Viewing 23 posts - 1 through 23 (of 23 total)
  • Broken back – when should I start riding again?
  • velocipede

    OK, so in a stupid, minor over the bars three weeks ago, I ended up free-falling 6ft into a ditch and landing on my head. net result was 4 broken vertebra (4, 6, 8 and 11), five days in hospital and now home convalescing.

    I don’t have a back brace – mainly because they didn’t have one to fit and they wanted me out of the hospital quickly due to Covid-19. I could go back and have one fitted (it’s arrived now) but I’m already making good progress and don’t feel the need – the consultant told me that even if I had one, i should try not to use it too much in any case.

    In terms of progress, I’ve already managed a half mile walk every day for the past 4 days and I’m weaning myself off the painkillers too. The main thing is pain management and having to rest to relieve the pain once I’ve been up and about for a little while.

    Has anyone else been through this?

    What was your timeline for getting back on the bike? I’m thinking I’m looking at another 5 weeks or so before I can get on it, let alone go for a “ride” and certainly I’m thinking I’ll need to restrict myself to easy rides for a few months – someone has gone as far as recommending not riding outdoors for 12 months, on the basis that another fall could be catastrophic (which I must admit is a concern!).

    Would love to hear any real world advice……thanks

    Premier Icon matt_outandabout

    I can’t comment on your questions.

    However, ooooft! And heal quick…


    Did the exact same thing Saturday before Christmas (only broke 2 vertebrae though), like yourself i found walking and getting my posture back helped, then i started swimming which is great for getting movement back, then proceeded to Zwift for a month before venturing out on road bike. just started back on simple trail stuff this last month. my consultant told be 3 months to be 80% healed, full year plus to be 100%. Consultant was quite “real” though as also MTB’d. this would have been my time line.

    decent walks within 5 days from injury
    swimming 1 month down the line
    turbo 6 weeks down line
    road bike 8 weeks down line
    MTB 12 weeks down line (not going crazy)

    like yourself i’m trying to be sensible with this one

    Premier Icon duncancallum

    lost my reply….

    i did t12 a few years ago.

    in short, takes up to 6 weeks for fractures to stabilize so until then i wouldn’t be riding, and then I would be only doing light rides and just testing out how you feel.

    its often the muscle damage that you will find takes longer to clear.


    Premier Icon tuboflard

    Wedge compression fracture of L1 a good few years ago here. Getting mobile and gradual build up is the key. I found the pain management was more about muscle spasms than the injury itself. Walking and swimming help and was playing Sunday league within 5 weeks of injury albeit with a kidney belt brace on.


    I had my first outdoor ride 156 days after doing my T12 and L1. Had used turbo after about 2 months and swimming after about 3 months. Did an awful lot of walking but had to build up to that gradually. I was in a brace for 3 months and off work for 4.

    Premier Icon SaxonRider

    I had a huge off 18 months ago now, in which I broke the base of my skull and three vertebrae (two cervical; one thoracic) – one of which had to be operated on, and another which raised significant concern but they decided not to operate on in the end.

    I mention this because, while the emergency care was superb, the advice I was given once out of hospital was utterly horrible. Not even non-existent; just dangerously bad.

    Please, please, please do not try to do things too quickly, and be very attentive to ‘side-effects’ such as tingling in extremeties and numbness. I don’t know why you have tried to wean yourself off the painkillers already, but I was told on more than a few occasions that pain is not your friend, so unless you are definitely experiencing no pain whatsoever, I would probably continue with a judicious use.

    Above all, though, DO NOT RUSH things. It ended up taking my body a full year to heal properly – set back because I tried to make it happen more quickly.


    Saxon rider is spot on. My riding bud broke 3 vertebrae in his neck about 15 months ago after over shooting a jump and landing on his head from about 6 feet in the air. Had a cage fitted for 6 weeks to stabilise his head then was very very tentatively allowed to get back to ‘ normal’. Time is a healer and he is just about back to normal all be it a lot less gung ho. Take your time or you may do yourself a lot of long term damage.


    Maybe wait until next year when COVID won’t be such an issue should you need to go back in to hospital?


