Training with disc bulge (L4/5 /S1) injury

Hi there,

I have pulled mine in March this year and due to the fact that I could not even sit, the bike was off limits. I have picked up cross-fit classes which helped tremendously with improving my general strength and posture.

Recently, I’ve started doing very short spins on the trainer and that doesn’t seem to cause any pain. I do still get lower back soreness on the left side once in a while but unable to pin point exactly what causes it.

Just wondering if anyone here got a similar issue and if so, how do you deal with it ?


I too had sever back problems with L4/L5. Mine was caused from the disks sliding back and forth (when I bent forward or leaned back) and by some spinal stenosis. Similarly like you riding my bike didn’t bother me. Riding in a car or doing any kind of physical activity (yard work, house projects, moving furniture, working on my vehicles, going to work, etc.) were difficult. I tried physical therapy and a TENS unit to relieve the pain. Both offered marginal improvement but nothing permanent. Finally after 7 months I ended up having surgery. L4/L5 were fused, screws and pins attached, and a laminectomy to relieve the pressure on the spinal cord (was 76% blocked). Couldn’t lift more than 5 pounds for about a couple months and slowly increased to my limit of 30 pounds today, although I do go over that from time to time, but am very cautious when I exceed this limit. I couldn’t ride my bike for six months. After six months I had to begin slowly, only 20 minutes to start off with (although I went 35 minuteson my first ride and really paid the price!). After a few months I was riding about 25 miles. I started Trainer Road and brought my FTP up from about 125 to 175. I rode a century for the first time in a year and a half last May. So recovery was slow. By having the surgery, going through the slow healing process, following my doctors advice (Ok to ride my bike but don’t slam the handlebars, be reasonable and cautious to what my body is telling me) and having some patience and persistence, my back feels better now than it has for the past 30 years (I just turned 69). Go see a doctor, take the time to follow his direction, take your time to recover, and ride on. Trainer Road was a big help in getting prepared to ride a century last spring. And I rode it faster than I did the previous 3 times when I was much younger :-). Good luck to you and I hope you find a remedy. For me it was a slow recovery (as I was told it would be) but I’m a whole lot better off today than I was just two years ago.

Thanks for the reply!

In my case, I couldn’t sit on my bike or chair. Doing other things such as running, moving about, etc. was perfectly okay.

I am not at a stage where I have no other choice but to get a surgery, plus there are many * well, one only * things that can go wrong, which would mean I’d never be able to move again.

Two time L5/S1 surgery patient checking in;
I had microdiscetomy both times. Symptoms came back after 5 years so I had a second surgery because surgeon agreed from quality of life perspective it was low risk and high probability of success.
I actually recovered using some help from coach chad on a modified plan and was back racing and winning within 3 months.

You need to check with your medical team (doctor, surgeon, physio) on what is right for you. Listen to your body, if it hurts stop doing it. There is good pain and bad pain. You likely know what the bad pain feels like so stay away from that.

I found cycling to actually be pretty easy for me to do and was riding up until surgery date. I believe that this really helped with recovery because i was starting from really good health and was fairly strong. You may have to adjust your fit to accomodate back pain. For me longer rides were tough and my stem was WAY up in comparison to others just to get me more upright.

I found glute bridges to be a huge help. They seemed to help me activate my glutes which were really suffering from the nerve irritation with the piriformis syndrome that i developed. Also using a softball to mash into my butt by sitting on it and rolling around was helpful to loosen up my glutes and piriformis.

If you want to talk about surgery i’m happy to tell you about mine. It’s not the only solution, and a good surgeon will tell you if you’re not the right candidate for it. It’s a massive decision to go into it willingly. (un)luckily for me the first time round I had no choice. I woke up and had no feeling in my left side and minimal feeling in my right leg. Disc had ruptured and done some serious damage to the bottom end of my spinal cord and the nerves were just not firing as they needed to. Walked the night following surgery though…
Second time round I knew exactly what i was in for, both the good and the bad.