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Cycling after cervical fusion....

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Cycling after cervical fusion....

Old 03-12-19, 09:40 PM
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Cycling after cervical fusion....

Hi all!
Becoming apparent I’m going to need a cervical fusion. Arm numbness, leg started to go today. Old neck
fracture from a car wreck.
WonderIng if Anybody out there has gone through this? Wondering what my riding possibilities will be like afterwords. Been riding upright for the last year or so....

Thanks, Bill
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Old 03-12-19, 10:22 PM
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I ride flat bar,
in the +50 crowd

2 fused neck vertebrae , ss bar &
6 screws hold my head on

Restricts my looking up range
Have to be more upright, catch a little more air,
Ride a couple thousand miles/ year
All good
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Old 03-12-19, 11:10 PM
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Considered a Recumbent , yet?
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Old 03-13-19, 03:10 AM
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@canklecat has had this done, i believe, and still cycles. Hopefully he will see this mention and come tell his story.
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Old 03-13-19, 03:20 AM
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I had fusion at C5-C6 in 2007. I am 66. I have 4 bikes that are all drop bars, however, they are all set up to be more upright with riser type, shorter reach stems. I ride 4,000 to 6,000 miles a year. I change positions, especially hands, arms, shoulders quite a bit. I also stop for stretch break every 1 1/2 hours or so when doing long rides. I hope to still be cycling when I reach 80.
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Old 03-13-19, 05:33 AM
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Had a C5-6-7 Anterior Cervical Discectomy with Fusion (ACDF). They went thru the front, put in cadaver bone, plate and six screws. Done in 2001 or so, I was 30. Condition "caused" by a chiro doing a full cervical spine adjustment when he shouldn't have.

It's my understanding that artificial disc technology affords mobility where I have none - but I got off lucky. Do some research and ask lots of questions. I have only minor reduction in mobility. I'm 48 now and still ride drop bars - but conscious that I need to be a bit more upright than a "racing" position. Do the PT is the best advice and then figure out what works for your level of mobility.

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Old 03-13-19, 10:17 AM
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Here's mine:

C5-6 with Prestige® implants above and below. The discs above and below a fusion take up the mobility for the fused level and are usually next to go if they're already bad. Mine were finished so it was that or a 3-level fusion.

My canal was down to 4 mm and I went all numb and tingly from the neck down one night, which was interesting. This was in 2008 and was running, not riding, at the time. However, I was back to full activity as soon as the fusion was good and solid. No problems on the bike. The implants are great: I can ride in the drops and trim sails for hours. On the other hand, I could do that before surgery too.

Last edited by MoAlpha; 03-13-19 at 10:21 AM.
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Old 03-13-19, 04:33 PM
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I have an old C2 injury from a 2001 wreck (my compact car was t-boned by a full sized SUV at highway speed -- the driver ran a light on a road with a diagonal approach over my left shoulder blind spot). Two fractures in each major spine region, lumbar, thoracic and cervical, but the C2 was the one that bothered me for years and continues to be a problem -- headaches, dizziness, etc.

I didn't pursue a fusion back then. I was skeptical about whether the risks outweighed the advantages. Both of my grandparents had lower back spinal fusions that didn't seem to help at all. And my mom and dad had alternative procedures that didn't seem to help much.

I'm being reevaluated this year. My ortho and endocrinology docs noticed some lingering C2 problems in X-rays after I had unrelated problems last year -- hit by a car last May, breaking my shoulder, and thyroid cancer. The C2 issue was shuffled to the bottom of the priority list. However the shoulder and thyroid issues seem to be under control.

After meeting a younger fellow who had extensive fusions (he's a former EMT or paramedic who was hit by a passing car while he was stopped rendering aid to another victim), I'm more likely to consider a fusion now if it's recommended because techniques have improved. But I'd rather not unless it's absolutely necessary. In the case of the younger fellow, the fusions only delayed the inevitable decline. I met him during a cross country bike ride, which he finished last summer. At the time he was still in a lot of discomfort but realized he might not get another chance if he waited. He road a drop bar touring bike with the bar at saddle height. Ergonomics looked good. But short of an upright bike -- impractical for a 3,000 mile ride unless they planned on shorter trips per session, a lot of stops and a much longer timetable to finish -- nothing would be comfortable.

Over the years since 2001 the C2 went from being splintered into at least three pieces into what appears to be a solid but oversized mass now. I can feel some grinding when I turn my head or stretch. And there's always some lingering discomfort. But I'll wait until after the ortho consults and diagnostics this year.

When I resumed cycling in 2015 I started on an upright comfort hybrid, with suspension fork. I still have it as an errand bike. It's very heavy but solid for hauling groceries. I divide my rides about evenly between a solid frame/fork hybrid with albatross bars and an older steel road bike.

The hybrid albatross bar is right about at saddle height. The swept back bars reduce the reach of the long top tube so it's comfortable with surprisingly versatile hand positions -- occasionally I'll lean into the forward arced part of the bar and it feels just like riding the hoods on a drop bar touring bike. I can ride that bike all day at a casual pace and usually put in around 40 miles, longer when the weather cooperates.

