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Update - Anyone with a herniated disk? when did you start riding again?

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  • Update - Anyone with a herniated disk? when did you start riding again?

    So went to the doctor yesterday and my physical therapist and we all think I herniated a disk in my lumbar spine. Going to get an MRI next week to confirm the diagnosis. I'm having severe pain all down my right leg (butt, hamstring, calf and ankle) that only vicodin can relieve due to the sciatic nerve being pinched. Also started on a steroid dose pack.

    So anyone with this type of injury - what treatment did you do? and the million dollar question - when were you able to start riding again?
    Last edited by mackandblues; Feb. 24, 2012, 08:42 AM.
    Originally posted by Sithly
    do NOT give your 5 year old child a big bag of apples and send her out alone into a herd of 20-some horses to get mobbed. There are better ways to dispose of unwanted children.

  • #2
    I have one and I haven't ridden for 2 years now. But, that's more by choice. I just don't wish to get injured further.
    Mom to 5 rescue horses: Sunni, Gigondas, Scout, Cali, and now Quad!


    • #3
      I had exact same symptoms/pain as you did. I had a herniated disc, I chose to get the discectomy surgery! Didn't ride at all for about 4 months after surgery and now I ride multiple horses everyday, no pain at all! Be careful riding with a herniated disc/pinched sciatic nerve, you can do further damage, especially nerve damage. Nerve damage is irreversible. My pain was so bad with the sciatica, I could barely walk without copious amounts of pain killers, I didn't even think about riding. Good luck, I hope you get to feeling better soon!


      • #4
        Similar experience to Horseluvr--but I was back on at 12 weeks post surgery, very lightly. They do cut bone, so you need to wait for it to heal. I also have lots of arthritis in my lumbar spine area, so stiffness and pain come and go. When I over do out in the garden or barn lifting things or bending, I'll have a spasm episode that hurts and requires flexeril and vicodin. But, really, the discectomy was incredibly easy--outpatient surgery, in and out of hospital in 3 hours or so. Very little pain, instant relief of sciatic pain (thank God!). Don't be afraid of it-and you'll be back riding before you know it.
        Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!


        • #5
          4 months...and have never looked back.
          "You can't really debate with someone who has a prescient invisible friend"


          • #6
            I kept riding through my disc herniation(and reherniation), because I didn't go to the doctor right away, and when I did the only thing they would tell me with regards to riding was that I really shouldn't ride at all anymore. hah. Right!
            That said, riding was incredibly painful, I took extra painkillers before I rode, which helped a little, and did step it back a lot. I didn't jump or do much cantering and kept my rides short for a few months just because it hurt so much. I didn't have bad sciatica, in the grand scheme of thing, it basically felt like hip pain and bad leg cramps on my right side, more or less painful depending on what I was doing(awful leg pain when driving/sitting, not too much riding). My back was very very uncomfortable though.
            I have been putting off the surgery, though I'm told I will absolutely need it eventually, hopefully I can delay it as long as possible. I do physical therapy, etc, and it helps some. The doctor's do not think that the steroid epidural will offer much lasting help, so I have decided against that. I'll just wait until I need the discectomy.

            My back and hip do still bother me a lot(keeps me from sleeping sometimes), I take a good dose of mild opioid painkillers when I ride most of the time. I have degenerative disc disease at this point, so it will keep getting worse I guess, it's livable right now though, maybe in part because I'm used to it.

            Not fun stuff. I hope you feel better, whatever you choose.


            • #7
              Blew mine out May15th. A day I will never forget. It must have been building, but I chose to ignore the warning signs and continued to ride, run, lift weights, and unload hay. I ended up on Loracet because I literally crawled on the floor to get around. The MRI showed a massive herniation. The orthopeadic surgeon wanted to operate, but I just wasn't up for that. I went to someone who specializes in back issues. He put me on Neurotin to calm the pain shooting down my left leg. I have permanent damage to the nerve going from my hip to my knee. I can not feel any thing, but it doesn't affect me any other way. My doctor didn't think I needed surgery. He said to give it about 12 weeks to heal. I went to physical therapy and did a lot of eliptical machine cardio. I waited until the end of September to slowly begin riding. Walking at first, then adding other stuff. I have really been concentrating on pilates and yoga. I was very tentative about running. I crept along, and held my breath for any twinge. Believe it or not, but I am more fit now than before the injury. I am back running and riding normally. My doctor is the type that wants you to be able to do what you did before the injury. I am grateful for that. If I had to have surgery, it would be done by a neurosurgeon who specializes in backs, not someone who does knees, shoulders and occasionally backs. I am very careful how I lift things and try not to do any thing that may cause me to strain my back. It has become routine to me now about being careful. Just be careful and go slowly. Good luck!


