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  1. #1
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    Jun. 9, 2009
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    Question L5-S1 disc herniation and saddle fitting for the rider....

    I've been fighting back pain for a couple months, and just found out it is due to a herniated disc at L5-S1 Riding has not been particularly uncomfortable to date, in fact its way more comfortable than sitting in a desk chair. But still the Dr. says no more riding until the he clears it. But he knows that my priority is to get back in the saddle.

    So, I've been perusing the forum over lunch, and noticed that a lot of people have mentioned that the right saddle has helped them out tremendously. I'll acknowledge first thing that everyone is different, and trial and error is going to be key... But I am wondering if there are common traits possessed by the saddles that people with low back issues find comfortable?

    I've seen reference to ancient passiers, no thigh blocks/knee rolls, shallow seats, thinline pads, jointed stirrups...

    What do you do to help your back pain in terms of tack/tack modification?

    Were there specific things that you found should be avoided?
    ~~Member of the TB's Rule Clique ~~



  2. #2
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    Dec. 11, 2004
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    Default

    My discs weren't fully herniated, but were bulging and in the same region as yours (L5-S1, L4-L5, L3-L4) so I thought I would mention that in case there are some differences.

    Other than using jointed stirrups (I have MDCs that you can also adjust the eye), there were not general traits about saddles that worked/didn't work. I know that Wintecs and my back DO NOT get along anymore, so I stayed away from them when looking for saddles.

    What I do know that seems to work for me are Black Country saddles. I've tried several models, jumping and dressage, and all of them felt ok with my back.

    I think in general, I prefer something with a slightly wider seat, cushioning, and a little more block to help keep my leg secure.

    I know that's not the exact answer you wanted, but I hope it helps at least a little .

    Good luck and hope you feel better!



  3. #3
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    Jun. 9, 2009
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    Default

    Thanks pharmgirl :-) I was just hoping to "poll the audience" so to speak, and see what was repeated, and what was more individualized...

    First things first I have to get "approval" to get back in the saddle, and then near the top of my list is going to be borrowing some jointed irons for a few test rides.
    ~~Member of the TB's Rule Clique ~~



  4. #4
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    Sep. 17, 2003
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    Fort Myers, Florida
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    Default

    Be careful that it doesn't herniate further.
    "My treasures do not sparkle or glitter, they shine in the sunlight and nicker to me in the night"



  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr. 13, 2006
    Posts
    921

    Default All the secondaries help........

    however your best bet is a well rounded and adequate stabilization program.
    Add to that increased use of your hip joint and you should be able to resume some degree of riding.

    Best of luck,
    Medical Mike
    equestrian medical researcher
    www.equicision.com



  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan. 30, 2008
    Posts
    961

    Default

    I have a ruptured disc where yours is herniated and was told I would never ride my QH again, to sell him and get myself a nice gaited horse. I knew then I should of slugged the doctor!

    I ride western and english, my western saddle is a lady trail riding saddle, both leather and synthetic, so it is light to get on a 16H horse. My english saddle has nice knee pads and was comfortable to ride in to begin with. I didn't do anything differently, though I watch my carriage and sit straight up, not slouching or leaning forward.

    Guess I am lucky as I have not had to have injections, I did take glucosamine and condroiten for a while, couple months. If I get achy or start to hurt I rub a bit of DMSO and go on about what I am doing, don't whine or complain and be sure I stretch before I ride.



  7. #7
    Join Date
    May. 22, 2005
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    888

    Default

    I have nerve issues post car accident 8/27/09 involving L4, 5, S1 discs. When I finally could start to sit on my horse, I found that my treed saddle with a somewhat narrow twist (wintec) was easier for me than my favorite treeless. Once I could stay in the saddle for up to 20 minutes, I remembered why I had switched to treeless b/c my horse was showing issues. The treeless, a Barefoot London, does not have a twist. My horse moves so much better in it, but it made for a whole nother cycle of dealing with the nerve pain again. When I finally (3 mo) got to where I could ride comfortably for more than an hour, my horse got hurt and now we are back to zero. ARRGH. But, most important for me anyway, has knowing and doing the appropriate nerve stretches before and after riding, and taking an advil before the ride. Good luck!



  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb. 14, 2003
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    Windward Farm, Washougal, WA- our work in progress, our money pit, our home!
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    Default

    I have a County Innovation which is extremely well balanced for me, I can two-point effortlessly, and sit comfortably whether in a "jumping" stirrup length or a "flatting" stirrup length. I think a balanced feel is essential, so that you aren't always trying to lean forward or back to find that zone.

