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Bulging Disc in Neck-Still Ride?

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  • Bulging Disc in Neck-Still Ride?

    So I had a totally craptastic day yesterday Got the call from the Neurologist who ordered my MRI(had it on Sunday) He informed me that I have a very large protruding disc in my neck. He's is making a referral appt with a Neurosurgeon for me ASAP. I'm so upset I started crying on the phone with him! I never cry! Of course this happens mid-show season!
    My question is anyone out there ride with this diagnosis or should I stop until I see the Surgeon? Also what is the down time following surgery? Anyone have experiences they would like to share? Microsurgery was mentioned also.

    I tried everything I could think of to avoid the prospect of surgery(physio, traction etc) but the Dr. stated the size of the protrusion could impede my spinal cord. I'm so upset, it seems everytime my "horsey life" gets going something like this happens!
    *PPP Member*
    "Official" Couch Critic

  • #2
    I have not had the same problem but am dealing with two partial tears in the shoulder. When I asked my physio (sports guy) if I could ride he responded by saying he did not recommend it as I can function now and if I tear it completely I will not be able to lift/move my arm.

    If you come off your horse what will happen?

    I know it sucks as I missed this year showing and last year as well but it is only a short time in the grand scheme of things and you can show next year. If you ride now and something happens you may not be able to show again.

    Take care of yourself so that you can take care of your horses. The other way I look at these things is if your horse had this issue would you ride him? We all want to ride and not being able to is so frustrating.

    Chin up and good luck.


    • #3
      NFW would I ride in your situation.

      I fear spinal cord problems much more than death.

      Evaluate short term vs long term goals.


      • #4
        You only have one you and one neck. Don't risk it.

        There's no way I would ride

        Behave yourself, follow docs orders and let yourself heal.... the horse will be there when you are ready and you can, once again, confidently saddle up.

        Hugs & prayers for a speedy and complete recovery!
        <>< Sorrow Looks Back. Worry Looks Around. Faith Looks Up! -- Being negative only makes a difficult journey more difficult. You may be given a cactus, but you don't have to sit on it.


        • #5
          Oy, a bulging disc isn't the end of the world Definitely take it easy if you are having surgery or injections, but I'm betting you'll be back in the saddle quickly!

          Interestingly, there have been some studies recently that show that a lot of bulging discs aren't even symptomatic- and I know mine started out symptomatic and then the symptoms kind of "went away" after several months. I've been riding without trouble from them. (we won't discuss the other problems I'm having with my back- I totally understand your just wanting to cry when you hear all is not right!).

          By the way, my orthopedic surgeon says he has a patient who has had double fusion and two hip replacements and is still riding


          • #6
            I feel your pain. I also have a bulging cervical disc, sustained in an auto accident back in March. Mine seems to be resolving on its own, but I'm still not riding. Of course, it's been hotter than the south side of hell here lately, so not much desire to saddle up. But I'm in the camp that says wait until you see the neurosurgeon. You don't take chances with your spine.

            Good luck, and I'll be jingling for you.
            In loving memory of Laura Jahnke.
            A life lived by example, done too soon.


            • #7
              I had 3 discs bulging/herniated and impinging on my spinal cord. My doctors said not to even drive around in a car...

              Had the surgery, the discs were removed, bone grafts in and the vertebrates fused and secured with a titanium plate and screws. 3 months down time - no heavy lifting or rollercoasters, horses, etc. Once it was fully healed the Dr. said return to doing anything you want. The repaired area will be fine, everything around it could break, but it won't! Lucky me, no stall cleaning while recuperating!

              I started a colt and came off a couple of times since the surgery and no problems, other than really sore. Most of my issues were psychological after the surgery...fear of falling off mostly.

              Follow doctors orders to the letter - don't mess around with spinal cord stuff.


              • #8
                I've got one...mine bulges to the front and I've had it about 10 years. My doctor brings up "fixing" it every so often because it causes headaches. The bones in the back of my neck grind on each other because there is no padding, from what I understand, and causes shooting pain up the back of my head. You can actually hear it! I've never been told not to ride...well, over this problem, anyway. My lower back is a whole other issue.


                • Original Poster

                  I kind of figured I get told to stay off I think I was just feeling sorry for myself First back surgery, then dislocated ankle, then hysterectomy, now this! I don't like getting old! I was healthy as a horse till 40! Thanks everyone!
                  *PPP Member*
                  "Official" Couch Critic


                  • #10
                    We may be getting older, but we're not dead! Take care.


