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Injuries and Medical Advice

Back: Herniated Disc

I'm 34 and have three herniated discs in my back (prior to starting climbing, nine months ago). I have degenerative disc disease, a narrow spinal column and no promise that surgery will help.

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I’m 34 and have three herniated discs in my back (prior to starting climbing, nine months ago). I have degenerative disc disease, a narrow spinal column and no promise that surgery will help. On days I climb, I’m pain free. On days I don’t, my pain ramps right up. Are there moves I should avoid, or things I can be doing to improve my situation? My doc heard I climbed and said to do as much of it as I could, especially if it was helping, and it sure is.

Solacerock | Rock and Ice Forum

There are two things that will help you: strength and more strength.

There is nothing like a teaspoon of fear to generate strength and motor control in all sorts of functionally dyslexic positions. Ironically, it may also cause you some horrid injuries. The line is not so much fine as it is perforated. Your body may look and feel quite strong and then BANG!

I’d rather slam my head in a car door than have spinal surgery. Many report similar therapeutic results. At least there is no delusional hope. Surgery will definitely hurt and there is little chance it will improve your back. That said, if your disc issues suddenly advance, for instance bowel or urinary disturbances, return to the surgeon’s infirmary and develop a taste for Humble Pie.

Climbing is awesome and I am at pains to tell anyone to stop unless there is an overriding chance of further damage no matter how you try to mitigate the risks. Although the risks of injury are higher for you, the potential benefit is inordinately greater.

You will have your ups and downs, but you are trading in the futures market and strength is the commodity you want more of. Daily function will improve, chronic pain will recede, and the rate of disc degeneration should slow. I would not project hard. Trying one move repeatedly will end in tears.

Also, don’t hold your breath. As you may have already realized, holding your breath and straining, be it climbing or crapping, is a recipe for discogenic disaster. Breathe buddy, breathe! Preferably through your nose. For reasons I don’t understand, nose breathing not only regulates respiration, it generally keeps you in a more relaxed frame of mind.

A word of warning, you are in the danger zone. Not only are you carrying some serious injuries already, you are new to climbing. Like a cannibalistic tribe, climbing will gnaw on your tendons and eventually spit them out.

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