    I had flex stirrups, but found them ultimately uncomfortable to my knees and hips. I now ride in Royal Rider "plastic" stirrups, with a wide foot bed, which makes me more stable in the saddle, which is key to maintaining back comfort.

    I had surgery 5 or so years ago to remove the herniated bulge of L5-S1. I did PT to regain my core strength and have tried to maintain that every day since.

    Is your doctor recommending PT or surgery to alleviate your pain? I did PT, injections, more PT and finally opted for surgery, which has kept me pain free (ish) for all these years. Good luck!
    Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!



  9. #9
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    Jun. 9, 2009
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Calvincrowe View Post
    I have a County Innovation which is extremely well balanced for me, I can two-point effortlessly, and sit comfortably whether in a "jumping" stirrup length or a "flatting" stirrup length. I think a balanced feel is essential, so that you aren't always trying to lean forward or back to find that zone.

    I had flex stirrups, but found them ultimately uncomfortable to my knees and hips. I now ride in Royal Rider "plastic" stirrups, with a wide foot bed, which makes me more stable in the saddle, which is key to maintaining back comfort.

    I had surgery 5 or so years ago to remove the herniated bulge of L5-S1. I did PT to regain my core strength and have tried to maintain that every day since.

    Is your doctor recommending PT or surgery to alleviate your pain? I did PT, injections, more PT and finally opted for surgery, which has kept me pain free (ish) for all these years. Good luck!
    I seem to have lucked into a Dr who likes to avoid surgery, which I am more that OK with! The current plan is PT, inject, more PT. Happily, both my PT and Dr. think that getting back into riding will be good for my back, because of the cyclical loading/unloading of the spine that happens. I'm trying to be a very good girl, and do all my PT religiously and staying off of horsey for now. If things continue to go well, I'll be cleared to ride at the walk soon

    Its funny that this happened to me now, I've been doing kettlebells and lots of dressage, and I feel like my core is the strongest its been since high school. Clearly my perception is not reality and more correctly developing these muscles is going to be key.

    Thanks for your input re: the wider vs jointed stirrups, and saddle balance. I may be waaaay off track here, but I've been leasing this horse for 3 months and my saddle doesn't fit him, so I've been battling with one that is too big (for me). Perhaps this is part of my issue...

    Now if only I could figure out how to be comfortable at my desk and in the car... sitting is just about the most painful thing!
    ~~Member of the TB's Rule Clique ~~



  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb. 14, 2003
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    I spent a year either standing or lying down Try teaching 7th graders while lying on your back!!!

    Everyone's back is different, so you might indeed avoid a surgical option. I tried, mightily, to avoid that. My PTs agreed that riding was actually good exercise for my back, and it felt better during and immediately after riding. Don't sit the trot, as that just kept compressing mine.

    As to how it happened, despite you being in great shape? I did mine bending over to put on my socks--doc said that mine was the result of a lifetime of hard knocks
    Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!



  11. #11
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    Nov. 28, 2003
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    American Midwest
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    I am herniated at the same location you are OP and have bulging discs above that. I ended up having an epidural steroid injection and that has held me for about 18 months now...no surgery yet.

    Other than that, core exercises are your friend. I can definitely tell when I am slacking off. I've ridden in a variety of saddles since I hurt my back and haven't seen a big difference in my comfort level (Wintec, Thorowgood, Passier, County Warmblood). I do have jointed stirrups. The worst for me is sitting at the computer for long periods of time...so I try to avoid that.

    Good luck!
    Liz
    Lionwood Irish Draught Horses
    irishdraught.co



  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Waterwitch View Post
    The worst for me is sitting at the computer for long periods of time...so I try to avoid that.
    Isn't this the truth? I dread sitting down. I've even built in stops on my commute (80 mile round trip) because I can't handle sitting for that long.

    The worst bit is that I am a research scientist, and all my time is spent sitting at a computer or at a lab bench .

    Calvincrowe- putting on socks? that would make me giggle if I didn't know how bad it hurt! When my dr diagnosed me, he said "congrats, you are now officially an old lady "
    ~~Member of the TB's Rule Clique ~~



  13. #13
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    Dec. 11, 2004
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    Maryland
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    Default

    Yes, sitting sucks!

    Twigster- I know how easy it can be to lose track of how long you've been sitting (esp. in the middle of data analysis or setting up an expt!).

