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spinal arthritis--riding occupational hazard?

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  • spinal arthritis--riding occupational hazard?

    I'm currently living in a lot of pain. Recently tore an ACL, but it isn't my knee that complains. It's my other hip, which two doctors have said is due to referred pain from spinal arthritis. I have no arthritis that is causing problems in any other joints. When the knee gave, I actually thought that I might have also broken the other hip because the pain was so awful.

    I've been told that spinal arthritis is usually due to prior injuries, and, Lord knows, I've fallen enough in 55 years to have had back trauma (alongside of one wedge fracture at L3).

    Is arthritis of the spine something that just goes along with riding? It is, of course, too late to do much of anything about at this point, but living with it certainly is difficult.

    Any suggestions on coping without becoming addicted to painkillers?
    "I'm a lumberjack, and I'm okay."
    Thread killer Extraordinaire

  • #2
    Not me personally (yet), but my father has a wicked bad back - disc degeneration, arthritis, etc. I'm not sure that is directly related to riding & wasn't around when it started, but he did quite a bit of riding prior to age 40, not much that I know of after that. He's 83 now, and how he keeps going is beyond me.

    He's spent a lot of time in steam rooms & saunas, that seems to be his fall back treatment. Gin helps too. I don't know that there is anything that he hasn't tried, from chiros to massage to back injections and surgery. He really doesn't recommend the surgery.
    Visit my Spoonflower shop

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    • #3
      I have severe spinal arthritis of my entire lumbar spine. Didn't know that till the state Docs did a bunch of testing on me for disability. My chiro told me I had arthritis in my back but didn't say how severe. I was shocked at my disability hearing to hear the state Doc say I had severe arthritis of the lumbar spine and of the right hip. The right hip is from the same accident and because two hip fractures right at the joint were never found or treated.

      The best advice I can give you is to keep your back warm in cold weather. Also Ibuprofin works for me on my good days or if you can you may want to try the Bayer arthritis OTC. I also sleep with two - three pillows stacked on top of one another at the foot of my bed. I pull the blankets over the pillows and put the balls of my feet up against the edges of the pillows. This forms a tent and keeps the blanket weight off your feet wich stretches your leg muscles up into your back with out having the blanket weight the muscles arent stressed wich relieves some pain.

      I use alot of stuff called Bio-Freeze on my back too.
      However on my bad bad bad days I am hitting the pain meds. I can usuallymake it through most days with muscle relaxers and IBU.

      Comment


      • #4
        Considering spinal injuries are so common with riding falls, I wouldn't be surprised if back arthritis is very common in riders.

        I am currently on house (ar)rest and serious painkillers for a recent break in the transverse process of 3 vertebre. The doctors expect a full recovery, albeit a painful one. I am curious now how to prevent the arthritis before it occurs at the point of the breaks.

        Any ideas? certainly adding more calcium, vit D can't help, esp as I am in my 40's now.

        ET
        “You'll always miss 100% of the shots you don't take.” - Wayne Gretsky

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        • #5
          Have you had any spinal injections? That is what keeps me going. Get yourself a pain doctor if you don't have one already. I generally take no meds anymore since my latest injections.
          McDowell Racing Stables

          Home Away From Home

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          • #6
            Viney, I sure am sorry you are in so much pain! I've been battling various issues since my spill in November and had a hard fall on a wet wooden deck recently that has had me hobbling around. I finally saw my orthopedic doctor, did x-rays and 2 MRI's just to be sure he knew what was going on. I have 2 compression fractures which I knew about, 3 or 4 bulging discs and significant arthritis in my lower back and hips. I guess the recent fall inflammed the arthritic areas as that is where the pain is so I'll be doing PT and trying to stretch and strengthen my core strength for now. If that doesn't relieve the pain, we'll do more aggressive stuff. I'm hoping it will. I am also looking at homeopathic vitamins and saw where Dr. Oz recommends Boswellia (sp) -- saying after 8 weeks you should be able to tell a difference. I've also read that devil's claw is helpful. I take glucosamine, chondroitin and MSM and use Tramadol, a muscle relaxer and a prescription for something similar to ibuprofen as well as ibuprofen as needed. I usually hurt more after standing or moving around alot and at night. I have one of those tables you lay on and it tilts upside down to stretch your back and it helps and I started using a weight contraption we have this weekend and I think it helps too. I want to ride and know I've got to do my part to make it happen and enjoy it. I sure hope you get some relief, too. I've had an epidural for sciactica several months ago before the deck fall and it pretty well resolved it. With two relatively young mares to ride, I need to be functional!

