Exercises to Avoid with Tarlov Cysts

5 Exercises to Avoid with Tarlov Cysts (And Alternatives )

Tarlov cysts, or perineural cysts, are fluid-filled sacs found near nerve roots in the spine. While they may not always cause symptoms, certain exercises can exacerbate discomfort or complications in individuals with Tarlov cysts. This article aims to provide clear guidance on exercises to prevent worsening symptoms and ensure the safety of those with Tarlov cysts.

What are Tarlov Cysts?

Tarlov cysts are sacs filled with cerebrospinal fluid that form around nerve roots, typically in the sacral region of the spine. They are often asymptomatic but can cause pain, sensory disturbances, or neurological symptoms in some cases.

Exercises to Avoid with Tarlov Cysts

1. High-Impact Activities:

   High-impact exercises like running, jumping, or intense aerobics can place excessive pressure on the spine, potentially aggravating Tarlov cyst symptoms. These activities may lead to increased pain and discomfort and should be avoided.

2. Heavy Weightlifting:

   Lifting heavy weights, especially exercises targeting the lower back or pelvic region, can strain the spine and worsen symptoms of Tarlov cysts. Avoid exercises such as deadlifts, squats, or overhead presses that place significant stress on the affected area.

Relate Article: Squats Lower Back Pain

3. Spinal Flexion Exercises:

   Movements involving excessive bending or flexion of the spine, such as sit-ups, crunches, or deep forward bends in yoga, can compress nerve roots and exacerbate symptoms of Tarlov cysts. It’s important to avoid these exercises to prevent further discomfort.

4. Back Extensions

Back extensions target the lower back muscles, including the erector spinae. They involve lifting the upper body off the ground while keeping the lower body stationary, typically performed on a back extension bench or stability ball. These exercises help strengthen the muscles that support the spine, improve posture, and reduce the risk of lower back pain. 

However, individuals with Tarlov cysts should approach back extensions with caution, as they may exacerbate symptoms or increase pressure on the affected nerve roots. 

5. Repetitive Exercises That Cause Strain

Repetitive exercises that cause strain involve repeated movements, often leading to overuse injuries like strains, sprains, or tendonitis. These activities, such as heavy weightlifting or repetitive motions in sports like tennis or golf, can gradually increase pressure on specific muscle groups or joints, resulting in symptoms like pain, swelling, or reduced range of motion. Avoiding such exercises is crucial for individuals with Tarlov cysts as they can exacerbate symptoms and strain the affected nerve roots. 

Instead, focusing on low-impact activities like swimming, cycling, walking, or gentle yoga can help maintain fitness levels while minimising the risk of aggravating Tarlov cyst symptoms. 

Low-Impact Alternatives:

  1. Swimming:

   Swimming is an excellent low-impact exercise that provides a full-body workout without stressing the spine. It allows for gentle movement and can help improve cardiovascular health without exacerbating Tarlov cyst symptoms.

  1. Cycling:

   Whether outdoors or on a stationary bike, cycling offers a cardiovascular workout with minimal impact on the spine. Adjusting the bike seat and handlebars can ensure proper alignment and reduce strain on the affected area.

  1. Walking:

   Walking is a simple yet effective exercise that promotes overall health and can be easily modified to suit individual fitness levels. It’s a low-impact activity that strengthens muscles and improves circulation without exacerbating Tarlov cyst symptoms.


  1. Can exercise worsen Tarlov cyst symptoms?

   – Yes, certain high-impact or spinal flexion exercises can exacerbate symptoms of Tarlov cysts.

  1. Is yoga safe for individuals with Tarlov cysts?

   – While some yoga poses may be beneficial, those involving deep spinal flexion should be avoided.

  1. Can physical therapy help manage Tarlov cyst symptoms?

   – Yes, physical therapy can provide personalised exercises and techniques to alleviate symptoms and improve function.

  1. Are there any specific guidelines for exercise with Tarlov cysts?

   – Listening to your body and avoiding exercises that cause pain or discomfort is essential. 


In conclusion, individuals with Tarlov cysts should be cautious when engaging in physical activity to avoid exacerbating symptoms. High-impact exercises, heavy weightlifting, and spinal flexion movements should be avoided, while low-impact alternatives like swimming, cycling, and walking offer safer options for maintaining fitness. Individuals with Tarlov cysts can effectively manage their condition and stay active without compromising their health by understanding which exercises to avoid and opt for gentle, low-impact activities.

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