    Someone suggested this to me as a way to remember to get up and stretch, and I found it helped: Take one of your timers and set it for 15 min. Hopefully you will remember that when it goes off, it's to get up and move and not that something in your experiment is ready .

    In terms of comfort sitting down- have you tried a small pillow or towel behind your lower back?



  14. #14
    Join Date
    May. 25, 2003
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    Orlean, Virginia
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    Thumbs up nurse chimes in here....

    There's a BIG difference between what you might need/want by WHERE the discs are. In your case: the L5/S1 disc is the bottom of your spine and takes all the weight so concentrate on decreasing concussion. Those discs don't bend as much or have as much movement as the next one up. L4-5 is where your "small" of the back or curve is and is a much worse disc location.

    My suggestion? The Stubben Bio-Mex seat totally rocks for us "bad backers". PERFECT for your disc IMHO! For L5-S1= ride a hole or 2 longer, no sitting gaits, wear an abdominal support, get a super good shock absorbing saddlepad, keep to a shallow/medium deep seated saddle.
    BTW....been there/done that! I've herniated L3,L4,L5,S1 bla, bla, bla
    Last edited by wateryglen; Oct. 9, 2010 at 04:03 PM. Reason: Forgot to add my bla, bla, bla!!



  15. #15
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    Sep. 10, 2010
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    80

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    I've had an L5/S1 herniation for about 8 years now...I did PT immediately following the injury, but since I was only 21, surgery was not something I wanted to do. I've done dressage and hunters, have ridden lots of different horses, and have ridden in lots of different saddles. The one thing that has worked for me is a lower back brace; the one I have was specifically given to me by the PT and works wonders, especially when jumping. Unfortunately, I did take time off when the injury first happened because it hurt to even take the horse's motion at the walk. It will get better, so be patient and rest it now. My back actually feels better the more frequently I ride, mainly because it helps to stay loose. If I were you, find a saddle that fits you and keeps you balanced (which you want regardless), then invest in some sort of neoprene brace.

    I'm not sure where you live, but if it gets cold, the ThermaCare lower back wraps are your best friend! They key is to keep your muscles from tightening...I always find my disc pain comes back if my muscles are tense. It's possible to be back in the saddle if you take the right steps now. Best of luck to you!



  16. #16
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    Jun. 16, 2009
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    87

    Default

    I had 2 fractures in my L5, and the only saddle I can ride in in a Vogue. For me, having a soft seat that wasn't too deep was key.

    Unfortunately, other health issues have kept me out of the saddle for over a year now.



  17. #17
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    Jan. 4, 2007
    Location
    TX
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    Default

    I have the same problem, L5-S1, but has been there over 25 years, from a heifer that ran over me and dislocated my left hip.
    I have been riding "funny" since, trying to compensate with a "chair leg" on that side.
    Somehow, horses travel properly for me anyway.

    Finally, a year and a half ago, the Dr injected my back, it was getting that catch where you can't move more and more often and it has been great since, don't have any problems again.
    He said eventually, if and when comes back, he will try injecting again.

    I have been using my old Stubben Rex or a western saddle made on a modified association tree lady's #95, or lately a Bob's reining saddle.
    Other saddles make my back hurt right away, so I think you can tell right away, before your back gets worse.
    Also, a very few horses made my back hurt right away also, the way they moved, stiff and jerky.

    I would NOT ride while the Dr is still working on figuring what is going on and what to do for you, do what he tells you and you should be ahead with your healing.



  18. #18
    Join Date
    May. 25, 2003
    Location
    Orlean, Virginia
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    Smile yes it's hard!

    Another thing...most true disc herniations get re-absorbed within 6-12 months. The herniation can heal in a nerve impinging shape tho' which is what is left after some. It "ankyloses" or "freezes", "scars", "fixes" in an anatomically poor position so after that point injections still help but surgery is the most likely help for pain. Give your back a good chance by doing a good job rehabbing for that first year and if needed....crank down any concussive activities like riding hard. Maybe just walking your horse.



  19. #19
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    Mar. 13, 2006
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    I have ruptured my L5/S1 disc 2 different times now and had the surgery done both times. However, I was in a great deal of pain from the extreme sciatica. I took about 3 months off of riding after the surgery to heal and get stronger in my core. Many people opt out of the surgery, but for me that was the quickest way to becoming pain free again. I have no problems riding now and I use a Butet saddle. However, like many others have said, I do not do sitting trot nor do I ride without stirrups. I don't want to risk re rupturing the disc a third time. Good luck to you I know what a pain it is to have a ruptured disc!



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