Gentle exercise, like most back conditions, is part of the treatment to treat a herniated disc. When the hard outer of the disc is not strong enough to support the soft jelly, it can cause a herniated or ruptured disc. This can cause severe pain and even death.
- Back pain
- Neck pain
- Shooting arm pain
- Tingling, numbness or weakness in the foot or leg
- Tingling, weakness, or numbness in one arm
A herniated disc does not typically require surgery. The treatment of symptoms caused by a herniated disc is often recommended by doctors as physiotherapy. Any disc in the spine can be herniated. However, it is most common in the lower back. Depending on the location of the herniated disc, there are different exercises that can be used to help.
How does a herniated disc feel?
A lumbar disc herniation is often accompanied by lower back pain. This pain may last for several days before subsiding. However, leg pain, numbness, or tingling and/or weakness in the lower extremities are often followed by this type of pain. The leg pain usually travels below the knee and can affect the ankle or foot.
How long can the pain last?
Patients with lumbar disc herniation tend to experience gradual improvement over days to weeks. Most patients are symptom-free in 3 to 4 months. Here are some exercises to help with your back pain caused by herniated discs. You may find it helpful to learn more about herniated discs in general.
Exercise 1: Standing Lumbar Extension
It’s beneficial because it helps reduce the pressure on your discs in the back.
- Stand tall
- Get your hands on your hips
- To extend your lower back, gently push your hips forward.
- Keep it for 2-3 seconds
- For a total of 10 repetitions, repeat the exercise.
Exercise 2: Standing Row With Resistance Band (special elastic band)
It’s beneficial because it can help reduce pain
- The band can be attached to a stable object, such as a doorknob and a staircase post.
- Standing tall, with your feet slightly bent at the knees and your hips open, grasp the end of this band with both your hands.
- Bend your elbows and pull the band towards yourself. Keep your forearms parallel to the floor.
Repeat this 10 times. Continue for a few seconds, and then repeat the process 10 times.
Exercise 3: Prone on Elbows
Why it is beneficial: It helps to realign the discs.
- Place your belly on the ground.
- Place your hands near your shoulders on the ground.
- Keep your shoulders and back straightened by pushing up.
- This position should be held for 30 seconds.
Repeat the process 5-10 times.
Exercise 4: Cobra Pose
It’s beneficial because you can move from the Prone On Elbows to Cobra pose, which is a popular pose in yoga.
Important: Cobra Pose, an advanced version of prone with elbows, is a form of prone on the elbows. Do not attempt to be prone on elbows if you are unable to do so.
- Place your hands on your stomach and place your arms on the ground.
- Ten seconds.
- Reduce your head, chest and shoulders.
Repeat the process 5-10 times.
Exercise 5: Sciatic Nerve Fluid Floss
- Place your arms at your sides, your knees bent, and your feet flat on the ground in a chair.
- Place your chin on the chest, and then bend your neck forward towards your torso.
- Slowly straighten your leg by extending your neck and chest while flexing your ankle. NOTE: It is possible to straighten your leg completely without experiencing pain or other symptoms.
Revert to the original position.
Two sets of 10 should be completed on the affected side.
There are also other options for treating herniated discs
Rest is a good option to ease severe pain from lumbar disc herniation. You should not rest longer than that as it can cause stiffness and pain.
Anti-inflammatory medication – medicines such as naproxen and ibuprofen can help reduce inflammation and pain.
Physical therapy – Performing specific exercises to increase range and strengthen your core and lower back muscles may be a good option to ease pain and decrease your chances of injuring yourself again.
Spinal manipulation – manipulation of the lower back joints may improve range of motion and reduce pain.
Massage therapy – can help reduce pain by increasing blood circulation.
Injections of epidural steroids – corticosteroids may be injected into the affected area to relieve pain and reduce inflammation.
What can exercise do?
A herniated disc can often be treated with physiotherapy and exercises. A doctor will recommend that you rest for a few days after having a herniated disc.
Gentle activities and exercises can strengthen the spine muscles and lower the pressure on the spinal column. They can also increase flexibility and reduce the chance of a herniated disc recurring.
Doctors may recommend that you start slowly and build up your activity gradually. The doctor will explain what exercises a person should do and not do during recovery.
The following gentle activities can be helpful for a herniated disc:
All exercises should be done slowly and carefully, particularly when you are bending or lifting. It should not hurt to do exercises. If someone feels pain, they should stop doing the exercise and consult their doctor.
Avoid these exercises
You can herniate your disc by lifting heavy objects, applying sudden pressure to the back, and engaging in repetitive strenuous activity. A herniated disc patient should refrain from engaging in strenuous activity during their recovery.
All exercises that cause pain should be avoided. Sciatica patients should avoid hamstring exercises.
Some people might prefer to avoid high-impact activities like jogging and martial arts. These activities can cause injury to the spine.
It is safer to start small and increase intensity as you reduce symptoms. However, it is possible to improve the outcome of a person’s condition by starting exercises and stretching early.
Talk to your doctor about the best exercise program for you.
What are the Risk Factors for a Herniated Disc?
These are the risk factors:
- Age: Back pain due to herniated discs occurs most commonly in those in their 30s and 50s.
- Sex: Men are twice as likely to have sex than women.
- Heavy lifting
How is a herniated disc diagnosed?
A person’s medical history, symptoms and physical exam are usually used to diagnose a herniated disc. The examination focuses on the neurologic and musculoskeletal systems. To check for disc problems in your lower back, you may also need to perform tests such as the straight leg raise test.
If a person is experiencing severe or more serious neurologic symptoms, MRI or CT imaging tests may be recommended. In preparation for surgery or injections, imaging studies can also be done.