Bicycling after spinal fusion
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  1. #1
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    Bicycling after spinal fusion

    Well, I need some advise. I'm having L4-5 fused in 2 weeks. After healing, (doc says 3 mos) I want to get back on my road bike and ride.

    Getting a frown from people about riding after spinal fusion, What say the bicyclists?

    TC

  2. #2
    tlg
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    Quote Originally Posted by jtc89 View Post
    Getting a frown from people about riding after spinal fusion
    People? What people?
    What does your doctor say? Seems that's who you should listen to as they know your particular issue.

    What say the bicyclists?
    I know two people with spinal fusions who are serious riders. (actually one of them has a rod in his spine, not sure if he has a fusion)
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  3. #3
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    I had my C4-5 fused in the spring of 2000. I was off the bike for about 2 months while letting the fusion heal up. When I got back to riding, it took a while before I had full rotation of my neck. But I've been able to resume normal riding since then. I know it sucks to have this type of surgery right at the start of warm weather, but my advice is to git 'er done and hope you can move on pain free. Good luck.
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  4. #4
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    I had L4-L5 fused in 2010. I wasn't riding much in those days, as I had been in so much discomfort for so long that it just didn't appeal to me to even try.

    I had gained a lot of weight over that time. After the surgery, I started feeling better after a while and started losing weight. Once I got back down to a somewhat comfortable weight I started riding again, albeit very casually just to enhance the weight loss.

    In 2016 and 2017 I rode over 9k miles (each year). Been less each year since, but due to other health issues. My back has stabilized to the point where I don't think about it much any more. It still bothers me, and I have an occasional flare up, but my back isn't keeping me from doing things I like to do.

    My suggestion is to work closely with you Doctors (GP, Surgeon, etc..) and, probably more importantly, find a good physical therapist who has had sucess with this in the past. I can't recommend this enough. A good PT working with a patient who is determined to improve (BY FOLLOWING MEDICAL ADVICE - NOT OVERDOING IT) is your best chance for success.

    Good luck!

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Finx View Post
    A good PT working with a patient who is determined to improve (BY FOLLOWING MEDICAL ADVICE - NOT OVERDOING IT) is your best chance for success.
    Excellent advice. Have not had spinal work done but have had numerous broken bones and had numerous people assume that "You're not going to do [that sport] anymore, right?" Wrong. My GP told me last year that recovery from orthopedic surgeries is "90% the patient, 10% the surgery." Rehab is all on you, and getting good PT advice is the place to start.

    I'll always remember a friend in high school who broke his finger. When they took the splint off, he refused to work the joint "because it hurt." A few months later they had to essentially break his finger again because of a fused joint. Lesson learned.

  6. #6
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    Thank you for the replies. After 2 total shoulder and 2 total knee replacements, I agree a good PT is the most important voice in the recovery.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by tlg View Post
    (actually one of them has a rod in his spine, not sure if he has a fusion)
    By definition, a rod in your spine means you have a spinal fusion. If the doctor didn't put bone growth material between the vertebrae to speed up fusion, the joints will be fused after a couple of years of no movement (due to the rods).

    Speaking as someone fused from T6-T11 since 2017 due to a tumor and dual titanium rods for life.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by AlanE View Post
    I had my C4-5 fused in the spring of 2000. I was off the bike for about 2 months while letting the fusion heal up. When I got back to riding, it took a while before I had full rotation of my neck. But I've been able to resume normal riding since then. I know it sucks to have this type of surgery right at the start of warm weather, but my advice is to git 'er done and hope you can move on pain free. Good luck.

    C5-C6 here, results of a fairly serious crash in the El Tour de Tucson. I was able to start riding on the trainer after about two weeks, on the road in about two months, racing at 6 months. It takes about six months for the bone block to form properly so the risk of re-injury is minimal. It would be unwise to take any real risks until you're pretty far into that healing process.

    Comfort on the bike varies. In an endurance bike position there's no issues at all. In a low, long racing position there is some discomfort after a long ride. I can't do the aero bar TT position for more than about an hour without having some soreness. It's not the repaired area that experiences discomfort, it's the joints above and below the repair that take additional movement.

    In race positions I try to keep my head down more than I used to and look up the road more with my eyes. Just to be clear, the discomfort is due to the added motion in the adjacent vertebrae while looking up. If you can avoid doing this the discomfort should be minimal. Rotation is different than it was before, but, not compromised and certainly not painful.

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