Three low-impact sports you can play with a torn disc

Not everyone who has a torn disc needs to completely stop participating in sports. For people with only minor symptoms of a torn disc, the benefits of staying active (such as enhanced muscle tone and heightened flexibility) may outweigh the benefits of avoiding their favorite sport. There are some cases, however, when a switch from a high-impact sport to another activity is a wise choice. Although you should check with your physician before changing your exercise routine, low-impact sports are especially recommended if any of the following circumstances apply to you:

  • You have experienced repeated back injuries
  • You know that playing a particular sport intensifies your symptoms
  • You have very intense symptoms
  • You have had previous multi-level spine surgery.

If you’re looking to switch up your routine, you’ll find a few options to consider below.


Whether you choose to go it alone or cycle competitively, getting in the saddle is a great workout for the lower body without the repeated, jarring impacts that running involves. If you have a torn disc, you may still want to take a few precautions while cycling, like maintaining proper posture and not riding too long at one time, as doing so may worsen your symptoms.


A full body workout that you can practice in the gym or on the water, rowing can help you strengthen your core muscles in addition to groups of muscles in your arms and legs. Because your core muscles stabilize your spine, building them up might even help with torn disc symptoms. As with cycling, though, be careful not to overdo it, and make a note if the activity makes your torn disc symptoms flare up.


For a low-impact, full-body sport, you can’t beat swimming. Because it puts minimal stress on the body, swimming allows even those with relatively severe torn disc symptoms to get some quality aerobic exercise without worsening their symptoms. Taking a few laps in the pool can also give you the chance to build up some muscle strength in your deltoids, triceps and biceps thanks to the water providing resistance.

If your torn disc symptoms have become so unbearable that even lower-impact sports seem impossible to enjoy, surgery might be an option. Contact Laser Spine Institute to learn about our minimally invasive spine surgery and to find out if you’re a candidate for one of our procedures.