            PennyG

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            • #7
              Yes!

              Bad backs in all it's various forms of pain & decrepitudes are universally and extremely common in horsemen. It's worse with age, heavier weight ranges, unfitness, existence of other problems, kinds/styles of riding you've done, # of falls/injuries you've had..... etc. EVERYONE will develop some kind of spinal/orthopedic problem unless you take care of yourself and work towards long term prevention. Once it's there; it never goes away. It must simply be dealt with...or quit....

              Do a search of back problems on this board and I'd bet it's 80% of the complaints. There has been some outstanding suggestiosn for dealing with back/joint problems. You are not alone. You are not special. Read, learn, cope as best you can. Carry on. Keep smiling & hopeful!!

              And TKR, Tramadol is not a muscle relaxant...it's a synthetic opiate painkiller. Please be careful. Altho' of course muscles relax when you take it as a pleasant side effect. Don't drive or leave the house when taking. Try not to take regularly.

              I advocate continue riding but notch it back and be willing to make A LOT of changes & adjustments. You HAVE to get yourself healthy. It's the first step in dealing well with arthritis. Exercise is a good, good thing.

              Avoid concussion to your back. Get physically healthy (lose weight, exercise, eat healthy, take vit D+calcium if you're a woman!) Change your saddle type. Get better stirrups. Ride longer. Increase your padding to absorb shock. Never do sitting gaits. Change horse breed to a smoother riding horse. Stop dressage. Stop jumping. Wear sneakers as much as possible when walking around. Take nsaids. Use ice. I could go on......

              So there's a LOT you can do. Just do it! There IS life after decrepitudes; just not at your 20's level.

              WG knows this. She is a foxhunting old chick with 4 discs, 3 knee surgeries, bla, bla, bla......and an RN. Carry on!!
              Last edited by wateryglen; Sep. 5, 2012, 01:35 PM. Reason: oh I forgot!

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              • #8
                A doctor has already told me that my spine is mostly fused from arthritis --- the good thing is I hardly ever hurt because there's nothing that can move, the bad thing is that my back doesn't move. But since I also have arthritis in every other joint in my body, I'm not going to blame it all on riding --- I have crappy cartilege. Lots of good ideas on things to do have already been posted, and yes, have a doc who can deal with the pain problems. I normally don't have to take anything for pain, but when it's a problem, I have varying levels of meds I can take. Ice is your best friend, though.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I have ankylosing spondilytis/psoriatic arthritis (one or the other or both), resulting in major spinal, hip and knee arthritis. I am in my 30's and not willing to compromise my quality of life due to pain, so I have done a lot of trial and error to figure out what works best for me. Tramadol is on that list, lol. Most importantly though is keeping as fit as possible- that means having a very strong core to support my spine, and building muscles around weak joints. I work out a lot. It's not always fun, but it makes my life a lot more enjoyable. I do listen to my body and know when pain can be pushed through and when it needs to be listened to. I rest when I need to- hot baths with epsom salts, tempurpedic matress, NSAIDS are all good. I do have to take prednisone daily (blech) as well as some injections, but now that I am stronger I take a little less. I also avoid wheat, sugar and dairy as well as most processed foods- I know that most folks will tell you that it doesn't/won't make a difference, but for me, I think it does, so I will stick with it .

                  Best advice is just listen to your body and get as strong as you can (with your Dr's OK, of course) so that you can continue riding and enjoying your horses for as long as possible.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I broke two vertebrae (C7 and T1) along with some microtrauma to the surrounding vertebrae in a bad whiplash incident/fall (from a naughty pony!) in 2007. I have pretty severe arthritis already -- I'm 23.

                    I don't agree with the NSAIDS are all good credo -- I've been told by many doctors "oh just take NSAIDS any time you're in pain" -- that'd be EVERY DAY! You can develop "medication headaches" and "rebound headaches" and also have rebound pain in your joints when you change your med pattern. Further, I can't take many pain medications because I have a bleeding disorder, so I know from experience that many of these medications do directly affect your GI tract/kidneys -- like, my stomach will bleed if I take the wrong pain relievers (sorry if that's TMI). Medication -- I've taken Flexeril, which IS a muscle relaxer, along with some heavy-duty painkillers for related conditions -- CAN help, but it's also good to supplement with other things.

