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Thread: Spinal fusion and motorcycling

  1. #1
    motorcycle cowboy roostershooter's Avatar
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    Spinal fusion and motorcycling

    Isn't that scary combination! But, that's what I'm facing. In Nov. of 2006 I injured my back while moving a heavy crate at work.The medical term is spondylolisthesis, the forward movement of one vertebrae over the one below it. At this point I have endured two facet injections in my lower back and have gone thru two months of physical therapy in an attempt to reduce pain in my L4 - L5 region. My questions are, have any of you guys went thru with this type of surgery? What has been your result? Would you do it over? Plus or minus? My doctor says that he believes that I will benefit from the surgery and that I won't be under any restrictions, but to be honest, I don't see how a person would not be restricted, because the end result is that you lose some mobility with spinal fusion. I have read just about everything I can find and basically it comes down to an individual decision but the outcome is not known until after the fact. This has all been quite a shock to me as I am in very good health and have not experienced any major health problems. Keeping a positive outlook is important and that is what I'm trying to do. So, if any of you guys have any personal experience, please reply. Thanks.

  2. #2
    It'll be a good reason to buy multiple different bikes to try all the riding positions!! Then you can back charge it to the company since they're gonna owe you BIG!

    Seriously, good luck! I hope you come out alright!

  3. #3
    Old man in the mountains osbornk's Avatar
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    I crushed 5 lumbar vertebra in my back in 1968 in a car accident. I was in traction for 50+ days flat on my back and had to wear a very restrictive back brace for 2 years. The doctors did a mylogram (it was a long time ago) and said I should not be able to walk. They talked to me about doing a fusion at that time to help with the pain. They said a fusion would make my back stiffer which would give me less mobility. They told me it "might" help with the pain and I could possibly be paralyzed. I elected to live with the pain and have for the last 39 years. Keep in mind, great strides have been made in the last 40 years. I don't know what decision I would make if it happened now and I was at the age I was then.

    My back hurts if I overwork it, if I lay wrong or if I have to be on my feet for any length of time (even a long grocery store line). However, I can ride in a car or ride a motorcycle all day without any problem. Riding a motorcycle is more fun and cheaper than golf and I have a good excuse.
    'You can say what you want about the South, but I almost never hear of anyone wanting to retire to the North.

  4. #4
    screwtop
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    Well, I don't have any experience with spinal fusion, but my wife does. She has a harrington rod in her back (titanium) and 9 fused vertabre. The rod is 9" long and I got the X-rays in my safe to proove it. Her surgery was done to correct a 3 dimensional form of scholiosis, and was performed when she was 19. She moves around quite well now, and has no problem riding on the bike. In general, I would say that her life post-surgery (16 years) is quite normal, and only minimally impacted by the rod in her back (her back does not bend).

    Back pain can be quite debilitating. I think that the technological advances they have made in this area have been huge in the past 15 to 20 years, and that you would probably really benefit from having it done. I encourage you to get more opinions, none the less.

    Best of luck!

  5. #5
    Rally Rat
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    Quote Originally Posted by 2BikeMike View Post
    Isn't that scary combination! But, that's what I'm facing. In Nov. of 2006 I injured my back while moving a heavy crate at work.The medical term is spondylolisthesis, the forward movement of one vertebrae over the one below it. At this point I have endured two facet injections in my lower back and have gone thru two months of physical therapy in an attempt to reduce pain in my L4 - L5 region. My questions are, have any of you guys went thru with this type of surgery? What has been your result? Would you do it over? Plus or minus? My doctor says that he believes that I will benefit from the surgery and that I won't be under any restrictions, but to be honest, I don't see how a person would not be restricted, because the end result is that you lose some mobility with spinal fusion. I have read just about everything I can find and basically it comes down to an individual decision but the outcome is not known until after the fact. This has all been quite a shock to me as I am in very good health and have not experienced any major health problems. Keeping a positive outlook is important and that is what I'm trying to do. So, if any of you guys have any personal experience, please reply. Thanks.
    I would seek a second opinion. Spondylolisthesis does not usually require surgery unless it is a very high grade of slippage. Spinal fusion will put extra stress on the discs on each side of the fusion, and they will eventually break down putting you right back in the same boat. I would do everything I could not to have surgery. And if surgery becomes the only option, I would look for one of the neurosurgeons who are now doing spinal surgery through a scope, which is much less invasive and much less damaging to the surrounding tissue. The resultant rehab, pain, etc is remarkably easier. Of course, YMMV.

  6. #6
    Old man in the mountains osbornk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hlothery View Post
    I would seek a second opinion. Spondylolisthesis does not usually require surgery unless it is a very high grade of slippage. Spinal fusion will put extra stress on the discs on each side of the fusion, and they will eventually break down putting you right back in the same boat. I would do everything I could not to have surgery. And if surgery becomes the only option, I would look for one of the neurosurgeons who are now doing spinal surgery through a scope, which is much less invasive and much less damaging to the surrounding tissue. The resultant rehab, pain, etc is remarkably easier. Of course, YMMV.
    I tend to agree. I had 3 friends that had surgery and they had 2 additional surgeries to correct the neighboring discs.
    'You can say what you want about the South, but I almost never hear of anyone wanting to retire to the North.

  7. #7
    Registered User ksrob's Avatar
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    Spinal Fusion

    I had three disks fused just over a year ago. C-3 thru 5. The only limitation is that I can't bend my neck back very far, such as on a sport bike.

    I'm fighting an "issue" with my lower back and two blown disks. I would do every thing possible to not to have the surgery.

    HTH,
    Rob Lessen

    '07 R12RT
    '14 R12RT LC

  8. #8
    motorcycle cowboy roostershooter's Avatar
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    Looks like a mixed bag at this point. I'm holding out for more response. In the mean time thanks for the replies.
    Last edited by roostershooter; 03-22-2007 at 04:18 PM.

