Frustrated ex sportsman

AppledaveAAppledave Posts: 26
edited 01/05/2019 - 1:07 PM in Exercise and Rehab

Hi all Ian 36yrs, I have L4/5 DDD annular tear with a broad based disc bulge. 

Feel very lost as have always played sports, keep fit and weight trained then when my back started to suffer more frequently hoped swimming would be benifical/easier going.

 I was alternating breaststroke with front crawl which  felt fine during the swim though forced me to stop after about 2 months.

Any positive experiences of keeping up CV fitness with a disc injury? 



  • I can’t do any cardiovascular exercise and have an annular tear too.

    Are you a candidate for surgery?

  • Hi yes if I pushed I qualify as I’ve got DDD on a single level. Though very reluctant if would cause the disc above a fusion to have problems. Planning to see how this year goes before making a decision...

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  • Any progress or changes appledave? Ive been struggling with a droadbased disc protrusion and small annular tear for a year or so. Never really that much pain like a 2 out of 10 but has stopped me doing all cv fitness and sport i used to do allthe time. Has really changed my life for the worse. Seen and tried various physios/ specialists etc and all say they are confident il get back to what i love doing but at the minute im still struggling to string any two pain free days together. 

  • Hi up and down it’s been about a year know of managing pain daily. I can cycle a short distance to work but must keep upright. My job is very physical so it’s a nightmare. Keep a diary but does not seem to be a pattern. Main issue currently is pain. How old are you? What happens if you do a cv session?  Recently heard of IDD therapy so going to make some inquiries...

  • Jerome001Jerome001 Cocoa Beach, FloridaPosts: 276

    Try a recumbent bike and if you can manage to walk it will help.

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  • Appledave

    Sorry i didnt get back to you! Im 32 years old

    To be honest i havent really tried any cv fitness for fear of waking up the next day in more pain and then be like "why did i do that?"

    Funnily enough my mother done idd therapy for a disc problem in her neck and it didnt really do anything for her. Think she done 15-20 sessions and she still has bother from it - the theory sounds great and some people certainly seem to get releif but she unfortunately has not.  Im a groundsman so like you my job is very physical which on one side is good as i think sitting at a desk all day wouldn't help but i also feel that sometimes i keep aggravating it at work. 

  • Hi Rob 209 thanks for the message. Going to try IDD in a few weeks with an open mind. Currently struggling with night pain on a daily basis and like you can’t string 2 complete days pain free. Stretching legs before bedtime seemed to help as use a pillow under knees to sleep make them stiff I feel. Will keep you to get some Tumeric soon see if it helps....

  • Had 2 sessions of IDD therapy and a tiny bit of massage which gave some relief and less stiff waking up. It has worked its way back though after 8 days to pretty much the same. They suggest a full course of 10 treatments for IDD therapy so it’s an investment and annoyingly a 2 hr drive to the nearest location so unsure of its worth it....

  • AppledaveAAppledave Posts: 26
    edited 07/31/2019 - 11:31 AM

    I’m getting to that point almost more psychological that I need todo something but afraid it’ll hinder my disc injury recovery. I don’t seem to get more than 2 good days almost pain free together and not been for weeks. It’s been a year now with my pain. I cycle short distance to work 3 days a week so was thinking perhaps a gentle spin class to get the heart rate up again would be a sensible place to start.

    Last year I went swimming for 2 months and that contributed to my degenerative annular tear/buldge so terrifies to swim again.

    Thanks for the advice

  • Hi Appledave,

    My problem was in my neck (mainly at c5-6) but essentially it was the same problem - a good sized disc bulge with significant annular tearing.  I had a pinched nerve initially from a herniation but that cleared up quickly.  I tried hard to keep up my running (dumb) and it quickly became impossible - the disc was so degenerated that it harmed the facet joints at that level and caused unbearable pain.  Eventually I couldn't stand the endless muscle spasms and had a surgery which included a degenerative C6-7 as well.  Had an ADR first but the facet pain was too much (I wasn't smart enough to know the facets were part of the cause at the time), so had to go back and revise to fusion. 

