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cjolsen
September 1st, 2005, 08:14 AM
I havent't posted for a while. Last week I had severe back pain, and went to the doctor. He said I had a herniated disk in my upper back/neck. My first question, of course was when can I go back to swimming and biking. He said the disk could get better on it's own (until this morning it was).

Has anyone else had a herniated disk in their neck? How long were they down? The doc said I probably wouldn't need surgery.

And the biggie:

Does swimming help or hurt the condition? What about cycling?

I'm really bummed because I was supposed to do my first Alcatraz swim next week.

battle
September 1st, 2005, 09:03 AM
In may of 2004 I had severe back pain. I ruptured L1-2 and L2-3. I wouldn't wish that on anyone. I was a candidate for spinal fusion but not microdiscectomy. Didn't want my back fused. I went to Physical Therapy 3 days a week for 2 hours. It took me about 3 months to be able to sit for more than 5 minutes. Took about 6 months to do a proper flip turn. Took a year before I could golf (another passion of mine). I still do the exercises but now at home. My golf game is actually better than before (all the core body work helped with my distance) and swimming is back as well. They told me that I had no restrictions as long as it did not hurt too much. I never stopped swimming during this whole ordeal, but did cut back for a while.

In march of 2005 I suffered a number of neck related injuries. The therapist has given me a number of exercises to do. He suspects that I have disc problems in my neck also but no MRI was done this time. I have learned how to bilateral breath and turn leading with the opposite shoulder (very difficult for me). I had a neck flare up last week but have been mostly OK.

My advice is to find a good physical therapist (mine is also a strength and conditioning coach and chiropractor). Mine was recommended by my back specialist. You will probably never be like you once were but you can live and deal with this if you are committed. On my masters team there is another swimmer with neck disc problems and there is an orthopedist who specializes in spine problems. I have learned that this is very common as we age. It can be aggravated by activity (no doubt you will feel worse after exercising for some time). In the long run you will be better off by not giving up. I see people from time to time that have let this get the best of them and are debilitated.

Good Luck

Sam Perry
September 1st, 2005, 09:35 AM
Many people already know this about me due to a thread (See: "Surgery" thread) I started last year, I have had 4 lower back surgeries. L3-S1 area. I would be happy to talk to you about my ordeal, if you're interested PM me. I will give you my phone number and let you know what I have learned. Reader's Digest version: first surgery was unnecessary IMO and last three were mainly due to the first. I also learned not to give an opinion about what to do with a bad back unless asked. Mentally you can go crazy, b/c so many people have so many different opinions about what to do. Would love to talk to you if I can help at all.

DanDal
November 30th, 2005, 05:28 PM
I have been living with lower back pains since I was 20 years of age (I am 44 now). The first doctor I saw when I was 20 told me:

"Daniel, you have two options: you can have a surgery now and
-hope- to fix the problem or you can strenghten your core muscles to better sustain your body and minimize the pain."

During the years that followed, it was easy to see that If I practiced sport regularly and also paid attention to strengthen my core muscles, I would not have any back pain. As I would become sedentary again, for any reason, the back pain would come back.

Three years ago, while playing with my kinds in Lake Tahoe (sitting in a plastic disc and sliding down in the ice/snow), something went very wrong. Next day I was practically paralyzed because of a lower back pain.

I waited few weeks to see if the problem would go away. It got better, but the pain was still there.

After seeing the first doctor and having an X-ray I found out I had ".... Degenerative disk disease at the L4-5 level ... "

I continued to swim. For few months the pain seemed to have gone away ... until I decided to jump off the start block. The dive hit me badly and I remember asking myself "how am I going to compete now ? I refuse to start an event from the bottom ..."
I was getting depressed.

The doctor referred me to the physical therapist, who gave me a bunch of exercises to do regularly. I did, and the pain would not go away.

I finally did an MRI (a year ago) and the report showed this:

"1. Spondylolisthesis of L5 over S1.
2. Disk herniation at L4-5 lateralizing to the right and [etc]"

Today I feel FINE.

I will copy below what I read in the previous threads and agree 100%:

- "My advice is to find a good physical therapist (mine is also a strength and conditioning coach and chiropractor). "

- "I also learned not to give an opinion about what to do with a bad back unless asked. Mentally you can go crazy, b/c so many people have so many different opinions about what to do."


I will tell you what have worked for me:


a) Swimming is fine. I just don't abuse my body anymore with strong flip turns and dives.

b) I have established the goal of having great ab muscles, or being more generic: to strengthen my core muscles. This is not only helping me with my back issue, but is also a key aspect in swimming as we all know.

(yes ... I have been very careful on what type of exercise I can do ...)

c) I have been doing lots of stretch (and pull ups) using a fixed bar (I Just hang from the bar for a minute).

d) Now what really made the difference: a device called TENS (transcutaneous electro-nerve stimulator).