              • #8
                I initially injured my lower back/sciatica in 2002 when I was 20 years old. It wasn't properly diagnosed at the time-- my PCP told me I was "too young" for a back injury and to take some Advil. I didn't ride for about 3 months. The second the pain downgraded from "excruciating" to just "really really painful," I was back riding again.

                I had manageable back pain on and off, but nothing that prevented me from riding for an extended period of time until 2009.

                Severe pain reappeared out of nowhere in 2009, worse than the initial injury. I was diagnosed with an old herniated disc and possible sciatic nerve damage. I was referred to a neurosurgeon who was (and still is) absolutely wonderful about keeping me out of surgery with steroids, painkillers, and PT. It was nearly 5 months before I was physically able to ride again... mentally, it took me about a year before I stopped worrying I might re-injure my back riding.

                I'm currently not having and problems with my back. I have not been to PT in over a year and I've been riding and jumping without pain. That could change at any time, though...
                Don't fall for a girl who fell for a horse just to be number two in her world... ~EFO


                • #9
                  Get a good spine doc. Everyone is different, so expect a lot of variation from other people's experiences. Mine has been pretty serious, but a lot of people take a steroid pack, rest, get better and never look back.

                  I blew two discs in May 2010, and gave myself significant pain and a limp. After exhausting non-surgical options (including PT and injections), I had surgery in October. No riding in between, except for a few walking trail rides. After surgery it was February before I could ride normally again, and I didn't jump until the summer. But now I can pretty much ride normally, and I'm back to jumping. Suffice to say, that was a MUCH longer timeline than I thought I was looking at in the beginning. Be patient.


                  • Original Poster

                    Yea I cant walk or do anything without taking vicodin first. I can barely get dressed, put on my pants then lie down for a bit so the pain in my leg stops then put on my shirt, rinse and repeat. It sucks so bad. Im not even thinking about riding but need to get an idea of how long it will be until I am riding again. My problems started a month and a half ago and we thought it was just a hamstring pull and ive been doing pt and resting. But then this past week was when i really herniated the disc and now in excrutiating pain. My mare has been in training this past month cause I thought I'd be back soon to riding. So need to decide if I'm just going to let her rest in January and possibly longer or keep her in training on my tight budget. Sigh. And I'm only 28 and my mare is 13. We are doing training level dressage and learning how to jump because I'm a wanna be eventer. There go all my 6 month goals...
                    Originally posted by Sithly
                    do NOT give your 5 year old child a big bag of apples and send her out alone into a herd of 20-some horses to get mobbed. There are better ways to dispose of unwanted children.


                    • #11
                      I'll add that a muscle relaxer like Flexeril might also be helpful--you're probably getting a lot of pissed off muscle spasms going on if you back is like mine.

                      I, too, exhausted all non-surgical options (injections up my tail bone, injections into the disc area, PT up the wazzoo, etc.) before opting for the surgery. I am so happy I finally went for it.

                      It will be better. Just keep saying that! And..28? Youngin' quit yer bitchin! I've had 3 injuries in the last 7 years that have kept me out of the saddle for nearly 3 years of that time. This will be over before you know it. Chin up!
                      Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!


                      • Original Poster

                        Lol thanks for the encouragement. . My parents keep saying "you're too young for back problems". Yea tell that to my back...
                        Originally posted by Sithly
                        do NOT give your 5 year old child a big bag of apples and send her out alone into a herd of 20-some horses to get mobbed. There are better ways to dispose of unwanted children.


                        • #13
                          Lol thanks for the encouragement. . My parents keep saying "you're too young for back problems". Yea tell that to my back...
                          I think the only reason my back pain was taken seriously the second time around is because I unknowingly hobbled past my new doctor in the hall of the hospital on the way to my appointment. The first thing he said, was "Oh my goodness I saw you in the hallway, how long have you been like this? Someone your age should never be in this much pain!"

