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Weak lower back

Old 03-11-21, 05:43 PM
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Weak lower back

I just took a very hilly ride (for me). The biggest climb is 2.4 miles long and climbs 800 feet. The grade is often 9%. I can do this without stopping at all. My legs don’t hurt or feel at their limit. My limiting muscles are in my lower back. I think they are the muscles I use when I do a dead lift. I know I need to do more. Does that sound right? I’m sure there are other abdominal exercises I should do. Any other advice?

Thank you.
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Old 03-11-21, 06:07 PM
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imo the core is struggling & causing the back to give it all it has. Work on your core while not giving up anything else during your working outs.
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Old 03-11-21, 06:42 PM
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I'd try any and all the exercises to strengthen you lower back. Not sure a dead lift hits all the muscle groups you need, nor am I inclined to do dead lifts myself. If you've done them often previously in your life then go for it.

Some physical therapy places are willing to help you figure out what you need. As will a gym if it has persons on staff that actually have some training. Doesn't cost much with either of them to at least get you started on something that you can then do yourself if you don't need their motivation to keep you doing it.
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Old 03-11-21, 07:06 PM
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A lot of standard yoga poses really strengthen the back. Are you doing any yoga?

I do a fitness class where he has us lay on the gym floor chest down an we do this Superman pose. First we raise our chest/shoulders up off the floor and extend our arms like Superman. Then he has us lift our legs up off the floor which you can really feel in your butt muscles and hamstrings. Then we do the full Superman combining both chest and lower body & this time leaning to the right then to the left. It is fun, and for a couple days after doing it I get sore. I suspect it also strengthens the back.
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Old 03-11-21, 08:06 PM
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Check the Bowflex channel on YouTube for exercises. Best I've found on YouTube -- no need for any Bowflex equipment, succinct, organized and edited so you're not wasting time listening to a disorganized self-taught physical therapy non-expert rambling on and on like this sentence.

I've spent a lot of time in physical therapy for back, neck and shoulder exercises after being hit by cars twice in 20 years. When the pandemic lockdowns hit I couldn't attend my usual PT clinic in person. So I checked every recommended exercise channel on YouTube. Bowflex is the only channel I would recommend without hesitation.

There are other good channels, but most of them drone on much longer than necessary. Some are aimed specifically toward bodybuilders and lifters trying to avoid injury, not specifically to other athletes seeking PT assistance. Others are done by qualified physical therapy experts, but they desperately need an editor to pare 20-30 minutes down to 2-3 minutes.
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Old 03-11-21, 08:10 PM
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Let me guess. You'd done similar climbs in past years without a problem. Now, in March, in the first decent weather in New York so far this year, you've gone from nearly no riding to attempting climbs like the one you've described, and you expect such climbs to feel exactly as they did in the middle of the season last year.

As a self-anointed "Experienced Cyclist," you should know better. In my experience, as a rider who started racing a track bike in 1964 and has done innumerable miles since, I'm proof that you can quickly work your way back to riding as you did last season, and without the need for doing anything other than riding your bike. Yes, I've sometimes experienced transitory lower-back discomfort on climbs in the early part of the riding season. But I've never lifted weights, I've never stretched, I've never worked on my "core." No need. Just ride the bike, and you'll be fine soon enough.
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Old 03-11-21, 09:23 PM
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Originally Posted by noglider View Post
I just took a very hilly ride (for me). The biggest climb is 2.4 miles long and climbs 800 feet. The grade is often 9%. I can do this without stopping at all. My legs don’t hurt or feel at their limit. My limiting muscles are in my lower back. I think they are the muscles I use when I do a dead lift. I know I need to do more. Does that sound right? I’m sure there are other abdominal exercises I should do. Any other advice?

Thank you.
Since you already do deadlifts, and do 800 ft without stopping, seems to me you already have strong core muscles.