    In my case, the pain is certainly better - All my pre-surgery pain is gone but I have some chronic pain further up in my neck.  No idea if this is similar with back surgeries but there is no doubt in my mind that fusions add strain to the nearby spinal elements...  all this to say I think you are the right track giving everything possible a go before thinking about surgery.  It's easy for me to say now that I wish I had waited - I'm not sure I could have tolerated it much longer.  It's also true that degenerated discs don't "heal" with time, but that doesn't mean that the symptoms don't improve as the level should eventually start to lose motion.  

    Wish you all the best and hope you'll start to feel better soon!  


  • Hi Kevin 

    Thanks very much for your message sharing your experiences and wish you well. Can I ask how old are you? I’m 37yrs.

    My spasms have been under control though not sure if that’s down to me ice packing (10mins)  3 times a day or not almost to scared not now. 

    Yeah pain does keep you guessing a lot which structure is it and is it related to the disc or completely random.

    I hope I’ll get back to either cycling or maybe a cross trainer one day I’ve read it can take 1-2 years for an annular tear to heal so gonna wait another 6 months before attempting something gentle.

    Take care D

  • Hi Appledave,

    I’m 40 now, so was 38 for the first surgery and 39 for the fusion revision.  I’ve heard the same time frame for annular tears so your plan makes sense to me.  Very glad to hear your spasms are more under control - I know how miserable it is when they aren’t! 


  • Appledave,

    In my experience, I was swimming 2-4 times a week for 30-45 minutes at a time which really helped my Physical and mental health.  I was predominantly swimming the BACKSTROKE.  Every once in a while I would do free stroke, but not often.  I got alot of exercise by doing backstroke.  I got really frustrated with swimming the closer I got to my L5-S1 fusion surgery in April 2019.  

    The frustration was because my legs would cramp up and charlie horse as I would get 15-20 minutes into my swim.  I wouldn't be able to swim anymore.  I'd have to cut short my swims.  It sucked.  But I was still able to get my aqua stretches in.  That was always a plus. 

    That is my experience.  Good luck.


  • Thanks vegas2019 for the message just had to google Charlie horse ha!  

  • jbwood_75jjbwood_75 Posts: 6
    edited 06/21/2019 - 2:33 PM

    Appledave, if you are still on here would be interested in how the last few months have gone with exercise.  I am 7 weeks into sciatic nerve pain and low back pain after years of competitive cycling and a winter of intensive weights, cycling and running.  It crept up on me after a race in late April, I misinterpreted it as a pulled hamstring and kept stretching and riding, and the rest is history.  One MRI I've had did not reveal herniation - which should be good news - but the pain has not gotten better and has taken a turn for worse in the last 7 days.

    I've gone from mourning the loss of my ability to ride my bike to just being desperate and grateful for any CV exercise I can get.  I've been doing extremely light 20-minute swimming sessions.  They feel awesome while I'm in the pool - it's like the best 30 minutes of my day (including sauna.)    Can't tell if it helps overall though as the sciatic pain always returns.  But then again, lying around my house on my yoga mat all day doesn't really help either and is depressing.

    I hope you are doing better and would welcome any advice about swimming or other cardio.

  • Hi jbwood sorry for late reply. I feel your pain/frustration not being able to cycle it is depressing though in time I’m sure they’ll be some CV you can manage. 

    I’m 1.3 years into my annular tear/pain syndrome. I can sleep through almost consistently just terrified to push any CV work. I went on a step machine last week 8 mins and a bike 5 barely getting the heart rate going to see if I got pain the following day I was ok. Going to try 15 mins this fri in the step and again monitor the next few days.  My pain is 95% back 5% leg foot due to a single degenerate disc. 

    I find ice 3 times a day, short walks and watching posture the most beneficial things. It’s all just so so slow......

    Will keep in touch good luck. 


  • needabreaknneedabreak Posts: 16
    edited 08/27/2019 - 6:45 AM

    I've been desperate to find some cv to do. Thinking about hiking. The only problem is you have a somewhat long car ride to get out to the mountains. I sooo sympathize about out being frustrating and slow. And even more frustrating is doctors can't really tell you when/if it will improve, it's all so wait & see & hope for the best. Maybe you'll be better in a month or maybe this is life from now on. Arrrg!

    I've got 3 levels of moderate disc degeneration, broad based protrusions on two, severe annular fissuring on one, disc extrusion on the third. But mostly I only have leg pain from the extrusion compressing my sciatic nerve. The rest of it is basically painless and I really don't get too much actual back pain on a day to day basis.

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