                          But I promise you the pain will go away eventually... at least mine always does. It's more a matter of quality of life during painful episodes and how long those episodes last...
                          Don't fall for a girl who fell for a horse just to be number two in her world... ~EFO


                          • #14
                            feel your pain

                            just under a month ago a horse fell down a bank with me while hunting. I knew I had hurt something right away but felt like my left hip (landed hard with horse on right side down a 6ft bank). by 4 days later I was in terrible pain. Doctor put me on steriod pack and oxycodone also started PT..just kept getting worse. Last week they did an MRI and I have a torn disc at L4-5, pressing on nerve. I am going to a ortho surgeon on the 27th, also put me back on more steriods and Nucynta (3 oxy a day plus voltaren were not doing the trick). I could not dream of getting on a horse right now (I am a pro...thats my job ) I am very miserable and praying they can fix me fast? I have pain in back, down left leg and very week/numb feeling in leg.
                            I am anxious to find out what the surgeon says...


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by mackandblues View Post
                              Lol thanks for the encouragement. . My parents keep saying "you're too young for back problems". Yea tell that to my back...
                              Never too young. I got that from a lot of people.
                              My original disc herniation was when I was 16(maybe 17?). about 2 years ago. Reherniated, not as badly, around a year ago. I'm about to turn 19 now.


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by mackandblues View Post
                                Lol thanks for the encouragement. . My parents keep saying "you're too young for back problems". Yea tell that to my back...
                                I started having back trouble in my early 20's. Dr said the same thing.

                                Decades later, they are STILL saying the same thing!

                                As if by saying that a little light will go off over our heads, we'll say, "You know Doc, you're right! " And then jump off the table perfectly cured.
                                Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
                                Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
                                -Rudyard Kipling


                                • #17
                                  I actually had the same issues though for me the only time I didn't hurt was while in the saddle (mental issue perhaps?). The pain was horrible (even the drugs and steroids did nothing to help). I also spent months doing acupuncture and chiropractics which helped the pain but never fixed it (as in I still couldn't walk right, sit, or lie down without some pain). Eventually it got bad enough that I had surgery to remove the herniated disc. When I woke up from surgery all the pain was gone. It really was amazing. I was riding within 6-8 weeks (on my very sane horse). I did do rehab though which included a lot of walking and swimming along with some yoga. I still am very careful with my back but so far have been very 'sound' .

                                  ETA I'm 28, my back problems started when I was 25.
                                  A Native Floridian no longer lost somewhere in Clovis, New Mexico, but instead wreaking havoc in Reno, NV.


                                  • #18
                                    I herniated two discs (L4 and L5) a year and a half ago, and have dealt with severe pain from a pinched nerve as well.

                                    I researched into it, and heard so many horror stories from people who did the surgery and had nothing but problems in later years, that I decided to just let it heal on its own.

                                    I wasn't able to ride much the first nine months or so (could barely walk or even move sometimes), but then I started riding for short bits every other day or so. And I'm now up to 5 days a week of riding for about 45 minutes. A few months ago I would deal with a horrible burning pain down my leg which started up about an hour after every ride. But now it's only occasionally.

                                    Sorry to hear that you have to deal with this - it sure is no fun! Let me know if I can help in any way.

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                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by mackandblues View Post
                                      Lol thanks for the encouragement. . My parents keep saying "you're too young for back problems". Yea tell that to my back...
                                      I blew 2 discs at 18 after major knee surgery. You get the right series of events you can pop those things. I had been having severe back pain for weeks and I remember I was at home from college, at my desk, sneezed and... wowweeewwweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

                                      I haven't ridden since. I took up driving.
                                      "The nice thing about memories is the good ones are stronger and linger longer than the bad and we sure have some incredibly good memories." - EverythingButWings


                                      • #20
                                        I herniated pretty badly back in 2000. My sciatic pain was bad enough that I really could not function. Tried cortisone shots and they made it so that I could at least get off the floor for short periods of time but it was still bad so I had a laminectomy. Immediate pain relief. My neurosurgeon was great and knew my goal was to get back riding. I think I was back in about 5 months. For a few years I still had periodic pain but I finally figured out what actitivies were causing it (not riding) and when I cut those out, life got a lot better.
                                        Now it is occasionally a little painful but that is mostly when I either know I have overdone it or I have been bad about doing my abdominal muscle exercises).
                                        Even though surgery was absolutely the right thing for me, I have read a couple of studies where people who did not go the surgical route were better off 1 year and beyond after the surgery although their initial recovery took longer. so make sure you get multiple opinions- a lot do surgery too quickly.
                                        There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.(Churchill)