A couple things you can do to avoid hurting your lower back (I faced the same problem too, spent some time doing weights which did not entirely solved the problem, here's what I did):

- Always start your rides on easy gear, whether you start in the flats or hills. Avoid medium or hard efforts when warming up. SPIN, don't grind!
- Ease into the climb, avoid starting hard but rather start easy/slow and also using easy gears (keep spinning!), then very gradually increase effort and speed if applicable
- Make sure you are properly warmed up. If you're not warmed up or did 20 miles easy low effort pedaling prior to the climb, be sure to start climb easy with easy gears spinning
- Opt for smaller/easier gears
- Open your hips / sit in a more upright posture when climbing, move to the nose of the saddle, hands on the tops
- When pedaling out of the saddle, open your hips as much as you can, avoid sticking your butt out a-la - Pantani or doing it in the sprint posture
- Avoid doing any hard sprints at any time prior to the climbs
- You may do very short core-strengthening intervals like grinding on big gears out-of-the-saddle or hard effort sprints towards the end of your ride. Never do it at the begining or middle of your ride because if you hurt your lower back, the rest of your ride will be ruined

Pacing your rides is the key..... A lot of riding issues is solved by pacing. If your group dont pace maybe it's time to find a group who does or start riding solo

To-do off the bike:
- Good back posture at all times, don't slouch!

Last edited by cubewheels; 03-11-21 at 09:29 PM.
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Old 03-12-21, 06:14 AM
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Ride more. When you don't do something very often and then do do it, it's normal for there to be some niggles.

You'll probably be better next time, and even better the time after that. It'll pass soon enough.
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Old 03-12-21, 08:48 AM
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If fine in the past ask yourself what changed. Likely time off from outdoor riding. Just get back in the routine and monitor.

Otherwise.....most of the time on-bike pains are related to either a fit coordinate problem or a bike fit being too aggressive for the person.

I'm not personally a fan of prescribing workouts to fix bike fit related pains as the only medicine. I'd rather see folks fix the pain immediately by adjusting the bike fit, then in the meantime work the body. Then once the body is there, consider updating the fit.
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Old 03-12-21, 09:43 AM
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Thank you all for weighing in. I’ll give some background which I didn’t think to give before.
I ride year round quite a bit. My troubles are not from lack of riding nor from loss of fitness in the winter.

I have always been inflexible, and it has been troubling me for most of my life, but I haven’t taken sufficient action to correct this problem. I have also had a weak upper body and have treated that similarly to how I treat my inflexibility.

I ride a lot, and that has been my entire fitness plan for most of my life which is to say it has not been enough. I finally started doing a bit of yoga during Pandemic. It is doing me good, and it will do me more good if I do it more.

For a couple of years I was doing some dead lifts and other weight lifting but not enough, not enough guidance, and I stopped. Seeing how much dead lifts helped me on the bike, I will definitely get back to them, and I will add some other exercises, under supervision of an expert. My doctor gave me a prescription for physical therapy, and it’s been a long time without my taking action on it. Now I will do it.

The suggestion to do other core exercises sounds good, too, as do the exercises suggested here.

The good news is that my legs, hips, heart, and lungs seem to be in amazing condition. This was a climb that many consider extremely difficult and others consider impossible. My legs and lungs did not hurt one tiny bit. If my back didn’t feel so weak, I could have been stronger on the climb. Well, there always has to be some limit, but it’s interesting that my legs, lungs, and heart are not the limits. So I will work on my upper body. For me, it’s less fun than climbing hills, but it’s what I need.

I turned 60 this year, and I’m in far better shape than the average person my age, but that’s not enough. Previously I didn’t really need to think about how to keep in shape. I just did what I wanted which was to ride my bike a lot. It’s no longer enough. I need to make plans and follow those plans. My blood pressure is creeping up into the warning zone, and it’s not from lack of activity or bad diet. It’s just happening. I’m working with my doctor on this, reducing salt and caffeine and adding a bit more exercise. In a few weeks, we will decide if I should take medication to help my blood pressure.

Again, thank you, all.
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Old 03-12-21, 12:09 PM
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Ah, the Great Awakening. I had one at ~62 and another at 70, when it has become obvious that what used to work is not longer enough. I call it trying to train smarter, since we mostly can't train harder.

Firstly, the very best back exercise in the world is riding your bike hard. That said, as we age, that's not enough. Our recovery systems can't take that much climbing and all out 45" hill sprints anymore. The weight room can load up our muscles with a much smaller training stress load.

