How to exercise with a slipped disc

A decade of office work slouched in front of a computer pretty much destroyed my back, I can now only stand or lie down to work, and I can’t sit for more than an hour or so (I’m 41). To be accurate, it affects four discs/vertebra on my lumbar spine (the lowest part of the spine).

While it was really bad, some doctors recommended an operation (which in China would have cost me about 100,000 yuan/10,000 pounds sterling). An American relative who is an expert in the field said that these operations often cause as much problems as they cure, and that the latest research points to recovery through exercise (strengthening the back muscles).

So more exercise is obviously good, but the wrong kind of exercise can cripple me for a month. I can say with certainty that the best kind of exercise by far is…


I just go for a kilometre a week, but this has done wonders. And if I miss a couple weeks the back pain starts to come back.

The other thing to avoid is a regular push bike – going up or down hill puts a huge strain on your lower back, just avoid it. I love biking, so was gutted to hear this, but luckily recumbent bikes (the ones where you lie on your back to pedal) actually help build lower back muscle without straining your spine. I love these bikes now more than regular bikes, and would never have gone near them if it wasn’t for the bad back, though I realise they’re not for everyone. The best I’ve found in Asia are Taiwanese Performer bikes, excellent customer service, friendly people, perfect English.

Walking is also good. Remember when walking to concentrate on good posture (chest out, head high, shoulders back). Head forward, slouched shoulders, forward curved spine is a killer.

The following list is mostly off the internet, but stuff that tallies with personal experience. I’ll keep it updated as I try different things…

Lifting weights overhead
Leg press (sitting, pushing legs forward to lift weights)
Lying on back and lifting legs
Forward bends/touching toes
Pelvic-tilt (on back)
Lateral raises (lift weights from sides to shoulder height)
Kayaking (and any other “twisting” exercise)
Bicycling (regular bike)
Standup paddleboarding (inflatable SUP boards)
Recumbent bike

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