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Can a stretched out dropbar road bike position cause a herniated disc?

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Can a stretched out dropbar road bike position cause a herniated disc?

Old 06-05-19, 03:29 PM
  #1  
jambon
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Can a stretched out dropbar road bike position cause a herniated disc?

Hi there ,

Im curious to know if its possible for a road bike cycling position to eventually weaken the lower back and gradually cause a herniated or slipped disc .

I am experiencing a flare up of sciatica and have had an mri showing a lumbar disc issue pressing on the nerve.

It seems to have developed out of nowhere.
I didnt have a fall or an incident so I am doing a bit of detective work to see what caused it .

Sitting on my road bikes really aggravates it (so im not cycling for now) . Is it possible that my cycling posture would be enough to cause this ? I never experienced major discomfort on my bikes but it is the most extreme position that I would hold my back in for prolonged periods.

Thanks for any thoughts

Last edited by jambon; 06-05-19 at 03:33 PM.
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Old 06-05-19, 04:51 PM
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Originally Posted by jambon View Post
Hi there ,

Im curious to know if its possible for a road bike cycling position to eventually weaken the lower back and gradually cause a herniated or slipped disc .

I am experiencing a flare up of sciatica and have had an mri showing a lumbar disc issue pressing on the nerve.

It seems to have developed out of nowhere.
I didnt have a fall or an incident so I am doing a bit of detective work to see what caused it .

Sitting on my road bikes really aggravates it (so im not cycling for now) . Is it possible that my cycling posture would be enough to cause this ? I never experienced major discomfort on my bikes but it is the most extreme position that I would hold my back in for prolonged periods.

Thanks for any thoughts
I am currently going through a similar issue. I don't think it was posture on the bike that caused my bulging disc, but it definitely aggravated it on long rides. I recently got a taller stem and it is helping some.

I blame a slouchy posture in my desk chair at work and not enough core strength as the cause of my sciatica problems, but a more upright posture on my bike along with some strength training has helped to alleviate my symptoms.
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Old 06-05-19, 04:59 PM
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Weird. I've recently been dealing with this too (I think). Will watch as more thoughts roll in.
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Old 06-05-19, 05:34 PM
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I think almost everything can cause everything. beware of everything man!!!!
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Old 06-05-19, 06:15 PM
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OMG, maybe bulging disc is contagious and is spread by posting on BikeForums! AAAAHHHH, my back just went out!
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Old 06-05-19, 06:20 PM
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burn all your discs!! its the only way to stay safe.
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Old 06-05-19, 06:30 PM
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Originally Posted by jambon View Post
Hi there ,

Im curious to know if its possible for a road bike cycling position to eventually weaken the lower back and gradually cause a herniated or slipped disc .

I am experiencing a flare up of sciatica and have had an mri showing a lumbar disc issue pressing on the nerve.

It seems to have developed out of nowhere.
I didnt have a fall or an incident so I am doing a bit of detective work to see what caused it .

Sitting on my road bikes really aggravates it (so im not cycling for now) . Is it possible that my cycling posture would be enough to cause this ? I never experienced major discomfort on my bikes but it is the most extreme position that I would hold my back in for prolonged periods.

Thanks for any thoughts

If the fit is not ideal, it could certainly aggravate a problem. On the other hand, I had a grad student who only got relief from a back problem like this when he was on the bike. He eventually opted for surgery, which was successful.
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Old 06-05-19, 06:55 PM
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How good is your core strength?
Big waist size is often the cause of back pain.

I ride in an aero, drop bar position without back pain. But that's just me.
6'1", 190lbs with a bit of a gut at age 68. Cycling pretty consistently 35 years.
I have some degeneration between L3/4 and L4/5 that caused me pain at a heavier weight.
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Old 06-05-19, 07:00 PM
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See discs are the evil of cycling. Back to rim brakes.
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Old 06-05-19, 07:04 PM
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A herniated disc is usually an outcome of a chronic degenerative process. That said, positioning can be an aggravating or precipitating cause and deconditioning of core muscles often contributes.

In terms of the mechanics of the process, discs bulge or herniate by being squeezed out posteriorly from between the vertebral bodies, so flexion (forward bending) of the spine is what does it. This is something one should try to minimize on the bike and elsewhere by rotating the pelvis forward and flattening the lumbar spine instead of bending it. Think about the proper form for a starting a deadlift. Doing a deadlift wrong is a perfect way to squeeze out a disc and doing them right is a great way of improving position on the bike and protecting the spine.
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Old 06-05-19, 08:19 PM
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Interesting. Road bike riding had and has the opposite effect for me.

A couple of years ago, I had terrible sciatica from a bulging disc and a spondylolisthesis - all happening at L4-L5-S1 which prevented me from standing or walking for any length of time. Hiking was out of the question which was the most troubling problem. If one can do only one physical activity, walking is the most important and with hills can be a real fitness maintainer. It was also frustrating getting my pants, shoes and socks on as were most household chores.

Riding the road bike was the only thing (other than laying down with knees up) that felt OK, in fact I always felt much better riding the bike and afterwards. My road bike position is not terribly aggressive - handlebar about even with the saddle, maybe a cm lower. I also found that extending all my stems by about 5mm felt even better. More stretched out, less hunched over, more relief from pressure on the lower spine. A road bike position would tend to minimize vertical pressure on the spine compared to sitting, standing or walking.

Through a series of steroid injections over a couple of years (none for a year!), PT (core and prescribed stretching) and lifestyle changes (e.g. don't be stupid!), my back feels pretty good now and riding the road bike is and has always been part of the therapy and something I can count on to make it feel better. My walking / hiking is now only limited by fitness and other strenuous activities are only limited by being smart! Physical labor is mostly limited by the creaky body and lower motivation of a 65 year old. 8-)

My PT, pain doc and neurosurgeon (consult only) all agreed that it made sense that the road bike position felt good and helped since it should relieve pressure on the spine, not increase it.
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Old 06-05-19, 08:47 PM
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Originally Posted by MoAlpha View Post
A herniated disc is usually an outcome of a chronic degenerative process. That said, positioning can be an aggravating or precipitating cause and deconditioning of core muscles often contributes.

In terms of the mechanics of the process, discs bulge or herniate by being squeezed out posteriorly from between the vertebral bodies, so flexion (forward bending) of the spine is what does it. This is something one should try to minimize on the bike and elsewhere by rotating the pelvis forward and flattening the lumbar spine instead of bending it. Think about the proper form for a starting a deadlift. Doing a deadlift wrong is a perfect way to squeeze out a disc and doing them right is a great way of improving position on the bike and protecting the spine.
This is exactly what I've found to be the case for me. I did have sale to bar drop of 7-8cm and I really couldn't maintain that position without allowing my lumbar spine to round over.

Now I have my bars 1 or 2 cm below the saddle and my PT gave me a good program to strengthen glute medius muscles, abs, and posterior chain and worked a lot on proper hip hinging. It has worked really well for me.
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