Unicycling strengthens your lower back. That said, we are not doctors (give or take a Ken Looi or two), and no two backs are alike. What works for one rider may not necessarily be viable, or even a good idea, for someone else.
But also take doctor advice with a grain of salt. Riding a typical road or mountain bike puts your back at a very different angle than unicycling, and can also be harmful, depending on your condition. Basic unicycling has your back upright, with what is essentially “good posture”. It’s not a bent-over thing that a doctor might warn against, because this can strain a lower back…
Try it and see if it hurts. I actually hurt my back unicycling, and found that most riding made it worse whilst it was badly injured. Though a lot of people on here seem to find it helps, so clearly experiences vary and it depends what sort of injury you have. Also on what sort of riding - I’d be fairly conservative and not do anything too extreme.
I have occasional episodes of severe back pain. It goes from 0% pain to 100% pain and from free movement to severely limited mobility in an instant. I believe it is a muscular spasm rather than skeletal.
I have from time to time visited physios and the like. I feel that they have charged me money to keep me occupied until I recovered naturally.
Once I had one of these sudden episodes 12 miles out on an “out and back” ride, and I was on my own.
I tried to walk back pushing the uni and soon concluded it was never going to work. I then mounted against a pole, slowly straightened my back, and rode smoothly. Every dismount for a gate or stile was a problem but the actual riding was easier than walking.
It didn’t make things better or worse than they usually are with such an episode.
Nice to read a number of replies I’d expected (confiming unicycling is a good activity to get rid of back pain).
Most useful reply made me itch to contribute some additions to.
Not only that -in general- (as said) make you sit straight up automatically. Reason: it’s the most energy-efficient position while unicycling, so; you do this out of lazyness!
There must be at least one PT plus an IMT person here, who I would trust at least as much on these matters.
While writing I was wondering somethinge else; could he be credited for inventing flat seats? Or is that something that I fabricated in my memory?
Even if the sympthones or state may be alike, what usually matters most is the cause, or better said the root of the problem.
One not unrelated problem I think is not addressed by barely any unicyclist is that the foam used in nowedays seats isn’t having much memory capacity.
And even if it had, the suspension it provides is IMHO too mininal, even for unicycle rides on the best cyclepaths in the world.
Keep in mind that anything unequal on the riding surface will cause some impact on the spine. A zillion times minimal impact may result in backpain, and in that case increasing your rides will increase your pain.
So finding a doctor here -with unicycling knowledge- is a great idea - but doing consults online in general isn’t.
While I recognize that anecdotal evidence is statistically insignificant, I have had bad disks since the 80s, with periodic bouts of pain ranging from simply sore to bed-ridden. Since I’ve started unicycle riding I have had almost no instances of back pain, and I find that the more I ride the better my back feels. I find muni to be better, which may seem counter-intuitive, since it’s generally rougher. I think it’s because in muni the back is in almost constant motion. Road riding is more of a steady repetition, so somewhat less beneficial (for me, anyway) (but I still do a lot of road riding, 'cause I like it).
Just my opinion, “Your Mileage May Vary!”
Still I’m always amazed it’s so difficult to convince a corpulent person that cycling or swimming are better options for their bones, while running -in such case- is almost a certain subscription to injury. “But running is more common, so must be better - the majority can’t be wrong.”
I concur that unicycling is about the best activity for my back and since I started unicycling almost all of my back problems virtually disappeared (I also sit on a petzi ball at my desk and these 2 things are my treatment again back pain). As has been said, the upright position is good, it requires you to actively use all kinds of different muscles in your back (for forward/backward/sideways balance and rotation). And the impacts are minimal (unless you’re doing large drops or big trials moves. Exception: This year when doing frequent >1m drops I noticed the back doesn’t like it so much). If I go more than 3-4 days without being on the uni I can feel my back is tight and in need of a good unicycle ride.
However, if you have an active muscle tear then it might be better to rest for a week to 10 days or so. I would say the feeling should guide you. If you can feel the torn muscle when you get on the unicycle, then don’t ride. From your description it sounds like upright posture is no problem.
Then you have to consider what happens when you UPD: As you can’t predict if you will suddenly have your upper body violently pushed forward or back, it’s hard to predict. I’ve over-extended my back on a few falls as well as had a few small muscle tears from UPDs. If you can’t bend forward without pain, then how will you UPD to the front (or only limit your riding to stuff where you have a very low chance of UPD, but this wouldn’t work well for me as I would get bored nd started “playing” soon anyway).
Not quite my back, but my side: I had a strange injury earlier this year (posted about it and most people said to see a doctor) which was rather strange. It felt kind of like a muscle tear under my front/side ribcage but then wasn’t like most in that it wasn’t sore to touch. Anyhow, resting didn’t seem to help much (10 days with no unicycling) and I eventually just kept riding and it finally went away.
Again I think the best guide is listening to your body. If riding hurts at all or just doens’t feel right (e.g. makes your back all tense and tight) then don’t.