View Full Version : Any swimmers with degenerative disc disease?

September 24th, 2005, 11:47 AM
Simple question: What are the effects of the kind of swimming we do on DEGENERATIVE DISC DISEASE.

I'm nearly pain free. My C7-C6 herniation, while debilitating a few weeks ago, is only causing minor numbness and tingling in my right hand.

I cannot, for the life of me, find a competent medical authority, definitive research, or a firsthand account of how 2000-3000 yard workouts, including intervals and distance training, effect the cervical spine.

Yeah, yeah, I know that I allegedly "twist my neck" when I swim, but I also know that proper stroke technique includes rolling one's body rather than turning one's head to breath.

But my C6-C7 disc took my right arm out of commission for a while. It seems to be getting stronger. Will I ever get it back?

I want to get back in the water and start swimming soon. I was supposed to do an Alcatraz swim a couple weeks ago, and I want to do it next year. After a month off, I should start training now.

Before I started swimming, I had lower back pain that virtually disappeared when took up the sport. That was two years ago. I just can't seem to get an answer as to whether I should be swimming, or if I should not be swimming.

Thank you.

September 24th, 2005, 12:24 PM
cj, my hands used to go numb...degenerative disk disease was the diagnosis. In 2001 I had fusion surgery, fused 3, 4 & 5 together. Instantly the pain and numbness were gone. Yours might be a little more difficult, I believe when you start talking about fusing 6 & 7 you will probably lose more range of motion then I did. But personally I would recommend the surgery. I never knew how much pain I was living with until after the surgery. I woke up, and for the first time in years there was no pain or numbness. I swim between 3 - 6 k a day. I am limited to breathing to the right, limited motion to the left. Since the surgery I have found that taking Glucosamine Chondroitin helps with the joints. It can take 4-6 months to feel the effects, but it works.

Sam Perry
September 24th, 2005, 01:27 PM
I have it, have had 4 surgeries in my lower back because of it. Email me if you want to discuss it, I am not one to share opinions unless asked, because everyone has different situations and there is no one way to make it right. I went mentally nuts because so many people told me what to do and everyone was different. Just realize "degenerative disc disease" is a vague term that can mean lots of things.

September 24th, 2005, 02:02 PM
Thanks for the replies.

To simplify my questions:

So does swimming hurt or help your condition?

Can I ever get back to where I was before -- 1:40-1:45 distance pace, open water swims, triathlons. (interestingly, the neurologist said go ahead and run and bike all I want as long as there is no pain.)

I really don't think I'm a candidate for surgery yet. And I'm pretty sure Kaiser Permanente doesn't think so either. And my main goal is to never be a candidate for surgery.

Sam Perry
September 24th, 2005, 03:15 PM
I don't believe swimming hurts it. That is my OPINION only. Don't get surgery unless necessary, my first was not and I have paid the price for it due to an overly aggressive doctor. Just listen to your body, if it is exaggerating the pain when you swim, stop. You will get back to where you were if you give the disc time to heal and the inflamation goes down. Just don't go mental over it, that will only make it worse. If you want to read something that might help, read "Healing Back Pain", by Dr. John Sarno. He also has some videos that go with it that are excellent. It will open your eyes on how so often the real reason for spinal problems goes misdiagnosed. You can find him on the web.

Peter Cruise
September 24th, 2005, 04:30 PM
I've been working around it for twenty years, avoiding the surgery 'cause I had seen some pretty horrific outcomes. I feel swimming is the best thing you can do- with a few provisos: limit the number of dives you do to absolute minimum, & try your best to swim with perfect technique (as best you can). Also, don't do what I've done twice in the past three years: collide coming off a full-steam backstroke turn with the guy behind you also doing sprint backstroke & who is 'cheating in' on the turn. Last time left me with extreme numbness in right arm & occasional shafts of agony for approx. 3 months (however, waiting list in BC for this type of surgery approaches 2 years; it took a year just to see a specialist. By the time I finally saw the specialist I lost patience with the drugs that were helping 'manage' the pain & went back in the water & attained gradual but marked relief). Now my original condition was caused by a car accident, but in later years described in similar terms as yours, other than one disc has gone 'hypermobile' whatever that means. I would have begged for the surgery when my arm was really hurting, but now I'm back in the water & don't want it.

September 24th, 2005, 11:35 PM

I am actually 'going' to have it. DD is a hereditary disease for the women in my mom's family, and both my grandmother and her mother have it, my aunt is showing symptoms of it, and my mother is eventually going to show her own symptoms. I am at an 80% chance of showing symptoms when I near 50.

My point to that winded paragraph this: My specialist told me that swimming, even competitive swimming, is one of THE BEST things I can do towards preventing or at least elongating the progression of DD.

I can't answer your questions about getting back your times or complete recovery, but I can answer the most vital. What's important is that you listen to your body.

Jani Sutherland
September 26th, 2005, 02:43 PM
I have degenerative disc disease in L3 and L5, along with spinal stenosis. My doctor says swimming is fine. I also hang on a noodle before or after practice in the deep end and this lenthens my spine (put weights on your ankles and its even better). That really helps my back feel better.