    Well done velocipede, I’m glad that you’re on the mend.
    I wouldn’t pay much attention to other people’s experiences – everyone’s case is different. All I would say is follow medical advice and don’t rush it.
    If it’s any help, I came off painkillers as soon as possible, but didn’t go on a bike for 3 months (which was when I came out of a brace). I still get discomfort/aches 6 years later, but it’s all manageable.
    But I’ve never ridden a mountain bike off road since – I’ve got a real mental block about going through that again. But plenty of other folk jump back on their mountain bikes as if nothing happened.
    I don’t say that to discourage you, but just be sensible and do what you think is right for you. Good luck.

    I had complications with my legs giving out after compression fracture of thee vertebrae so was actually riding more than walking at one point. I can’t recall which ones were damaged but about in line with the sternum.

    I found flipping the stem on my old skool xc bike to make the front end really low better in the beginning as it put a lot of my weight through the arms rather than the back. It’s uncomfortable to ride it like that but at the time it was the lesser of two evils, just a thought.

    As others have said don’t rush it, I’m usually really bad for that sort of thing and it was difficult but please try. It sounds like my injury was pretty minor compared to some here but even so I wasn’t on a bike for months.

    Premier Icon halifaxpete

    Ouch, Get well soon. I broke a vertebrea about 5 years ago, similar to you went OTB, faceplanted and scorpioned spent a week in HRI and afew months home on light duties with a back brace thing. Problem was the brace made my back really stiff took getting right. Think I was riding again within about 6 months (though only on steady stuff for a while)


    Broke my T12 on a jump in Whistler bike park.

    Didn’t really ride at all for 3 months (but no brace).

    Was advised year+ back to full riding. I now have a back protector pack (camelbak Kudo) which I use almost always and my days of 4ft + drops are behind me (purely mental but it hurt and scared me).


    Thanks for all the advice everyone – I’m now well into week 5 and have been getting a walk in every day, now up to just over a mile.

    The pain is still very much there but way less and I’m getting better every day – I do find after a walk it’s uncomfortable for a while and whilst I’ve had a sit on the turbo and turned the pedals, I don’t think that would do me any good just now – my plan is to maybe have a go on that for 10 mins or so towards the end of next week (end of week six) – but I am really conscious not to rush it.

    Bloody hell though….I really do miss getting out on the bike…..just a ride round the block would be nice in the sunshine….I’m sure I will savour it when the time comes!

    Premier Icon tetrode

    No one on an internet forum knows the extent or seriousness of your fractures, only the doctors that treated you. I would ask them.

    Premier Icon tjagain

    AS the others have said.; I would be thinking at least 3 months and probably nearer to six.


    “No one on an internet forum knows the extent or seriousness of your fractures, only the doctors that treated you. I would ask them.”

    @tetrode – that would be good – problem is, the accident happened in the first week of lockdown and my departure from hospital was pretty rushed (I’m not complaining – my care was fantastic) and that meant that advice was virtually non-existent. The next time I’m going to be seeing a doctor and getting advice is the middle of July (again because of CV, there is limited/no prospect of getting an audience before then) – hence me trying to gauge some experiences on here.

    Of course, medical advice would be better but some real world stories are always useful


    So, an update…..

    I’m 15 weeks in now.

    I was doing 1 mile walks every day after 6 weeks and started doing a few rides on the turbo after about 7 – the first couple left me with some back pain from muscle spasms so I laid off again for a week or two.

    Started riding the bike on-road at about week 9/10 – first few rides were only a couple of miles and I started going out every day and going a bit further – unfortunately I got a bit carried away and got up to 15-20 miles within a couple of weeks – week 12 was awful!!!

    I started having really bad muscle spasms and pain – to the point where, on one day in particular, it was so bad I couldn’t really speak. Eventually got an online NHS physio appointment and some good little stretch exercises to do every hour or so during the day.

    The physios opinion was that I was sitting at my desk too much (I’ve worked all the way through this and been sitting more and more in one position as I’ve got better – earlier on I was actually moving around the house and changing position more) and then exercising on the bike meant I was spending most of the day, and then most of my exercise time, “hunched over”. His opinion was that I needed to lay off the bike, and leave that to once or twice a week – rest of the time stick to the stretching and walking.

    Three weeks or so further down the line and I’m feeling much better – his advice was definitely good and the stretches have helped enormously.

