curious to hear from you. Sure, my PT is a Masters swimmer and I will be consulting her about this at my next appointment, however, hearing from somebody who trains and competes with a bad neck would be helpful. How do you deal with it, both physically and mentally?

May 5th, 2013, 08:49 AM
Elaine -I sent you a message re neurosurgery. Let me know you got it.

May 5th, 2013, 01:06 PM
Elaine -I sent you a message re neurosurgery. Let me know you got it.

Thank you very much for the referral, Patrick! I just left you a reply- and, I read your testimonial on your surgeon's website. :D

May 5th, 2013, 01:53 PM
Elaine, I sent you a PM.

May 5th, 2013, 02:45 PM
I'm trying a new, preventative idea in my practices. When I'm doing a mostly distance freestyle workout I use my snorkel in place of normal breathing.. I can bi-lateral breath but I prefer left-sided breathing and when you think about 3.5-4K of all 1 sided breathing and being in my late 50's I just know it can't be good for the neck. I'm hoping if I do this a couple times per week the benefits will add up and hopefully stave off any neck issues that could be headed my way.

May 5th, 2013, 09:13 PM
Elaine, I sent you a PM.

Thank you so much, Karlene! Your knowledge and insight will prove to be a huge help, I'm sure. From one OA sufferer to another: :bighug: