Herniated or Bulging Disc - How did you know you were ready to ride again?
Hi! I am brand new to this forum. Hello, all.
So, after my first month of lessons I herniated my L4/L5 disc and am now in physical therapy. Looks like my prior back injuries caught up with me. What a way to start (&$***##&!!!%!!), but I am determined to get back in the saddle as soon as I've strengthened my core, as I now consider myself a horse and riding addict even with just 1 month under my belt (LOVE!!!).
I have a great orthopedic spine specialist and am working with a chiropractor who is helping me rehab and stabilize the area. I am also doing lots of Bosu Ball exercises, and will be doing exercises from "The Rider's Fitness Program."
BIG QUESTION: From a physical rehab perspective, how did you know you were ready to ride again (assuming no pain or nerve issues from the disc). I know my doc and chiro will have an opinion, but how did YOU, personally, KNOW?
I have had numerous back problems in my low back, numerous relapses, and here is how I ride.
I start slowly. When I am coming back from some bad back pain, I slowly work my way back to trotting, then to cantering, pole work, etcetera.
I am very aware of what I am doing off of a horse that could be causing extra stress on my core muscles. I try not to be sitting upright all day in a chair that is hard under my tail bone (I have a seat cushion for the car). I try to limit my lifting above my head.
I ride in a Tall back brace. Think of a corset that goes from mid ribs all the way down to over my hips. This gives me some stability in case of a spook, trip, or fall.
A Wise Air saddle is my miracle cure. I tried everything, and this saddle is the thing that keeps me able to ride. Some saddles are much harder on a back than others. A good saddle that is balanced well helps a lot. Be careful of saddles that have stirrup bars a bit to far forward. Stirrup bars that are father forward require more work from core muscles in order not to fall back into the saddle.
When I was allowed to run again-I felt like everything was back in place. I blew out the disc in May, and was allowed to ride and run in September. Nothing fancy. I began walking and trotting and gradually increasing my ride time. I was very careful not dismount in a heap or sling my saddle back up on the rack. It will be 2 yrs in May, and I hope to continue doing everything I did before the injury. I lift weights, run and am going to try TRX. Crossfit is a bit much for my back. I have days when my lower back feels tight, but I know it is muscle related and not the disc. My disc was up high, not the usual lower herniation. I also have permanent nerve damage in my left leg that extends from my hip to knee-no feeling at all in the area! It doesn't keep me from doing what I want at all. Listen to your body and you will be fine!
Windward Farm, Washougal, WA- our work in progress, our money pit, our home!
Riding never hurt me when I blew out L5-S1--so I was lucky that way. However, I could lie down or stand, no sitting.
I had surgery, so I go with that timeline: I rode 3 months post surgery,when my core was strong and I got clearance from the doctor. Are you working with a PT? My PT set me up with a super program to keep me strong going forward, and I've had no back pain since I went onto this simple routine.
So exciting to learn to ride, isn't it!? Good luck and keep on riding.
Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!
The best thing I ever did for my back after blowing out L4 and L5 was to get an inversion table. Three years later I still use it twice a day at least. I have it near my computer table and get on after working at the computer for about 30 sec. It really helps me stay aligned and stretched out.
Walmart had them for 99$ and mine is in fine shape three years later. It is a Gold Gym model.
Sound like we have very similar injuries... I went through the injection route (2 injections) instead of surgery and they helped a lot, so did the three times weekly Physical Therapy. I have no pain now (three months after injury), except for weakness on the left side and tight muscle above and below. I started riding about one and half months after injury, and cantering after two.
My spine surgeon basically told me, if it hurts, don't ride; if it doesn't, no worry. My acupuncturist told me to stay off the horse for three months, because that is how long it took internal injury to heal. As you can see, I didn't really follow my acupuncturist's advice, lol, but I didn't ride hard.
One thing I discussed with my Physical Therapist is, bodies want to go back to where they were before injuries. So if you were fit before, it would take a lot less time to get back, versus someone, who had led a sedentary life. I think I have to thank my years' Yoga for the relatively speedy recovery.
This subject has been discussed A LOT on this forum and you'd be smart to reap the benefits of those threads by doing a search on this board. There are a lot of good suggestions and information here. I pretty much agree with the "if it hurts-don't do it" method !!!
But just so you know: herniated discs take 6-12 months to "set" or heal and you'll be at risk for re-injury during that time. So be careful whenever you return to riding. Take it easy. AVOID concussive riding and concussion to your back. . NO sitting gaits. I'd use your physical therapist as your advisor on activity return. And I'd avoid chiropractors.
Totally agree with wateryglen. Even though I could start running and riding, I had to go slowly. I had to run on a track and not go downhill. Riding was walk with some trotting. Both of these were done for short time frames. The PT helped along with yoga and pilates. Second the opinion on the chiro. I used to love to go, but I think all the manipulations would aggravate the disc-jmho. I have a Back Revolution that is similar to an inversion board, and it has been wonderful to lengthen and strectch out the lower back. I "hang" for about 3 minutes. I was really fit when this happened and felt like a horse on stall rest. Horrible to deal with, but I didn't want to be laid up longer if I got impatient.
I popped out L5-S1 and pretty much as everyone has said...it is good to go slow.
My injury was in mid-August and if I recall (20 plus years ago),
I started riding in January. I did not have surgery. PT and core strengthening. After the PT was up (September with what insurance would pay), I found a massage therapist and had her go to work on my spasmed back 30 minutes twice a week. I found the deep tissue massage made the biggest impact. It was December when the spasms finally broke for good and then I was good to go.
When I started, I started slow...pretty easy to do with no indoor and January in Idaho. Me and horsie were up and going by show season (May).
When I was crossing the street and picked up a jog to get to the other curb without thinking about it. At the point where that was completely unconscious- no fear of causing more pain, I felt ready to ride comfortably.