Living with a herniated disc can be challenging, but incorporating appropriate exercises into your daily routine can help alleviate pain, prevent further injury, and promote recovery. In this article, we will explore various exercises and guidelines for safely exercising with a herniated disc, as well as specific exercises to avoid and recommendations for different spinal levels.
How to Exercise with a Herniated Disc
- Consult with a healthcare professional or physical therapist to determine the most appropriate exercises for your specific condition.
- Start slow and gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workouts.
- Focus on exercises that strengthen the core, improve flexibility, and promote proper posture.
- Avoid exercises that cause pain or strain on the affected area.
Core Exercises for Herniated Disc
- Pelvic Tilts: Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Tighten your abdominal muscles and gently tilt your pelvis upward. Hold for a few seconds, then release. Repeat 10 times.
Partial Crunches: Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place your hands behind your head, and gently lift your shoulders off the floor without pulling on your neck. Hold for a second, then slowly lower back down. Repeat 10 times.
- Bird-Dog: Begin on your hands and knees with a neutral spine. Slowly extend your right arm and left leg, keeping your core engaged. Hold for a few seconds, then return to the starting position. Repeat with the opposite arm and leg. Complete 10 repetitions on each side.
Herniated Disc Recovery and Rehab Exercises
- McKenzie Exercises: These exercises, developed by physical therapist Robin McKenzie, are designed to promote spinal extension and alleviate pain. Consult with a physical therapist for specific instructions and guidance.
- Gentle Stretching: Stretching the hamstrings, hip flexors, and lower back can help improve flexibility and alleviate pain.
- Aerobic Exercise: Low-impact activities like walking, swimming, and cycling can improve circulation and support the healing process.
Exercises to Avoid with a Herniated Disc
● Toe Touches: Bending forward to touch your toes can place excessive strain on the spine and aggravate herniated disc symptoms.
● Sit-ups: Traditional sit-ups can place excessive pressure on the lower back, potentially worsening symptoms.
● Heavy Lifting: Avoid lifting heavy weights or performing exercises like squats and deadlifts that place significant strain on the spine.
Leg and Glute Exercises for Herniated Disc
- Bridges: Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Squeeze your glutes and lift your hips off the floor, forming a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Hold for a few seconds, then slowly lower back down. Repeat 10 times.
- Clamshells: Lie on your side with your hips and knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Keeping your feet together, lift your top knee as high as possible without shifting your hips. Lower your knee back down and repeat 10 times on each side.
Thoracic Herniated Disc Exercises
- Seated Rows: Use a resistance band or cable machine to perform seated rows, focusing on squeezing the shoulder blades together and maintaining proper posture.
- Scapular Retractions: Stand or sit with good posture. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and hold for a few seconds, then release. Repeat 10 times.
Herniated Disc Pain Relief Exercises
- Exercise Ball: Gently rolling on an exercise ball can help stretch the lower back and alleviate pain.
- Child’s Pose: Kneel on the floor with your toes together and knees hip-width apart. Sit back on your heels and reach your arms forward, lowering your chest to the floor. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds and repeat 3 times.
Exercise for Sciatica from a Herniated Disc
Piriformis Stretch: Lie on your back with both knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Cross your affected leg over the opposite knee, then gently pull the unaffected knee toward your chest. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds and repeat 3 times on each side.
Lumbar Herniated Disc Exercises
- Back Extension: Lie face down on the floor with your hands under your shoulders. Gently push your upper body off the floor while keeping your hips and pelvis on the ground. Hold for a few seconds, then slowly lower back down. Repeat 10 times.
- Cat-Cow Stretch: Begin on your hands and knees with a neutral spine. Slowly arch your back, lifting your head and tailbone, then round your back, tucking your chin and tailbone. Repeat 10 times.
Specific Spinal Level Exercises
- L4-L5 Herniated Disc: Focus on core strengthening exercises and gentle stretches, avoiding excessive forward bending or twisting. Consult with a physical therapist for specific guidance.
- L5-S1 Herniated Disc: McKenzie extension exercises can be particularly beneficial for this spinal level. Avoid heavy lifting and exercises that place excessive strain on the lower back.
Exercising with a herniated disc requires careful consideration and guidance from healthcare professionals. By focusing on core strengthening, flexibility, and proper posture, individuals with herniated discs can alleviate pain, promote healing, and prevent further injury. Always consult with a healthcare professional or physical therapist before beginning any exercise program to ensure the most appropriate and safe exercises for your specific condition.