Recreational or competitive cycling with ruptured disc pain

Whether you enjoy recreational or competitive cycling, your activity may be limited from the chronic pain of a ruptured disc.

A ruptured disc can develop from constant stress and pressure on the spine, and it usually occurs in the neck (cervical spine) or lower back (lumbar spine). This tear could compress a nearby nerve, which is what results in chronic pain and symptoms.

Back pain is common among avid cyclists because the riding position places stress on the discs, ligaments, tendons and the small muscles that help stabilize the spine. While routine muscle soreness is not a long-term problem, a ruptured disc in the cervical or lumbar regions can be aggravated and prolonged by strenuous bike riding.

Treating a ruptured disc from cycling

If you are feeling constant pain in your neck or back when you cycle, or even when you are resting, you should pause your cycling schedule and consult your doctor. While the thought of not riding can be frustrating, you may be doing more damage to your already injured disc by continually straining it while cycling.

For many people, the symptoms associated with a ruptured or herniated disc can be managed with conservative treatment such as physical therapy, pain medication and rest. Consult your physician or physical therapist to determine when you may resume bike riding, and whether you should modify your cycling schedule.

For a better chance to avoid a ruptured disc and its associated pain, consider the following preventive measures:

  • Check the fit of your bicycle — Raise or lower handlebars; adjust crossbar (top tube) length; move saddle backward or forward, up or down.
  • Practice proper riding position — Relaxed is better; a rigid position transmits shock directly to the neck, shoulders and back.
  • Shift posture regularly — Alternate between upright and forward leaning, while frequently shifting hand position.
  • Strengthen your core — Work with a fitness professional on a cycling-specific exercise regimen designed to strengthen the abdominal and back muscles.
  • Ride fewer miles — Back off on distance or give yourself a few days off when the first signs of disc pain emerge.

Treatment for a ruptured disc

If the conservative and preventive methods recommended have not reduced your pain, you may be in need of spine surgery.

At Laser Spine Institute, our minimally invasive spine surgery has a lower risk of complication and shorter recovery time^ than traditional open neck or back surgery, which means you can return to your cycling routine faster. Our minimally invasive approach to the spine means that we use a small incision and do not disrupt the integrity of the muscles surrounding the spine — a practice not used during traditional open back surgery.

To treat a ruptured disc, we may recommend a minimally invasive decompression or stabilization procedure. A minimally invasive decompression surgery removes a small portion of the damaged disc in order to release the pinched nerve root. A minimally invasive stabilization surgery removes the entire damaged disc and replaces it with an artificial one to decompress the nerve root and still maintain stability within the spine. Many damaged discs are able to be treated through a decompression procedure, though some cases of severe damage may require a stabilization surgery.

Contact Laser Spine Institute to learn how our minimally invasive, outpatient procedures can help you find relief from neck or back pain.