I used to practice karate earlier. 5 years ago I was diagnosed with minor disc herniation at L4 and L5. I haven't undergone any surgery and pretty much cured just by physiotherapy and can do all my day to day activities without any problem. I do a little bit of yoga everyday as suggested by the doctor. I want to restart my martial arts training. Is it safe to do so?

  • This question is similar to learning karate after a slip disc problem. I posted an answer there that I think applies to your issue as well.
    – CZollweg
    Dec 4, 2012 at 13:55
  • Thank you for your advice. I know the torment one goes through with slip disk and I commend your determination. Thank you for inspiring me and of course I will be careful before restarting my training.
    – Yash
    Dec 4, 2012 at 15:12

3 Answers 3


Disclaimer: I have no medical background. Please consult your Doctor.

First and foremost, (and I really can't say this enthusiastically enough) Please consult your Doctor! His/her word will be much more valuable than anything you read here. Second, I suspect that it should probably be OK to start up again, but do so very cautiously. Here are some (non-medical, common sense) things to keep in mind:

  • If your Doctor says no, that means no. Forget about it. Otherwise...
  • Let your instructors know. Any Martial Arts school worth its salt should eagerly invite you to continue your training, almost no matter the circumstances. That said, it is critical that your instructors should know that you have a medical condition which may limit your ability to perform. If they don't know, they'll push you exactly the same way as they do everyone else, and that increases your risk needlessly.
  • Don't push it. If you start sparring a week after going back to the class, you're not taking this seriously. You could injure yourself much worse than the original injury that took you off the mats, and then training is all but certainly off the table for good.
  • Pain is a bad sign. If something feels bad, don't do it--everyone will understand.
  • If {Whatever}, stop. If you're in pain, stop. If you think it might hurt you, stop. If you don't think you can do it, stop. If anything feels wrong at all, stop. There's no honor, dignity, or heroism to be had in the middle of your dojo.
  • Be ready to get injured again. Even if your doctor is cool with it, you're careful, the instructors know what's going on and take care of you, and you do everything perfectly, something can still go wrong. It might just be painful, in which case you're lucky. It might actually be damaging, in which case you will need to stop.

Good luck.


Tony's answer is great, I won't repeat it here, though it's largely what I would have written.

I will add that I had a herniated disk when I was in my early 20's while in, and certainly exacerbated by, my martial arts practice (I think also L4/L5). With extensive physiotherapy, I avoided surgery, and did (several months later) ease gradually back into martial arts practice. That was 20 years ago, during which time I have studied various martial arts on and off. I'm careful to have good posture, good sitting and exercise habits, avoid things that would be especially straining on my lower back, and generally try to keep my core strength up to support the region. Being vigilant about those things, once I recovered fully, I have not found it to be an impediment to my martial arts training. So -- all caveats in place with a sample size of one -- it certainly can be done.

Go over it with your own doctor, don't do anything that hurts, but if you are already recovered enough that you don't notice it in your daily life and you're doing other exercise without incident, I don't see why you shouldn't try martial arts again.

  • Thank you for your advice. I don't know what is it with early 20s and slip disk. I have heard many cases. Doctors here don't even consider it to be significant. I mean, its the spinal region we are talking about, please doctors show some concern. I had consulted almost a dozen of reputed specialists here in Bangalore, who dint even bother to explain what was happening with me. They all said I had slip disk and just suggested to undergo a surgery and I will be all right. I had to do a through research on the internet using the MRI report to understand what had happened.
    – Yash
    Dec 8, 2012 at 7:15
  • 1
    The thing with early 20's is that people of that age are stupid and inexperienced. When things hurt, they don't take it easy or seek the right medical attention, instead they try to push through as if they were indestructible and make it worse. In my case, I felt the pain in my leg, self-treated it as a pulled hamstring (and thus doing activities that actually made it worse). When I finally went to a doctor, they said "I can tell from the way you're standing that the problem is your back, not your leg." Dumb kid.
    – Larry
    Dec 18, 2012 at 19:55

Look up a biography of Masaru Shintani. In the early to mid 1980's, he was seriously injured in a car accident. Among his injuries were several spinal injuries. The doctors insisted he would never walk again. When he passed away many years later, he was one of the few 9th degree black belts that continued to train regularly. See https://business.highbeam.com/436167/article-1G1-159922549/masaru-shintani-making-modern-canadian-karate-master


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