So:
https://www.bikeforums.net/road-cycl...l#post17865790
https://www.bikeforums.net/training-...e-athlete.html
https://trainright.com/strength-trai...k-for-cycling/

Lifting heavy is the best, but without a weight room or money to spend on short-term equipment, cheap dumbbells from Amazon work OK. I bought 2 sets: https://amazon.com/gp/product/B071WSFSGC/
https://www.youtube.com/results?sear...with+dumbbells

This is the best lower back work for cyclists, back, hams, and glutes all at the same time:
https://www.youtube.com/results?sear...with+dumbbells
Be careful at the bottom with these. Come to a complete stop, no jerking.
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Old 03-12-21, 12:16 PM
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My wife is experiencing back, knee and hip problems and went from my height to significantly shorter rather abruptly. Make sure you don't have an underlying issue developing.

Assuming you don't, then this is suggesting the need for lower gearing and/or standing up on the pedals. A consistent 9 or 10% grade is a hard climb, especially if it goes on for a few miles, and for me at least, requires frequent changes in position (standing up vs sitting, forward vs aft, hammering vs spinning, etc).

How low is your lowest gear?

Is your saddle possibly higher (or lower) than optimal?

I'm 57, and it has gotten a little bit harder each year for the last 4 or 5.
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Old 03-12-21, 12:49 PM
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Another Great Awakener here.. turning 60 soon. I have already done the PT (and still do the routine daily) but my core still is not what I want so I have recently added weights. I decided to add kettlebells since the overall weight is less and my back is not in the best shape: swings, Turkish get-up, and goblet squats currently. Here is a Bicycling article on kettlebell for cyclists.
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Old 03-12-21, 01:02 PM
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For the record, my core is comprised almost exclusively of adipose tissue, and I don't have any back issues.

I'm also so inflexible that I can barely touch my knees and I am frequently mistaken for a 3 day old corpse.
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Old 03-15-21, 07:42 PM
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Anyone who thinks you can just ride a back problem into shape needs to tell Egan Bernal to quit wasting time on physical therapy for his injury induced scoliosis. Heck, he's only a youngster. What do he and his multi-million dollar team know about anything?

Yeah, no. It doesn't work that way. Especially with age and cumulative injuries. Upper body problems due to age, weakness, injury, whatever -- hips, back, neck, shoulders, etc. -- lead to ergonomic problems that lead to further injuries.

Nobody rides themselves into shape from those kinds of injuries and imbalances. But with a younger engine you can compensate just enough to ignore the problem... for now. Eventually it'll catch up with you. Been there, done that, got the Twizzler spine, cocked hips and associated imbalance related issues to show for it.

Do the physical therapy. It'll pay off over the long haul.
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Old 03-15-21, 08:46 PM
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Originally Posted by canklecat View Post
Anyone who thinks you can just ride a back problem into shape needs to tell Egan Bernal to quit wasting time on physical therapy for his injury induced scoliosis. Heck, he's only a youngster. What do he and his multi-million dollar team know about anything?

Yeah, no. It doesn't work that way. Especially with age and cumulative injuries. Upper body problems due to age, weakness, injury, whatever -- hips, back, neck, shoulders, etc. -- lead to ergonomic problems that lead to further injuries.

Nobody rides themselves into shape from those kinds of injuries and imbalances. But with a younger engine you can compensate just enough to ignore the problem... for now. Eventually it'll catch up with you. Been there, done that, got the Twizzler spine, cocked hips and associated imbalance related issues to show for it.

Do the physical therapy. It'll pay off over the long haul.
Two PT's - Physical Therapy, Pedaling Technique.

There's one pedaling technique to disengage the core / lower back muscles - using only the quads and calves.

Quads+calves only pedaling (no core recruitment - avoids lower back pain):
- "kick forward" for the pedal power stroke like you're trying to push your butt to the back of the saddle (you may need to tilt down the saddle a little bit for this style of pedaling)
- DON'T pull on the back and upstroke.
- Spin high cadence (absolutely no grinding because this technique is fairly hard on the knees with little recruitment of glutes and hamstrings) - may require putting smaller gears on your bike

Note this pedaling technique may not be the most efficient but you can switch to it when the lower back starts to hurt, to help it recover
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Old 03-16-21, 08:13 AM
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I mentioned I am doing kettlebell weight training post-PT, but should have added I needed to do many things to get my 60-year-old back under control.
  1. (still keep doing the PT-prescribed stretch/exercise regimen every day)
  2. 2x per day massage with percussion massager units. These are awesome, I use two together, one for each side.
  3. Posture improvement - keep checking form, use standing desk, etc.
  4. Weight training using kettlebells.
I am 2 years post-PT and it has been a continual slow improvement over the two years.