    I guess one of the lessons has been trying to judge what “taking it easy” and “being careful” really means, for me.

    It’s frustrating, obviously, and I feel like I’ve taken massive steps backwards in fitness terms but all this has given me some perspective – better to be able to move, have functioning limbs, bowels and bladder, than to be able to “race” my mates! That can wait for another day.

    Premier Icon tuboflard

    Glad to hear things are improving @velocipede, it’s an awkward journey and everyone’s is different but you’ll get there. Mine was pretty minor in the scheme of things but the muscle spasms were definitely the worst aspect. Make sure you work on your flexibility with the stretches too, mine was good before but noticeably worse for a period of time after.


    I mention this because, while the emergency care was superb, the advice I was given once out of hospital was utterly horrible. Not even non-existent; just dangerously bad.

    This is exactly my experience. Emergency care – ace, follow up/follow on – utter dog shit.

    I broke C6 faceplanting a Volvo last July. It was unstable and then plated. 3 months for road biking and I mythered them into letting me run. 4 weeks later, back to square 1.5. I was able to road bike still but had another 4 months off running. Got back in April this year with no more ill effects though I have consequential nerve damage to my left hand and right shoulder.

    They said to ‘take it easy and listen to your body’ as well. I heard, ‘get on with it ya poof, what’s stopping you?’. Then…, too much too soon (obv).

    Lessons: take it steady or you’ll just go backwards and if you find a way to effectively navigate the post incident care (BUPA?), you’ll be in a much better position.

    Premier Icon fossy

    Another – fab in-patient care, absolute pants once out. I had an argument with an idiot driver in an Aygo – cut me up and I split my L1 in two, and cracked the spinus process on my T12. also broke 4 ribs. I was pretty bad as my O2 dropped to 76 in hospital so they brought intensive care to me. Was in hospital 6.5 weeks, off work 7 months.

    I lost half of my L1 though once I was out. It literally split in two, with a section that was very close to my spinal cord (unstable fracture). This knitted, but after coming out of hospital, the area above the crack just disintegrated once I started moving. A month or so after leaving hospital, they noticed it was all missing, so my L1 is a cheese wedge shape. My spine has adjusted as the vertebrae each side have twisted off alignment to keep my back straight, and I have slight kyphosis now (slight bend in my back).

    It was about 4 months before I started sneaking out on my rigid MTB with 2.4″ tyres. Didn’t go far – upto 10 miles along the canal – had to make sure I could get back. After 6 months post accident I bought a full suspension trail bike.

    My muscles were so swollen at the break site. I was eventually allowed to get private physio, which helped (had to get NHS approval to have more ‘active’ physio than just stretches).

    I did Llandegla after 11 months, then fell off at the ruddy top of the climb, but did the black one handed (banged my shoulder up badly). It’s been problematic since, but has got better slowly. I’m 4.5 years post accident. I can ride for 5-6 hours (off road) and be OK. Running is a no-no for any distance though.

    Remember take it easy, and do loads of stretching.


    I think it was 4-5 months until I was back on the bike racing dh after mine. Bones heal but the muscles, tendons etc take far longer. You know you’re own body and it will tell you if its too much.
    I get a bad back after standing up and sitting down (it was over 10 years ago) a while or after walking for a few hours. It sorts itself out but I county myself lucky ones so no complaints.

    Premier Icon stevomcd

    I fractured L3, 4 and 5 about 15 years ago. Messed up my leg a fair bit in the accident as well, so that slowed me down at the start.

    I was hill walking after about 10 weeks (with brace still on). Then started gentle riding and more walking. It took a long time. I had a lot of pain. Even when it seemed to settled, something simple like stepping off a kerb could send a big jolt through it. Accident was in June, I was doing gentle mountain biking in the autumn, then eventually gamed the doctor a bit to say “no further treatment” so that I could insured to go snowboarding at New Year! The snowboard was good, but only just. I remember riding good powder and having both a grimace and a shit-eating grin at the bottom of every turn.

    Kicked-on pretty well from there, not really any pain after that. Did a marathon running program to get fit again that winter, then climbed Mont Blanc and made a snowboard descent in the Spring.

Viewing 23 posts - 1 through 23 (of 23 total)

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.