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2 Questions about cycling and core routine for herniated disc

Harmonic MinorHHarmonic Minor Posts: 31
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:35 AM in Exercise and Rehab
Hi everyone at spine-health,

1. Im wondering whether cycling is okay with a herniated disc (I am 6 month post-injury and it is doing well). I'm actually using a cycling machine where I can lower the seat and sit up straight while peddling, and you can rack up the miles quite quickly and it is fun and good exercise, especially now that it's getting colder (winter coming up) and I find myself doing less walking.

Here's a pic of my position:


Is that okay? I basically sit up straight and maintain my lumbar curve and pedal, and my knees come up slightly higher than my hips as I pedal. I've started doing this about 3 times a week for about 20 minutes at a time and will be increasing. I still do quite a bit of walking (I lost over a stone since my injury).

2. I am also wondering, does anyone know of any good core strengthening routines? Obviously I've been doing exercises (the main one for my core is 'supermans' - on all fours raising alternating arm/leg and holding for about 5 seconds) which have been very good and I have done them everyday for months, though I find myself doing the same amount and not increasing.

My chiropractor seems to think I can start doing more exercises and said look into a pilates class or instructional video. I looked at some instructional videos but most of the exercises seem to include some level of flexion, often extreme - I'd never want to do those even once my disc has healed!

So does anyone know of any good pilates routies/videos safe for the disc, or perhaps any other core routines that I can begin, perhaps 2/3 times a week to start strengthening those muscles as I look to return to sport?

Thank you very much


  • i'm no expert in exercise although i did do a lot of cycling.
    here is an article by spine health on pilates
    you might be sitting a little low on the bike. i used to be more upright which might benefit you back. sitting isnt the greatest for discs...i like your enthusiasm...pete
  • 7 months po and i usually walk in the pool and now dr lets me cycle on a stationary bike once a week... so far so good i wake always in pain.. throughout the day too but being in the pool helps lots
  • thanks for the replies,

    Well if I moved the seat up I'd properly have to start bending over to reach the bars, it looks like I'm sitting up straight as can be ... yes sitting isn't great but you have to sit to cycle. I walk a lot, and tried swimming but I'm not a swimmer. With cycling there is not impact involved - it's not like running. I don't think the sitting aspect will prove a huge problem (now I can sit more or less without any pain though I still don't sit for prolonged periods of time) and since you're peddling you're engaging your muscles... at least that's what it seems to me. Any comments on that?

    As for the pilates maybe if I am serious about doing it I'd have to get some 1 on 1 sessions initially to teach me safe movements. Though a regular core strengthening regime that anyone knows of that is good for herniated disc rehab would be great-pilates looks a little, well, dangerous on discs!
  • Hey there, Your posture looks ok. Keep your core tight when you cycle, especially when you are tired.

    Have a look at this website for exercises --> http://www.myfit.ca/exercisedatabase/search.asp?muscle=Core Strength&equipment=yes

  • So my posture is okay? It seems okay to me but obviously I wanted to run it by you guys to see what you think... I want to avoid making it worse at all costs and do things to make it better! As I say if I raise the seat anymore then you have to start bending forward which isn't good. It's okay that as I pedal each knee comes up slightly higher than my hips, alternating?

    My back feels anywhere between 70-90% right now and just feels like it needs some good strengthening work done before I can get back into some sports, maybe it 2 months (though now that I missed summer there's really no rush - I'm willing to give it as much time as possible to get 100%).

    As for the core strengthening it doesn't look like there is any 'set' routine safe for herniated discs (someone should really make one) - pilates seems to have a lot of flexion; I will want to regain flexion in my spine eventually (I have pretty much lost it temporarily and if I try bending forward my muscles pretty much stop me and tighten - but no pain down leg) but I still need to avoid it when strengthening, right?

    So far I've only done some walking, cycling and the following exercises as instructed by chiropractor:
    1. Lie on back on floor with knees bend, gently roll side to side about 30 degrees
    2. Mckenzie pushup extension exercise
    3. Supermans - alternate raising each leg/arm
    4. Back extensions on edge of bed (but I dropped these a while ago after doing them for about a month because they starting feeling a bit dodgy)

    Should I maybe just put together 3 or 4 strengthening exercises and do them 3/4 times a week? So keep the supermans and add a few others that I can find that seem appropriate and just do them? One I think that looks effective is this:


  • Hello, Harmonic Minor!

    I noticed you we're interested in exercises that are safe and easy for your discs. In that case you might want to famialiarize yourself with the work of a Canadian scientist, professor Stuart McGill. In his books he has measured scientifically the forces that different exercises cause on the spine, and based on that he gives recommendations.

    For example, the safest and best exercises he recommends is what he calls the "Big Three": Birddog(=superman), side bridge, curl-up. According to him they are safe. You might wanna throw in also Back Bridge and Dead Bug, if you want a bit more versatile program. (And in these exercises there is NO flexing of the spine, the spine stays in the neutral position throughout the exercises...)

    And it is good to remember that there are easier and more difficult variations from these exercises. So, instead of only adding reps you could use different variations and slowly as you progress make them harder. And 10 second holds seem to be the way to go.

    If you want more information and pictures of different variations, I could recommend a couple of books. If this is considered too much of "advertising" here, I quess moderator will moderate this message. However, best books I've come across in this sense are Stuart McGill's "Low Back Disorders" and Craig E Morris's "Low Back Syndromes". They have good pictures and instructions on these exercises.

    Take care!
  • Minor,
    I am a cyclist and for the most part do what you feel comfortable with, slowly and with care. I used to run and now more at ease cycling with as you say no impact ideas, walking for me is not and option and cycling will help with your overall fitness and how it make you feel about yourself. I would keep that process at that pace and rather than can the intensity for now just do the same more often if required. I used to do higher cadence for short bursts, and continue changing my resistance and a slower pace seems to be working for me.

    Most of this is trial and error and that in itself can be pain full so only increase at a rate you feel you can realistically achieve, over the years I have increased the resistance using ballast which is and can be hard work although even at less pace takes some effort and gets that heart rate up quickly and efficiently, I wear a monitor that keep my level with set parameters.

    I have raised my bars to keep my spine more perpendicular which may look unusual but works for my titanium spine. Finding what works for you can take time and patience and perhaps only change one thing at a time so that if it does not work you can reject just that aspect.

    Where in the UK are you ?

    Take care and good luck…..


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