For the bike I switched to an endurance frame with 30mm tires and make sure to take a stand-up pedal every 10 minutes or so to stretch the back out.
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Old 03-16-21, 08:50 AM
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Originally Posted by scottfsmith View Post
I mentioned I am doing kettlebell weight training post-PT, but should have added I needed to do many things to get my 60-year-old back under control.
  1. (still keep doing the PT-prescribed stretch/exercise regimen every day)
  2. 2x per day massage with percussion massager units. These are awesome, I use two together, one for each side.
  3. Posture improvement - keep checking form, use standing desk, etc.
  4. Weight training using kettlebells.
I am 2 years post-PT and it has been a continual slow improvement over the two years.

For the bike I switched to an endurance frame with 30mm tires and make sure to take a stand-up pedal every 10 minutes or so to stretch the back out.
On our tandem, Stoker calls out the stands every 10 minutes.
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Old 03-16-21, 09:05 AM
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Originally Posted by canklecat View Post
Anyone who thinks you can just ride a back problem into shape needs to tell Egan Bernal to quit wasting time on physical therapy for his injury induced scoliosis. Heck, he's only a youngster. What do he and his multi-million dollar team know about anything?

Yeah, no. It doesn't work that way. Especially with age and cumulative injuries. Upper body problems due to age, weakness, injury, whatever -- hips, back, neck, shoulders, etc. -- lead to ergonomic problems that lead to further injuries.

Nobody rides themselves into shape from those kinds of injuries and imbalances. But with a younger engine you can compensate just enough to ignore the problem... for now. Eventually it'll catch up with you. Been there, done that, got the Twizzler spine, cocked hips and associated imbalance related issues to show for it.

Do the physical therapy. It'll pay off over the long haul.
So you have scoliosis and cocked pelvis? If so, me too. During this year's physical, my doctor got to looking at my back musculature. I've known for a long time that my right back was much larger than my left, to the extent that when I lie on my back on a hard surface, I'm cocked over to the left, but had no idea why. Doctor said I have scoliosis, simple, and that's the reason that when I hang from my hands, one leg looks shorter than the other, and also the reason that I've had a saddle sore on one side for years.

So, all that said, have you made any progress resolving that and if so, how?
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Old 03-16-21, 07:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
So you have scoliosis and cocked pelvis? If so, me too. During this year's physical, my doctor got to looking at my back musculature. I've known for a long time that my right back was much larger than my left, to the extent that when I lie on my back on a hard surface, I'm cocked over to the left, but had no idea why. Doctor said I have scoliosis, simple, and that's the reason that when I hang from my hands, one leg looks shorter than the other, and also the reason that I've had a saddle sore on one side for years.

So, all that said, have you made any progress resolving that and if so, how?
Yeah, my spine is twisted, caused primarily by being struck by cars twice in 20 years: first time when my compact car was t-boned by a full size SUV that ran a light at highway speed; second time when I was hit during a bike ride about three years ago.

I knew my back and neck ached all the time but didn't know how bad it was until a year ago when my docs ordered full body imagining -- X-rays, MRI, CT scan. It's not quite as bad as my mom's, who was born with moderate scoliosis. But bad enough that it can throw off my ergonomics everywhere.

I do a lot of physical therapy to offset the imbalances. However I can see from the wear pattern in the outsoles of my running shoes that my foot strike is somewhat uneven, although not too bad all things considered. Before those injuries shoes would last me for years because my foot strike was so evenly distributed and "soft." In Navy boot camp I remember watching guys in formation grind down the heels of their marching boots over the course of 10 weeks. I kept my utility shoes for years after that for some work situations and they were still in good shape decades later.

But my leg length is skewed a bit now by cocked hips trying to offset the scoliosis. I can feel the ergonomic issues on longer rides, running and walking.

