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I was diagnosed with lumbar spinal disc herniation and told that I should exercise. I always liked biking, so I want to do that.

I have an older rigid mountain-bike and will be mostly driving on asphalt bike-roads. I know I should pay attention to bumps, so I stand up and use my legs and arms to take the hit.

Are there any more precautions I should take or things to avoid?

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Sounds pretty good. You want a reasonably upright posture and want to avoid shocks. A "sissy" seat might be the only thing to add. –  Daniel R Hicks Apr 26 '12 at 17:21
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Perhaps you could find recumbent bikes interesting. I know of people who switched to recumbent after being even "medically forbidden" to ride regular bikes anymore, and they are doing fine! –  heltonbiker Apr 26 '12 at 18:07
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I don't want to stop the discussion, but if I was in your situation I'd also make an appointment with a physio who has medical training in spinal injuries and also in cycling. While the opinions of cyclists can assist, I wouldn't want to give you advice that could be damaging - I am not a doctor! Saying that, good luck with your injury and I hope things get better for you. –  Bernard Tyers Apr 29 '12 at 22:29
    
@Nematicos: That's a good idea, I already go tips from my brother (no twisting of my upper-body and lots of stabilisitaion excercises) who is studying sports. Thanks for the wishes! –  phw Apr 29 '12 at 23:39
    
@phw No problemo. Good luck. –  Bernard Tyers Apr 30 '12 at 8:03
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2 Answers 2

up vote 8 down vote accepted

To be very to-the-point, in your situation I would first consider the following two things:

  • Rise/exchange your handlebar to leave it at least some 8 inches above the saddle height;
  • Have a good quality suspension seatpost.

I have studied medicine (and have a little back pain, also), so the rationale is the following:

enter image description here

This figure illustrates a part of the lumbar spine, as would be seen if the rider was passing from right to left on the bike (left is front, right is back).

  • Rising the handlebar would allow you to be more erect, thus making the upper vertebrae rotate backwards (clockwise in the figure) over the lower vertebrae. Since this rotation is articulated a bit behind the midline, there is a decompression of the discs (blue and red, with red being herniae and blue being normal disc tissue);
  • Since your bar is now higher, a greater part of your body weight is supported by your back/buttocks. Using a suspended seatpost - a relatively lowcost, minimal modification on your current rigid bike - helps avoding unpredicted/unavoidable impact, which is a main causation factor of hernia inflamation and/or progression, due to the sudden rises on internal disc pressure associated with impact.

I don't enjoy very much the feeling of sprung saddles (I have a Brooks Flyer), and I think that's because they pivot around the nose, thus bending the lower back and pelvis while going down, in a flexing motion. Seatposts, on the other side, have a translation movement, without pelvis rotation.

Having ridden some suspended-seatpost-equipped bikes, I can say one thing: they are awesome! And since you have a condition, thus are probably not wanting to become world champion anymore, the minimal, questionable performance decrease is overwhelmed by the very significant gains in comfort and health risk reduction.

Hope this helps!

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Thanks a lot for the suggestions. I'll see how I can raise the handlebar. It's very nice that you included more detailed information rather than just saying 'do this or that'. –  phw Apr 27 '12 at 17:46
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I had a bad case of sciatica due to a lower back issue, and riding my recumbent bike seemed to help a lot. I documented the experience in more detail on my blog.

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