                    • #11
                      I have this problem from a car accident 3 years ago - and since then, have developed terrible arthritis between C3 and C6 and a giant lump of scar tissue at the base of my neck. Unfortunately I hardly ride any more - I can do a bit on the flat, but jumping or riding a heavy horse, I start to lose feeling in my hands and am unable to grip the reins and end up spending the next day in bed I tried riding for a while by regularly taking the narcotics and muscle relaxers prescribed to me, but I found that my quality of life on these drugs wasn't something I could deal with, so I stopped riding.

                      The good news is, everyone is different. According to my doctor, some people have MRIs that look similar to mine and are nearly asymptomatic. Others can't function at all without surgery. Since mine is fusing on its own, doctor advised against surgery and I'm taking the natural route. First and foremost, I would listen to your body and make sure you have a doctor you can trust. Best wishes to you, I know how frustrating (and painful!) this can be...
                      Ristra Ranch Equestrian Jewelry


                      • #12
                        I have two bulging discs in my neck. I didn't ride for about 6 months because I would get crippling headaches that woke me up during the night following a ride. I did PT and have had two facet blocks and one epidural. All of those things were so successful for a while that I was convinced the problem was fixed, but they didn't last long. The epidural lasted about 3-4 weeks.
                        My neurosurgeon said that I am in no more danger of becoming paralyzed after a fall than anybody else is so I am chosing to keep riding as the pain allows. I might have made a different decision but I have the horse of 1000 lifetimes right now who is 21 years old. Who knows how much longer he will keep going but as long as he is going I am going with him. We had a blast schooling Fair Hill on Tuesday and are eventing in Delaware on Sunday.
                        The next thing they are going to try at the end of July is occipital nerve blocks. Hopefully that will buy me a little more time as I would like to delay surgery until November at the soonest if I do end up having it.
                        Best of luck to you, I hope you end up with an easy fix.
                        McDowell Racing Stables

                        Home Away From Home


                        • #13
                          I have had bulging neck discs that fortunately got better without treatment. I did not ride during the first week when the symptoms were annoying and persistent. After that, I went on with my normal activities.

                          Don't get surgery unless you are sure you need it. You may need to get a second or even a third opinion.


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by AKB View Post
                            You may need to get a second or even a third opinion.
                            This was going to be my advice too. I saw a specialist who told me not to ride just because he thought riding in general is very bad for the back- no specifics (he hadn't actually seen my x-rays or MRI at the time). So before you give up something you love, make sure the advice is based on a real issue and not just a preconception the doctor has.


                            • Original Poster

                              Vandy, those are my symptoms but 24/7. Numb fingers and electric like jolts going down my arms. I do not find any increase in symptoms while riding. These have been going on for about 5-6 months(slightly escalating), after a fall onto my head on the ice! And the big kicker for me horse wise is I have a free ride/show horse, a greenie(who is a big, gentle doofus), and a very pretty TB gelding that was given to me! My horse world finally comes together and now this
                              I'm willing to live with the symptoms if it means no surgery but can still ride. If the answer is no riding unless surgery then I'll do it! I have an upcoming app't with my family Dr, another one with the Neurologist and finally one with the Neurosurgeon. They'll all be asked about the risks of continued riding(no jumping) and what other options are out there. I'll be the crossing fingers and toes!
                              *PPP Member*
                              "Official" Couch Critic


                              • #16
                                Be conservative. You don't want the bulge to herniate. I had two herniated discs in my neck and you don't want that. The first week or so was some of the worst pain I've experienced. Made the five broken ribs I had a few years later (in a fall while jumping) easy to put up with in comparison.

                                I was scheduled for surgery but opted out when symptoms began to improve. I was left with some numbness in my right arm and three fingers, but nothing I couldn't live with. I started riding again a few months later and it didn't seem to affect my condition. My neurosurgeon looked a bit horrified when I told him at a follow up visit that I had started riding again, but he said if my kneck could tolerate that, it could take about anything, so I started golfing again as well. About 7 years later I had increased symptons , but physical therapy helped and I'm still riding ( rather badly, as ever, but riding nonetheless).


                                • #17
                                  This is a very near and dear subject to me...

                                  I've got two bulging disks in my lower back. I was a professional dressage rider and was told if I didn't stop doing what I was doing that in a year I would most likely paralyze myself.

                                  God stepped in, gave my wonderful FEI Selle Francis cushings and helped him over the bridge. This totally devastated me and I quit riding. I couldn't even open my tack box.... for 7 years.