                    Diet is important -- I KNOW when I'm not eating "right," because my back will hurt more (I usually follow an 80/20 rule to have room for indulgences). I would consider meeting with a nutritionist or an RD, who can help you construct a diet that works for YOU (i.e. don't just read a book and follow what's in there, because what works for you might not work for your friend, and so on -- as an example I eat red meat, but some people find it makes them feel more sick/in pain).

                    I can't stress the importance of exercise other than riding enough. I agree with wateryglen on that point. I would even suggest physical therapy or initially working with a personal trainer (certified with NASM or another reputable organization) to develop a program that will work for you and your back. Include a lot of stretching work (Yoga, provided it's not super-intense, can help), and please, please, LIFT WEIGHTS! You'll not only strengthen your back, you'll help strengthen the muscles around your back, which will take some of the stress off of it and make it hurt less (obviously, there are certain lifts you should avoid if you have a bulging/slipped disc). And lift heavy! Swimming is another good exercise that will probably hurt less than "dry land" cardio.

                    I would consider ice when you have active inflammation (swelling, redness), and heat when you have muscle spasms/stiffness. Heating pads are a wonderful invention.

                    Also, don't get an 80lb Rottie mix that likes to spend your walks poaching unsuspecting squirrels

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      just sayin'!

                      Vixen, I respectfully disagree with your paragraph on nsaids. Yes, you would/could take them every day for pain. You state some medical inaccuracies re: them. There are soooo many to choose from/try. Once you have painful arthritis you may need to take nsaids all the time. Ex: Celebrex might be prescribed for long term. Yes there are side effects to anything. Which would you prefer? Pain or side effect? Your choice. I live on naproxen 24-7 much of the time. When not active and not hurting; I take "drug vacations". I think nsaids are always prefered over narcotics.
                      I also don't know about diet influencing arthritic pain. Certainly if you are overweight it would stress your joints and cause more pain. Sometimes loosing weight can do away with all your pain. A LOT of the time; that works very well. Been there, done that!
                      Good luck ya'll with whatever works for you irregardless. A good doc and physical therapist (maybe one who's horse savvy) are priceless. Be open to good ideas. Discuss your concerns with your doc. No need to have anxiety make your pain worse!!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by wateryglen View Post
                        Vixen, I respectfully disagree with your paragraph on nsaids. Yes, you would/could take them every day for pain. You state some medical inaccuracies re: them. There are soooo many to choose from/try. Once you have painful arthritis you may need to take nsaids all the time. Ex: Celebrex might be prescribed for long term. Yes there are side effects to anything. Which would you prefer? Pain or side effect? Your choice. I live on naproxen 24-7 much of the time. When not active and not hurting; I take "drug vacations". I think nsaids are always prefered over narcotics.
                        I also don't know about diet influencing arthritic pain. Certainly if you are overweight it would stress your joints and cause more pain. Sometimes loosing weight can do away with all your pain. A LOT of the time; that works very well. Been there, done that!
                        Good luck ya'll with whatever works for you irregardless. A good doc and physical therapist (maybe one who's horse savvy) are priceless. Be open to good ideas. Discuss your concerns with your doc. No need to have anxiety make your pain worse!!

                        That is very fair. I think my situation is somewhat special as I do have a bleeding disorder and so need to be extra careful. NSAIDs are certainly safe to take every day, but I had doctors who would give me prescription level NSAIDs and tell me "take them whenever you are in pain," and, as I am/was literally in pain all the time, it could be quite a dangerous situation for me. I would honestly prefer the pain (and my pain can get severe) over the GI bleeding, nosebleeds, mouth bleeding, etc that I have experienced from taking NSAIDs (pain seems somewhat worse when your intestines are bleeding too!). But mileage does vary, and it's worth finding a medication that works for you.

                        My personal opinion is that I would like to avoid taking medication as much as possible, as I tend to react badly to it. There are many, many, probably tens of thousands of people who can, and should, take NSAIDs and such every day and feel much better for it. I just wanted to caution that they are medicine, not candy, and some circumspection should be used.

