View Full Version : Spinning with sciatica

09-20-2011, 09:29 AM
One of the ladies who comes to spinning classes at the gym has told me she has sciatica. I know little about it, apart from it being pain from the back down the leg, and caused by the sciatic nerve rubbing against intervertabral discs. (I think).
She's a keen participant and like all keeners does not want to stop doing what she loves. Can she still ride?

Also, does anyone know any stretches or exercises which help relieve the pain and prevent further flare ups? I know she has gone to the doctors, but they tend to look at prescriptions as opposed to taking active measures to solve problems!

Thanks gang!

09-20-2011, 11:24 AM
Hi There,
My name is Monique. I am a spinning instructor and also suffer from sciatica. It took me a few years to get to the point where I now teach about 10 classes per week. Indoor cycling is the best exercise for someone with this type of condition. What you should make sure is that your clients bike set up is accurate.
Make sure her leg height is correct, fore-aft position from handle bars is correct and handle bars are higher than saddle, at least 3-4 clicks or holes higher. Spinning.com has a great website and offers details on bike set up that you can print off and hand to your client. What I would also suggest is that she invest in wearing indoor cycling shoes (with spd cleats). Reason is because they encourage the spinner to use their hamstrings, glutes and calves more efficiently when pushing the foot forward, bringing the foot and heel parallel to the floor, sweeping behind and pulling the pedal back up (on the upward phase of the pedal stroke). Most individuals with sciatic have lost muscle mass and strength in their lower back, glutes and hamstrings. Spinning is a great low impact way to improve this. Suggest they do at least 4 classes per week to get their general fitness back up. Encourage them to do 2 Strength and 2 Endurance classes and 1 Recovery class (e.g. Strength class, Endurance class, Recovery, Strength, Endurance, Recovery... etc). This really helps getting the muscles to improve muscular endurance and strength. Using my heart rate monitor to help me progress my improvement help immensely. I also had to understand the discomfort I felt was due to my lower back re-learning how to neurologically adapt to exercise (especially when loading up the resistance). The back discomfort should be felt in the glutes and on the outter sides of the lower spine (lower lats) - not the middle. This is just an indicator that the muscles have been worked and need some recovery. It does get better. Look at Adverse Neural Response Stretches. An easy way to execute this in the class is to stretch the hamstring on the bike (avoid handle bars):
1. Place supporting leg on ground (load body weight into heel),
2. Other leg on bike (either middle part or on saddle)
3. Leg on bike - keep knee bent and flex foot towards face,
4. Lower chest to thigh as much as possible, Look down at ground, Relax back allow natural curve,
5. Reach for flexed foot, Gently pull towards body (can use towel), Gently straighten leg (optional), Hold for about 15 seconds, Release, Do again on same leg for another 8-10 seconds.

Encourage your client to do this stretch periodically in the day. This was what the physiotherapist encouraged me to do. Also, tell them to learn to do more isolated leg exercises in the gym and dynamic control exercises (look up on internet). This has helped me so much. I used to walk with a cane for 2 years and had no feeling from my hip to my foot on my left leg. I am now doing everything my doctors said I wouldn't be able to do.
The secret is mental learning how to work through the discomfort and recognising the difference between the pain felt from my back and nerve pain (which may mean the nerves are repairing and trying to get back to how they were).

I went to a website in England called The Back Pain Society. They are a charity that tell you all about back pain and associated symptoms that sometimes come with sciatica and other types of back conditions. Have a peek at the site. May prove useful. I hope I've been helpful.
All the best,

09-20-2011, 01:07 PM
With all due respect to Monique, what worked for her may not work for your rider. I have had sciatica for decades. I never consulted with a Spinning Instructor for a remedy. Instead, I sought out medical advice. When I didn't agree with them, I got a second opinion. I tried many different approaches and evenutally had surgery - twice. I ran 3 marathons after the first surgery and will be running my first marathon after the second surgery in less than 2 weeks. Sciatica is not a reason to stop working out, however it should be dealt with properly with advice from professionals.

If I can make a suggestion to you (and others who post similar questions) based on this post and your eating disorder one, it's to know your place. You are a Group Ex instructor. You are not an MD or even a PT. You should refer riders with problems to professionals, not attempt to diagnose and treat things that you are not qualified to address. As a coach, you should develop a list of resources - Dieticians, Orthopedic Doctors, Podiatrists, PTs, etc. - to refer clients to when they need advice. But, the biggest disservice that you can do to your clients is to pretend you are an expert on things that you aren't.

09-21-2011, 03:29 AM
It's becuase I'm not an expert that I ask these questions. The basic gist of my question here and with the anorexic lady is - is it safe?
If it helps, great!
I'm 100% aware that I am not a doctor, physio or any such thing, and have not diagnosed the sciatica that I've asked questions about - I've been told by the lady concerned. I would not dream of trying to cure her, she did not ask me that, and I didnt ask you guys that, I just don't want my ignorance to make matters worse - I know next to nothing about sciatica.

To rephrase my question in the most simple terms: Can someone with sciatica participate safely in a spinning class? Answer appears to be yes, provided the bike set up is sound and the doctor has not advised against it, however every case (as is typical in life) is different so what works for one person could not work for another. To sum the answer up... it depends...

As with all information found on the internet, I take the advice I am give here with caution. I think Monique has given a great response based on her experience (which is really the very best she can give- at least she's not said ' a cousins friends sister told me... blah blah... it's her first hand experience), so big thanks to Monique (and welcome to the site too, where in England are you?) So I'll take what she's told me, go back and discuss it with my client, and see what she thinks. I'm certianly going to check her bike set up if nothing else as this is simple good practice. I'm not going to bound into the room yelling 'hurrah! I have the cure to all ills and pains and it's because I'm a trumped up genius who thinks I can heal the world, make it a better place, come one, come all, feel the healing power of my hands!'

I understand the point you have made though. There is nothing worse than someone trying to be someone they are not and not only failing but making matters worse, abusing the trust of their client in the process. Thanks!