  9. #9
    chfite
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    My personal philosophy is to get other opinions and pursue other avenues before resorting to surgery. When I injured my shoulder at work last year, the physical therapy made much improvement. The subsequent MRI showed some damage, and the doctor recommended surgery. When I asked about the results, he admitted that it would probably be better.

    In talking to those who have worked in the field of rehabilitation after this "scoping", as it was called, I found that there would be a couple of months of severely limited activity and extensive physical therapy to try to return to the state that I was in before the surgery. I continued with exercising the shoulder, and skipped the surgery.

    I still have some discomfort at times, but age brings its own aches and pains. The important thing is that this does not limit my activities any. It is just mildly painful to do some things, such as: reach around my back to touch the opposite shoulder blade.

    My focus was on the likelihood that all this surgery and rehabilitation would not make it better. Whenever they cut and it does not work out, you might be stuck.

    You still have to decide for yourself.

  10. #10
    bowhunter
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    I've put off the surgery for 3 years now.My right leg is not not as strong,but everything else has been ok. Some where down the line it'll have to be done.
    But I really don't want to do it!
    Hang in there!

  11. #11
    In my opinion, the decision to fuse a joint should only be done as a last resort. I've heard of cases where a fusion of lumbar vertebra brings immediate but only temporary pain relief, until the discs above and below the fusion "fail" because of: 1) being asked to provide the motion that the fused segments no longer provide, and 2) a return to the less than ideal habits that most of us abuse our spines with. Good luck.

  12. #12
    Living the Legend Bigrider's Avatar
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    I had my L-4, L-5 fused in 1999. And I've been riding ever since. Go through the rehab, and take it slow. Only you will be able to tell. I prefer the forward leaning of the R100RS to the straight up of the R80 RT I own. Occasionaly, a bump in the upright position will give the spine a jar, but I really haven't had a problem riding in the last eight years. Now bending over to latch my boots is a problem.

    Dave H
    San Antonio, TX

  13. #13
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    OK, here we go...

    First of all, stop.
    Take a deep breath. And think this one through.

    The back is a very complex structure, moves in many different combinations of angles and directions with different amounts of forces. It is an engineering marvel.

    I neither know your medical history nor am I an MD, but both my wife and I have had back problems for a long time. She has what you have.

    First of all, I would go to a physiatrist who specializes in rehab, and the softer tissues of the body. Let that MD refer you to a physical therapist who specializes in backs. After special exercises including streching, pilates and core work, see how you feel. By the way, are you carrying some unwanted weight? What is your lifestyle like? Do you sit hunched over a computer all day? The physiatrist turned my wife's condition around.

    If you are still miserable, then let the physiatrist suggest a surgeon whom he/she would want to operate on him/her. If it was my back, I would want to have only a back surgeon and hopefully one who also has a neuro background. Sports medicine MD are usually on the cutting edge of things...no pun intended

    Remember, surgery is last resort. Surgery is always successful in that the surgeon usually gets done what has to get done. Whether or not we get the desired results remains to be seen.

    If you can make an acceptable recovery without going under the knife, you are ahead of the game.

    I have had two surgeons tell me that although I have a material back problem, I am still not a candidate for surgery. I can live with what I have as long as I am aware of how I move, bend, twist, and lift.

    If one plans how you are going to attack the twistees, you can in effect do the same thing with the movements in your daily life.

    Take another deep breath.
    "What is beautiful is simple, and what is simple always works"....Kalashnikov, inventor of the AK-47.
    Current bike: 2015 Yamaha TW 200, modified for road/street use with tire, sprocket upgrades. "Center yourself in the vertizontal. Ride a motorcycle...namaste' "

  14. #14
    What's that noise...? basketcase's Avatar
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    Mike, have you consulted with a Chiropractor? It might be an entirely differeent approach would relive the pain and correct the misalignment.

    In 1997 I was injured in a stupid horseplay accident that moved my shoulder blade, damaged the rotator cuff in my right shoulder, and misaligned a vertebrae in my upper back.

    Several shots of cortizone took care of the shoulder, and a half dozen visits to the Chiropractor worked wonders on my back.

    I concur with the others who have said "go to surgery as a last resort."
    '98 BMW Z3 Roadster, '00 R1100RT

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  15. #15
    Old man in the mountains osbornk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ultracyclist View Post
    First of all, stop.
    Take a deep breath. And think this one through.

    I can live with what I have as long as I am aware of how I move, bend, twist, and lift.

    If one plans how you are going to attack the twistees, you can in effect do the same thing with the movements in your daily life.

    Take another deep breath.
    This is very true! When I severely injured my back in 1968, I was 20 years old. I elected to live with my injuries rather than have the suggested surgery. Being young and "tough", I tried to continue to do many of the things I did before and I also ignored the 45 lb. lifting limit suggested by the doctors. As a result, I had a lot of unnecessry pain.

    As I aged, I learned what I could and couldn't do with my back. I also lost weight and started do exercises to strengthen my back muscles. It has helped a lot but I will always have pain.

    As Clint Eastwood said in the movies "A man has to know his limitations". It took me years to learn my limitations and realize that I have to think about what I do before I do it.

    My brother runs his body shop and farms on the side. He frequently strains, sprains or pulls something that leaves him in pain. I asked him why he refuses to take any pain medications. He said God made pain for a reason. His theory is that if he takes pain medication, it will mast the pain and he risks doing more injury to whatever is hurting. If he does something without medication and it hurts bad enough, he will quit doing it and prevent further injury.
    'You can say what you want about the South, but I almost never hear of anyone wanting to retire to the North.

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