                        Obviously, diet influencing pain is not scientific (as far as I am aware, my research has only been in mental and adolescent health!), but I was commenting on what works for me. I do agree with you about being overweight, but I find that outside of that (I am not currently overweight), my diet affects how I feel day-to-day. This may not be the case for everyone, but it's easy enough to change, you'll see the results relatively quickly, and I think it's worth a try. I am not one of those crazed, fundamentalist advocates for gluten-free, Paleo, anti-sugar, etc. diets, just have foudn in my personal experience that what I eat affects how my body feels. I do have some autoimmune issues, so perhaps this too should be taken with a grain of salt. I think working with a nutritionist can be helpful for anyone though, not just those of us with arthritis. I tend not to be the most creative cook, and working with an RD gave me so many new ideas for healthy meals, particularly breakfast and lunch, which I often eat on the run.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by vixen View Post
                          Obviously, diet influencing pain is not scientific (as far as I am aware, my research has only been in mental and adolescent health!), but I was commenting on what works for me. I do agree with you about being overweight, but I find that outside of that (I am not currently overweight), my diet affects how I feel day-to-day. This may not be the case for everyone, but it's easy enough to change, you'll see the results relatively quickly, and I think it's worth a try. I am not one of those crazed, fundamentalist advocates for gluten-free, Paleo, anti-sugar, etc. diets, just have foudn in my personal experience that what I eat affects how my body feels. I do have some autoimmune issues, so perhaps this too should be taken with a grain of salt. I think working with a nutritionist can be helpful for anyone though, not just those of us with arthritis. I tend not to be the most creative cook, and working with an RD gave me so many new ideas for healthy meals, particularly breakfast and lunch, which I often eat on the run.
                          I have an autoimmune form of arthritis (psoriatic) and I've definitely found that diet has a part in how cranky my joints are. I don't do anything particularly strict, I just pay attention to how I feel and weed out stuff that seems to make me feel worse. (And then I might try adding it again later to see if that was the culprit or not.) For example, high fructose corn syrup seems to make my joints extra special cranky. I've talked to various people about it and no one seems quite sure why that might be in terms of the chemicals and digestion, but it's pretty consistent (even when I don't know something has HFCS in it) so everyone agrees that whatever is going on, if it makes it worse and is something I can avoid, avoid it. So I do.

                          I'm highly skeptical of trying to go super-strict with a 'miracle' diet, though. I just don't think it's realistic or reasonable for most people, and there isn't a lot of decent science behind many of the miracle diets people run around praising, so I don't really see the point. Just pay attention to how you feel and see how things go. I keep a food journal occasionally and note down what I've eaten and also how my joints are feeling, and use that to reality check myself if it seems like something is making me feel worse. (I don't do it all the time, or worry about measuring amounts.)

                          As far as NSAIDS - I am not anti-medication at all, but I have had the experience that some rheumatologists hand NSAIDs out as if they're candy, and that freaks me out a bit. There are worse drugs, yes, but they aren't actually candy - I know several people who've really messed up their stomachs by taking too much in the way of NSAIDs and now they're in a real pickle because they can't tolerate any NSAIDs anymore, which wipes out a very useful class of drugs. So as a patient I think it's a good idea to educate yourself and ask questions and don't let the doctor brush you off if you feel like the medication you've been prescribed isn't doing the job at an appropriate dose - there are other things that can be tried or added to NSAIDs to help control the pain beyond just taking more NSAIDs, you know?

                          But that's true of any drugs, really. Just some we think of as 'safe' because you can buy them OTC (like ibuprofen) and I think sometimes that means we get a bit careless about using them properly.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by ET's Home View Post
                            Considering spinal injuries are so common with riding falls, I wouldn't be surprised if back arthritis is very common in riders.

                            I am currently on house (ar)rest and serious painkillers for a recent break in the transverse process of 3 vertebre. The doctors expect a full recovery, albeit a painful one. I am curious now how to prevent the arthritis before it occurs at the point of the breaks.

                            Any ideas? certainly adding more calcium, vit D can't help, esp as I am in my 40's now.

                            ET
                            I broke off 2 transverse processes from my lumbar spine (xcountry fall...darn immoveable jumps ) in 1998.

                            Fourteen years later, I am now 47 and it is not usually a problem. If I let myself get really unfit I have some lower back pain but if I am keeping up with a fitness routine that includes a lot of stretching and core work I am ok.