The road bike bar is about 2.5" below saddle height. I can manage 20-30 miles without stopping, other than to stretch for a minute halfway through. I tend to just do workouts on that bike on familiar routes. I don't often ride it casually or in casual group rides, but I might tonight since it's extremely windy -- 20-40 mph wind, but too nice a day to waste. The wind should calm a bit later today. If all goes as planned I'll put in 40 miles or so by the time I get home, but it'll be a leisurely pace with lots of brief stops, so it should be manageable on the neck and shoulder.

For now, century rides are out. I have ridden several metric centuries -- 60+ miles -- on all of my bikes, but beyond the 75 mile mark of attempted centuries it just became painful and not at all fun. I rode one full standard century in November 2017 and had no desire to repeat that experience. Perhaps after more work on the C2.

I will admit that I've responded pretty well to home physical therapy. I've consulted with physical therapists for exercises but they say I'm doing more on my own at home so they said it wasn't necessary for me to come in for regular sessions. But it took me more than a decade to get to that point.

My daily ritual involves a lot of routine pain management -- stretching, topical analgesics, massage, etc. Due to the thyroid condition my energy level is still pretty low so I'm a slow starter. Most of my workouts don't start until late afternoon. Occasionally I'll do an easy spin on the indoor trainer to get the blood flowing. And I do stretch before bike rides and workouts -- I know it's a controversial and some folks decline to stretch, but it works for me.

I use some prescription and non-prescription anti-inflammatories -- diclofenac and bromelain (pineapple enzyme, a remarkably effective anti-inflammatory). I try to avoid prescription pain relievers and use them only a few times a month when nothing else works. Typically a "30-day" supply of hydrocodone or cyclobenzaprine will last me 3-6 months, so the docs are willing to renew my pain meds occasionally since I don't use them too often.
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Old 03-14-19, 01:31 AM
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45 miles on the road bike Wednesday night, mostly a casual group ride. A few sprints to snag some new Strava PRs. It was fun. Just about all the fun I could stand. Neck was aching when I got home, but not too bad. Soaking in a hot bath and some topical analgesic will help. Not bad enough to need any pain meds.

But it pretty much confirms my previous impressions that a full century ride isn't in my near future. Not on this road bike. I'd need to compromise on a touring bike with hoods at saddle height. I'm also thinking of hybridizing an older road bike with albatross or North Roads bars. It would be 5 lbs or so lighter than my Univega hybrid. Not a huge difference once we're rolling, but a lighter bike and wheels do help on rides with lots of stops and starts and climbs.
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Old 03-14-19, 11:08 AM
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Second the recommendation for a recumbent. Lots of riders originally got onto recumbents for similar reasons. If you don't have balance issues, there are plenty of 2 wheel bents. If you have or foresee having balance issues, get a trike.
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Old 03-14-19, 11:58 AM
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Had a neck fusion done springtime 10 years ago. No denying it was a long slow process of gradual improvements with pain and mobility. Biking has been the greatest rehab. I started riding flatbar around the neighborhood couple months after surgery. Now I ride a road bike with relaxed geo and the option to the drops is a major plus. Yes, sometimes there's an achey-ness afterward but I'm not hindered in any way riding groups and chasing segment times. Keep pushing forward!
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Old 03-14-19, 04:07 PM
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Pre-op functional status is probably the best predictor of recovery.
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Old 03-14-19, 08:11 PM
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Look up Jazz Banding. I really like it for relatively healthy cervical fusions. Basically instead of screws the vertebrae are tied together with a strong and non absorbable band. It's a clamp on this band that the bars are attached. This provides more flexibility for the patient.

Full disclosure, I do not have a cervical fusion. I just work in surgery and have the fortune of seeing multiple different systems used and have formed an opinion based on that. Ask your doctor, not me.
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Old 03-17-19, 10:16 AM
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One of our club riders has had several neck issues, not sure of his exact pathology, but he loves his Scorpion recumbent. This one has battery motor assist, but they have other options too. He calls it his go kart. It's made in Germany.

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Old 03-17-19, 11:27 AM
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On 7/24/13 I crashed and broke my neck. I had C1 & C2 fused. Was back on the bike in November. I am primarily a roadie and now use a mirror thanks to loss of ROM. I'm 73 and this is what I ride.
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Old 08-28-19, 05:03 PM
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I was fused early 2006 at c2/3 & 3/4 anterior and posterior with cage & vertebrae tied together for stability. Started training for triathlon and completed my first race 2009. I had never swam nor biked before my surgery so it was all new. To date I have completed two full Ironman and 6 half Ironman races. Adapting to range of motion limitations has been the most difficult but has never stopped me. I last raced in 2017 and all the training has had some lasting effects such as inflammation, scar tissue or adheasions from 2.4 mile swims and numerous 100 mile bike rides. Don’t let anyone decide your limitations for you....heal up completely and then do what you love within your limits!
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