                                  Now I find that I can't not do it. I just started back into it again and I can't not do it. I know it hurts me... I know that because of it I prob. eat more vicodin that any one person should... and that I'll take the day off of work because I hurt, but still make it out to the barn. Theres something about the feel of being one with a horse... the movement and asking of things that don't require words.

                                  My severe back issues can't keep me from what I love so much and find so intuitive. Is it stupid? sure. Am I making a problem that is already bad and not on its way to getting fixed anytime soon (minus injections) worse? I'm sure. But I do it for those moments... those non-talking in total sync with a 1300lb. animal that I trust with my life.

                                  I know this isn't exactly where you were going with this thread... but in my experience it wasn't really should I ride... its can I keep myself from riding. And though I was depressed for 7 years, not knowing what I could do now that I couldn't train... I got a bit of a path, and some confidence and it led me right back into the saddle.

                                  Will I be able to ride the amazing extensions and movements like i use to? no. Will I be able to school for a whole hour intently? most likely not. Can I still build the right horse up to FEI? Sure... I've got time.
                                  "The ability to write a check for attire should not be confused with expertise. Proficiency doesn't arrive shrink-wrapped from UPS and placed on your doorstep."


                                  • #18
                                    I have 2 bulging discs and a bone spur in my neck from a hit and run several years ago. At first there was a lot of pain in my left arm and I had several epidurals but gradually the pain has been replaced with numbness and I was told to expect a gradual loss of use.

                                    I was scheduled for surgery to remove the spur and have the fuse/graph/plate & screws but opted out because of my high risk of future surgeries - the levels above and below become weak and have to be repaired over time.

                                    There is a new surgery you should research which removes the bulging disc and replaces it with an artificial one - no graphs, plates or screws. You will be good as new and should have no issues with riding.

                                    I am not currently a candidate for this since I have more than one problem disc, but hopefully one day will be.

                                    In the mean time, I have found that keeping as active as possible really helps, light free weight upper body exercises to keep the muscles in my neck and shoulder strong seem to help support my weak neck.

                                    I rarely ride and when I do I avoid sitting trot and jumping and horses that require a ton of leg - the forward thinking ones are much more comfortable along with a good supportive saddle.
                                    Last edited by KnKShowmom; Jul. 10, 2009, 12:50 PM. Reason: edit


                                    • Original Poster

                                      KnK, that is what I've been doing since I got the call. NO jumping/sitting trot. Light rides on the greenie, just walk, some trotting but basically still trying to get the green wobbles out of him and lightly longing the new guy since he's done nothing for 6 months but gain weight. My *new* outlook is that I've had these symptoms for quite a while now and just pushed through them before I knew what it was. I will still ride, although very carefully till I get the yay or nay from the Dr's. The way I look at it is that; yes I could have a riding accident BUT I could also fall down the stairs or trip on a rock, or get in a car accident. You can't live life through "coulds".
                                      I had a very nice ride tonight on Mr. Green and pampered the new boy Have to keep sane somehow
                                      *PPP Member*
                                      "Official" Couch Critic


                                      • #20
                                        I wouldn't opt for surgery, never. I have three hernitated discs, severe spinal stenosis, degenerative disc and degenerative joint disease as well as a lot of permanent nerve damage. Have had for over 30 yrs now. Been to one specialist after another. I am not a surgical candidate which is just as well as I wouldn't anyhow. NOt afraid of surgery, have had 7 surgeries. Have seen too many friends end up worseafter disc surgery.

                                        The chiro are the ONLY ones who have been able to help with the pain in my life, well, I take meds too. They are the ones who keep my discs off of my nerves. I can't not take the nerve pain at all. And I take pain well. Had 4 c-sections and old fashioned gall bladder surgery with NO pain meds as I was nursing and refused them. But this back pain I can not take. I've been on morphine, fentanyl, or methadone for pain for decades.

                                        I gvae up riding at the request of doctors in 95. Since I also can't stand to ride in a car I am just about housebound. The best thing I have done in many yrs was to start riding again. Got my untrained mare out and started back in last yr. Now we are riding all over again and I couildn't be happier. Yup, I fall they say I may end up in a chair but htey say that's where I'll be regardless at some point so why not. It put a bit of joy back into a life that had none. Today my right leg is so numb I have to help it move. But later on I will be riding, and I will deal with the pain, it will be worth it, to me anyway.