Training after an L5/S1 injury (sciatica)

You’ve had lots of advice and support so I’ll leave that alone. I just wanted to let you know that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
At 44 i had an FTP of 333w then had a compete rupture of my L4/L5 and a divorce. Needless to say the bike was tge farthest thing from my mind. I’ve rode a handful of times in 2019 but have been back ‘at it’ since late Jan 2020 and and my FTP is up to 287w and, most importantly, I can ride pain free regardless of position (aggressive or relaxed).
It’s taken 3 years and the joint has now fused (I refused surgery) on its own and whilst i have weight to lose being pain free means the mojo is back and the weight will go with the increased time on the bike and a more disciplined diet.

Good luck and keep your chin up.


Suffered an L5/S1 herniation this past fall. Went from being stuck on the kitchen floor to back to training at full strength again. Core, core, core was the key for me. 10 minutes of various planking and McGill big 3 exercises every morning before I do any training on the bike. What I continue to have issues with though is mountain biking. I can ride gravel and road for several hours straight with no issues; however, riding for 30 minutes on mountain bike trails (XC not enduro or anything like that) leaves me sore for a week after. Anyone else have similar results? I’m wondering if all the weight shifting and twisting when mountain biking is causing the issue vs actual impact? Curious if others have found similar issue?


Good thread! In 2015 I had my best mtb year ever. Local races went ok (except for that one ambulance ride), TSE3 was great, Singlespeedapaloozawas a success & Hampshire 100 went well until I bailed at 70ish miles -just didn’t have it that day.

On Oct 23, 2015 I was riding local trails at night & my lower back felt funky, just kind of off. The next morning, I was walking in the woods scouting for a trail I wanted to build. I looked up & twisted to my right. My lower back exploded. I’ve never felt pain like that & couldn’t stand, let alone walk. I crawled the 1/4 mile or so to a dirt road & my gf picked me up. I had to crawl into her car which took about 20 minutes. That pain was just debilitating. Then I had to crawl up to our apartment. The 2 steps to the couch almost killed me. Long story short, L5-S1 & L4-L5 were herniated. I had pain shooting everywhere below the waist. It took me 3 years until I could ride regularly again. I’ve had a couple of flare ups but nothing near as bad as the original pain. Initially, I was back on the bike in spring of 2016 but that was way too early after the initial injury & I probably delayed my test recovery with those few rides.

Best wishes for good health & continuing recovery to those in the thread that have been through this. Tough injury for sure but in time, it can be overcome & one can get back to close to normal.


Just found this thread. It just shows that being bipedal was always a bad idea …

just under 20yrs ago, I herniated L5/S1.

Severed the nerve to my left Gastrocnemious . Took at least 2 years to walk reasonably straight. Continuous pain, and lots of random unwanted leg flicks. Still look like an idiot if I try to run, but I can do 25Km walking days now.

However, bearing in mind that everyone’s damage and experience is different, I found sitting in a car seat driving, or maintaining symmetry on a bike was a ‘really good thing’. Twisting and shocks set me back weeks at a time, which is a bit troublesome as I’m relatively hypermobile.

Having lost the left calf, I spent about three years on a Wattbike training my pedaling to even out the power. It has been interesting ( as a biologist ) watching the different bits accommodating the change.

Totally opposite to what my surgeon said, I did not recover in 3 months. The leg flings went on for 15 years or so, until a White Van decided to hit whilst I was out on the bike. Hit my head, went into super spasm for about 4 hours, and came out the other side with no random leg flings. Yay. Result. Brain chemical reboot. Yay.

Anyway, advice I’d give is by all means listen to other peoples strategies and actions, but in the end, you have to find out what is best for you, and what works best. To echo comments above : move, move, move. Doesn’t matter how slow you walk around the block, or pedal, or how much power you have right now, it almost certainly will get better, if not exactly what is was like before. But as you use TR, you know what the pain is for and you know what your body is saying to you. :slight_smile:


PP - Having spent an hour talking to a couple of neurosurgeons about my reboot, they said, 'yes, we see it a lot, and have no idea what is happening… ’ Everyone is slightly different, even though we share the same basic biochemistry.


Great post, thanks for sharing.

Curiously, I did mine on a train, commuting from work. Sort of hurt in the evening, but in the morning I was completely unable to weight bear, and literally crawled down the stairs, and lay on the floor for two days …

Diclofenac is my go to.

Another comment. All of those here who have had that nerve pain know what 10 on the pain scale is. Bit of road rash is nothing now, is it ? :slight_smile: