Diving with a Bad Back

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Thanks for that. So what did you do to recover from your herniated disc. I’m scheduled for a lumbar epidural steroid shot in a week. I’d rather use some type of stretching or other exercise to help rather than more drugs in my body.
Consult with a physical therapist. I have sciatica in my right leg from herniated disks and degradation in lower back vertebrae. In my case, the first physical therapist had me doing a bunch of balance exercises and McKenzie press ups. This didn't help at all. I just lived with it for another couple of years, but it got worse and I tried a lumbar epidural. That felt amazing for about 12 hours, but then it was right back to "normal". But that temporary relief felt so good, I decided I needed to try something, so I went to a different physical therapist and this time it worked much better. He has me doing a daily set of stretches, mostly leg and hamstring, and it has noticeably improved things. It was just a single session to review the MRI report and teach me the stretches.

I don't know if this applies to your situation, but my therapist feels that pretty much everyone has wear and tear to their lower back by the time they get to their 50s or 60s. But damage doesn't necessarily mean pain. He feels that pain is usually due to a lack of flexibility in the lower body.

Anyway, good luck and try PT. If you don't get some relief within a couple of weeks, try a different one. Even if the shots help for a while, you want to try to address what you can of the underlying problems.
As you can tell from the responses it is a common injury that we all deal with. First off I would recommend that you consult your physician and get his/her advice before proceeding.

For me, I was physically active BUT I stopped lifting heavy weights and am very careful what I pick up and how I pick things up. I use a cart to haul my gear when I'm diving locally and I bought a mesh bag with wheels that I can roll whenever I am traveling. No more bag on the back. I've also taken up sidemount as it's better for you back. You get kitted up in the water and depending on your dive you can use smaller tanks (Like two AL40's or two AL30's) which is less weight. I still dive BM but at least I have the training and gear setup to dive sidemount.

After my physical therapy I continue to do the same stretches and exercises daily and I lost about 10 pounds to take some strain off my back. I still get the injections every 6 months. Between all of these things, it has helped out, as I am trying to avoid surgery. From my experience and from talking to others, stretching and strengthening your core muscles go a long way for pain relief and are much better than surgery.

If they are suggesting fusion surgery I would tell you to think long and hard about it and to do your research. Sometimes back surgeries will make your situation worse.

Hoping this and the other replies help you out. Good luck!
Thanks for all your amazing responses. They’re really thoughtful, helpful and well-written. I’m usually very careful with my back. On the occasion that I slipped my disc, I was crooked over helping my adult disabled son in the shower for too long and then when I straightened back up, BAM!!, I was down for the count.I got back on the elliptical today and started a series of stretching exercises and I’m scheduled for the lumbar epidural on 4/1.
Update: I’ve been doing upper leg specific stretches, hitting the elliptical for 30 min a day, and using a borrowed inversion table several times a day. In addition, I’ve been staying on schedule with the Gabapentin throughout the day. So I’ve had some really blessedly good days and some not so great ones But the pain is way more bearable.
If you are improving with activity, time and exercises, I would suggest you postpone any shots. They are not without some significant risks.
If you are improving with activity, time and exercises, I would suggest you postpone any shots. They are not without some significant risks.
Thank you, please elaborate. I'm all ears.
Just a thought....... but have you thought about trying some of the natural solutions for pain management..... ......like Cannabis.......?
Thank you so much @johndiver999 for your DM. That was very helpful!
In the water back pain is lessened but it sucks gearing up and getting in and out of the water.
There's probably not that much you can do on shore dives, but I'm pretty much a vacation diver and I've learned to swallow my pride and accept help from the boat crew. I'll enter the water with the tank, but for getting back on board if it's possible I take off the gear in the water and hand it up before climbing up the ladder. And I no longer volunteer to help with the tanks when docked.

Obviously you want to discuss this with the DM or crew before the start of the dive. They'll have a preference on how and when to do it. I'm comfortable in the water, so am happy to wait in the swells until they get the newbies squared away.

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