Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Back Story

It's been a hectic time lately, with the Interbike trade show and appointments with a pain specialist. So, here's the story on my back.

It appears that I have a congenitally weak back. I first had troubles in my teen years when I went through a tremendous growth spurt (6 inches in just over 3 months, finally stopping at 6'5" tall). My first big issue came when I herniated a disc (L5/S1) in 1989 and had a partial laminectomy. The recovery time was about 3 months before I could get back on a bike. The doctors noted that I had rather advanced arthritis in my back for a 35 year old and said that back issues were going to be a long term issue for me. Instead of moping around, I got back on my bike(s), continued to work out and have completed many of my cycling goals in life. I exercised caution when lifting things, and kept my back in pretty good shape for quite a while.

But in the past year or so, the back has gotten much worse. Besides the sharp pains in the lower back, my legs would go numb after only a few minutes of standing and walking became unbearable. There were many visits to my chiropractor, massages, homeopathic remedies, all with no results. Finally, a series of MRIs and X-Rays showed extensive bone spurs, 3 bulged discs, advanced arthitis, and stenosis in 3 vertibrae. I find it increasingly difficult to walk or even stand for any period of time, although I can sit and even ride a bike without pain. The specialist I saw at Cedars-Sinai Spinal Center in LA told me that my cycling has, most likely, kept me out of a wheelchair. We've benn working on a conservative pain relief approach, using cortisone injections to lessen the swelling and the pressure on the nerves, but after three injections and no relief, it's time to look at more aggressive measures, including the option of surgery. I'll be meeting with my local pain specialist this week to discuss what we can do.

So, I ride as much as I can, wear a back brace when I am going to have to stand or walk, keep the weight down (I saw 214 for the first time in years today!), and make preparations for some down time after the first of the year. Being pain free would be really nice; I have a lot of things I still want to do in this life, and most of them require walking or standing...

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