Stem Cell Injection Countdown

It’s a rainy day in Fort Collins. The apple tree out back has dropped nearly all of its not-quite-edible fruit. Seems like fall has nearly come and gone already.

One week from today I’m going to a stem cell specialist in Colorado Springs for an injection into my herniated L5-S1 disc, after which, I will pretty much in hibernation for the winter.

It’s been just over a year since I herniated the lowest disc in my spinal column by not properly moving a piece of a [fucking] Ikea kitchen cabinet — the kitchen came out great. The initial pain was extraordinary, but of course, I still had a kitchen’s worth of cabinets to build and then catch a flight to Vegas for Interbike, where I hobbled around the Mandalay Bay show floor like the most handicapped rendition of Igor. Not the Daniel Radcliffe handsome version. The hunchbacked clown version.


I received a cortisone injection at the end of September 2015 and that helped with the pain immensely. I started riding again in December and started working on strength in January or February. With the help of Zack and the Source Endurance Training Center, I was able to make somewhat of a return to road racing in June. Maybe too soon?

I was dealing with pain throughout the fall, winter, spring, and summer. Every single morning it hurt to get out of bed, but this wasn’t out of the ordinary for me. I’ve been dealing with low-back pain since I started riding a bike. The herniated disc was just the tipping point.

The pain reared its ugly head again this year at the Breck Epic, where I pulled the plug during stage two. I’ve ridden only twice since then — aside from riding around town — opting to run, which leaves me sore post-ride, but mostly without pain during the activity. Or at least, my everything else hurts as much as my back, so it’s easy to block out the pain from the disc.

My doctor, Brad Abrahamson recommended I see a stem cell specialist in Colorado Springs, a Dr. Martin at the Spine and Joint Specialists clinic. It’s a procedure that unlike the cortisone injection, should actually heal the disc, rather than just alleviate the pain.

Of course, insurance doesn’t cover stem cell injections, even though had my MRI last week come out worse than simply a herniated disc, insurance probably would have covered a spinal fusion surgery, which is much more invasive and with an even longer recovery time and long-term side-effects. The recovery time and long-term effects of the stem cell injection are a bit of a mystery.

So that brings me to the reason for this ramble of a post – the first in some time – I hope others can learn about these injections through my upcoming experience. There is very little information out these out there and even fewer first-hand accounts from those who’ve undergone the procedure. So I will be doing my best to keep this updated on my recovery status.

Here’s to hoping a long fall and winter of rainy days like today.

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