                            Comment

                            • Original Poster

                              #15
                              Look into New Zealander Robin McKenzie's (The McKenzie Institute which is worldwide and has certified PTs all over North America) PT program for backs. It's excellent. But it doesn't always work well with spinal arthritis. It does work well with other forms of back trouble. It focuses mostly on keeping the back stretched so there is good space between the vertebrae. I actually sleep in a McKenzie night roll at times and it keeps the lower back stretched during sleep.

                              Originally posted by Mozart View Post
                              I broke off 2 transverse processes from my lumbar spine (xcountry fall...darn immoveable jumps ) in 1998.

                              Fourteen years later, I am now 47 and it is not usually a problem. If I let myself get really unfit I have some lower back pain but if I am keeping up with a fitness routine that includes a lot of stretching and core work I am ok.
                              "I'm a lumberjack, and I'm okay."
                              Thread killer Extraordinaire

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                In addition to trauma, I believe that there are other things that have a lot to do with riders developing spinal arthritis. The first is rider's position. If a person does a lot of riding without sitting up properly with the spine in proper alignment and without having a strong core to support and stabilize the spine, then that person is going to have spinal arthritis from riding at some point. Another thing is the rider's conformation. If the rider does not have symmetrical conformation then there are going to be stress points that will develop arthritis. So folks with scoliosis or spondylolisthesis are going to develop arthritis in their spines if they do a lot of riding over the years.

                                I think that those are the main considerations, but being overweight is certainly another factor, as is whether you do all your own barn chores (grooming, tacking up, mucking out, etc.) And of course, how long and how often you ride. Someone who rides for 10 years for 3 hours a week puts a lot less stress on their backs than someone who rides 3 hours a day for 50 years.

                                I think if you look around, you see that lots of people in their late 50s and early 60s, start to cut down or stop riding. A very rare few are able to ride into their 70s and later. (Most of those who I see don't have to tack up their own horses....)

                                To answer your question about coping, look into a Pain Management clinic in your area. Regular epidural injections can be a great help, and may allow you to cut down or take a vacation from NSAIDs. I have heard that acupuncture is also helpful, but I have not tried it myself because insurance doesn't cover it.
                                "Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain" ~Friedrich Schiller

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  jUST DO IT!!

                                  Good thoughts everyone! Do whatever works for you! But most of all be as healthy as you can be! Like they say about horses....we only got so many rides in us! Use them wisely!


                                  Oh and here in Old Virginny we grows them old. I find foxhunters are an old bunch. Many hunting into 70's. Lots of healthy and joie d'vivre going on out there! I find many mature riders have simply overcome/coped with their decrepitudes and carry on. Life's too short - better go ride!!!

                                  My motto is = Quit Yer Whining! Take your pills, Shut up and RIDE!!

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by Eclectic Horseman View Post
                                    In addition to trauma, I believe that there are other things that have a lot to do with riders developing spinal arthritis. The first is rider's position. If a person does a lot of riding without sitting up properly with the spine in proper alignment and without having a strong core to support and stabilize the spine, then that person is going to have spinal arthritis from riding at some point. Another thing is the rider's conformation. If the rider does not have symmetrical conformation then there are going to be stress points that will develop arthritis. So folks with scoliosis or spondylolisthesis are going to develop arthritis in their spines if they do a lot of riding over the years.

                                    I think that those are the main considerations, but being overweight is certainly another factor, as is whether you do all your own barn chores (grooming, tacking up, mucking out, etc.) And of course, how long and how often you ride. Someone who rides for 10 years for 3 hours a week puts a lot less stress on their backs than someone who rides 3 hours a day for 50 years.

                                    I think if you look around, you see that lots of people in their late 50s and early 60s, start to cut down or stop riding. A very rare few are able to ride into their 70s and later. (Most of those who I see don't have to tack up their own horses....)

                                    To answer your question about coping, look into a Pain Management clinic in your area. Regular epidural injections can be a great help, and may allow you to cut down or take a vacation from NSAIDs. I have heard that acupuncture is also helpful, but I have not tried it myself because insurance doesn't cover it.
                                    The hollow backed 2 point/jumping position that we older folks were taught doesn't help either.
                                    I wasn't always a Smurf
                                    Penmerryl Sophie RIDSH
                                    "I ain't as good as I once was but I'm as good once as I ever was"
                                    The ignore list is my friend. It takes 2 to argue.

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