I first thought the device would only masquerade the pain, because the injury would be always there, and after all, I had a DEGENERATIVE disease (which implies that it can only get worse as time goes by).

Well, I found the following article on the Net the other day and it gave me HOPE. It says that the injury can actually REGENERATE:

http://www.spineuniverse.com/displayarticle.php/article805.html

I plan to have another MRI next year to monitor the injury.

Cheers,

Daniel D

hmlee
November 30th, 2005, 09:38 PM
Hey! Join the club! Well, my MRI says I'm not herniated, but I am bulging at L5. Should be meeting with my sports med doc to figure out exactly what I can do in the water...

Little nervous.

Before my MRI I had trouble with short axis strokes, flip turns, and starts. Not sure if that's a common thing or just something specific to me.....and anyway mine's in the lower back, not the neck.

Edit: I should say I'm 19 now, will be 20 in a few months. So I guess I'm like Daniel was...back problems before before my prime! Not fair!

A.K.
November 30th, 2005, 09:49 PM
Originally posted by battle
In may of 2004 I had severe back pain. I ruptured L1-2 and L2-3. I wouldn't wish that on anyone. I was a candidate for spinal fusion but not microdiscectomy. Didn't want my back fused. I went to Physical Therapy 3 days a week for 2 hours. It took me about 3 months to be able to sit for more than 5 minutes. Took about 6 months to do a proper flip turn. Took a year before I could golf (another passion of mine). I still do the exercises but now at home. My golf game is actually better than before (all the core body work helped with my distance) and swimming is back as well. They told me that I had no restrictions as long as it did not hurt too much. I never stopped swimming during this whole ordeal, but did cut back for a while.

In march of 2005 I suffered a number of neck related injuries. The therapist has given me a number of exercises to do. He suspects that I have disc problems in my neck also but no MRI was done this time. I have learned how to bilateral breath and turn leading with the opposite shoulder (very difficult for me). I had a neck flare up last week but have been mostly OK.



WOW!
You would not know from the swim times you have swam!

patrick
December 1st, 2005, 10:06 AM
cjolsen:

Have you had a MRI? I'd get one and make an appointment to have a neurosurgeon look at the results. A herniated disk will "always get better", but an active person will inevitably have difficulty in the future.

In 2002 I had a herniated L4 disk (lower back) which was bulging and after seeing the MRI decided to have the surgery (a neurosurgeon).

What my guy did is slice open the lower back (a 3 inch scar), and with a laser, flick out disk fragments and other bone detritus that came from the disk bulging. Then he shaved the bulged disk, cut some additional gelatinous disk material, and re-packed the disk back into the spine.

When I awoke from the anesthesia, I felt much better--though of course the incision hurt (before the surgery I could not move to my left, when I awoke I could).

Also, what precipitated the surgery: I slammed on my brakes to avoid an accident (no impact) and the jolt of braking threw out my disk. So it's not always some traumatic accident. And when I would injure myself before the surgery it was always something mundane like changing the air filter on my car, cleaning the tub, or raking leaves.

For the neck they go in through your throat--I had a friend have the surgery last year who is a triathlete and he's doing much better.

Good Luck!

rtodd
December 1st, 2005, 04:06 PM
Welcome to the club! I've had bouts of lower back pain since my late 20's. I was a competative track sprinter up until last summer. I am 41 now. The back pain was too much to bear for over one year and I could no longer put the work in. I finally got an MRI which showed a torn and herniated L5 disc. Also dessicated (dried out). My doctor did not feel it was real bad and to give it time to heal on its own. Surgery is the last thing that I wanted. I do not get paid to run. I chose to give up sprinting and all the things that went along with it like squats, dead lifts, power cleans etc.

This is why I have turned to swimming and biking. These activities I can do reasonably well with my current back situation. I am training in the pool hard and hope to start competing soon.

ther are alot of personal factors that go into a decision. For me I need to balance life against always wanting to compete. I have a job, family and other things to consider.

How old are you? give it time to heal and then start back up slowly and listen to your body. If you are young, these "spasms" will pass rather quickly IMO. For my back it used to take about a week or two.



Battle:
My advice is to find a good physical therapist (mine is also a strength and conditioning coach and chiropractor). Mine was recommended by my back specialist. You will probably never be like you once were but you can live and deal with this if you are committed. On my masters team there is another swimmer with neck disc problems and there is an orthopedist who specializes in spine problems. I have learned that this is very common as we age. It can be aggravated by activity (no doubt you will feel worse after exercising for some time). In the long run you will be better off by not giving up. I see people from time to time that have let this get the best of them and are debilitated.

This is good advice.

I think swimming and biking can both be done with messed up spines, there just isn't enough load or violent pounding. I think you should stick with it. Ever think of sprinting? I think it would help strengthen your upper back.