I've seen chiropractors who claim they can fix these problems but it's BS. What *can* help, besides PT, is deep tissue massage, but most chiropractors don't want to be confused with masseuses so they don't do proper massages. The pandemic limited access to PT clinics, etc., so I bought a percussion massager -- that thing really does help. I use it daily, sometimes twice a day, before and after physical activities.

The combination sure seems to help, when combined with other approaches. The past few months neck spasms have kept me off the bike -- I can handle maybe an hour, but that's all. So I switched to running back in November. It's harder than cycling, but easier on my neck.

After regaining some basic running conditioning my first goal was a sub-30 minute 5k. Modest goal, but my days of sub-20 minute 5ks are long gone. A few days ago I managed 32 minutes. Last night, after resting from a very easy jog/walk session, I used the percussion massager, did some range of motion exercises, and decided late last night to try a 5k time trial. Almost no traffic after 10 pm here so I could run the streets and not worry about uneven sidewalks or having to run on the grass.

I ran that 5k in 27:23, and had personal bests in every distance segment. I felt pretty good but couldn't read my phone app display without reading glasses so I had no idea of my pace. I was shocked to discover I'd knocked 5 minutes of my previous 5k, a minute and a half off my previous best 1 mile, etc. It's still slow, but fast for me at my age and conditioning.

The pre-run routine seemed to have helped -- deep tissue massage, light stretching (neck only, not legs), exercises claimed to "activate" lazy muscles in the glutes, adductors, etc. I often neglect those exercises for my running sessions earlier in the day, and often need a mile or two just to begin to warm up and feel a bit looser.

It'll be interesting to see whether any of this translates to cycling. I'll still keep my rides to 60-90 minutes because nothing will cure the neck pain -- the injuries are too far gone and my C1 and C2 vertebrae are almost bone on bone grinding now. But I'm looking forward to trying a cycling time trial soon. I haven't done one since October when I set a personal best time, but then had to take a break from cycling to give the neck time to relax.
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Old 03-17-21, 11:46 AM
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I have Spondylolisthesis. I think between L4 & L5. Most of the time, with regular stretching and exercises it's minor. Occasionally it flares up. Figuring what works and doesn't is always trial and error for me.

My only advice is to make changes to your routine slowly. Assess yourself after making the changes. Good luck.
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Old 03-17-21, 11:57 AM
  #22  
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"Active Bridges" worked for my lower back pain.
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Old 03-17-21, 03:34 PM
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Originally Posted by canklecat View Post
Anyone who thinks you can just ride a back problem into shape needs to tell Egan Bernal to quit wasting time on physical therapy for his injury induced scoliosis. Heck, he's only a youngster. What do he and his multi-million dollar team know about anything?

Yeah, no. It doesn't work that way. Especially with age and cumulative injuries. Upper body problems due to age, weakness, injury, whatever -- hips, back, neck, shoulders, etc. -- lead to ergonomic problems that lead to further injuries.

Nobody rides themselves into shape from those kinds of injuries and imbalances. But with a younger engine you can compensate just enough to ignore the problem... for now. Eventually it'll catch up with you. Been there, done that, got the Twizzler spine, cocked hips and associated imbalance related issues to show for it.
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Obviously if you're injured you need to do things you wouldn't otherwise have to do if you're not.

You chose one injured guy out of thousands of non-injured pros and hundreds of thousands of non-injured amateurs.

If there are no underlying health issues or injuries, it's not really something to worry or fuss about.

Last edited by rubiksoval; 03-17-21 at 03:38 PM.
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Old 04-13-21, 05:03 AM
  #24  
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I have had lower back issues for a decade. If you already deadlift that's great. Try sleeping with a pillow between your knees if you sleep on your side, below the knees if on your back. If on your stomach you're ****ed. Something I read quite often now but am too lazy to do - just do general core work (planks and related exercises) and that helps people on the bike.
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Old 04-13-21, 01:28 PM
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I sleep on my sides. My spouse won't let me sleep on my back because it reliably leads me to snore. Fair enough. When I had back surgery way back in 1988, I read about how sleeping on your stomach is bad, so I stopped then.

I'm in physical therapy now and feel I'm on my way to recovery and becoming stronger than before. I appreciate everyone's input.
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