Herniated Disc Exercises To Help You Feel Better

October 08, 2018

Two women performing knee-to-chest stretch
Two women performing knee-to-chest stretch.

Two women performing knee-to-chest stretch at a yoga studio.

Sarah Handzel, BSN, RN

According to recent estimates, as many as 5 percent of all people will have back pain that's caused by a herniated disc during their lifetime. Herniated discs, also known as slipped discs, usually result from normal wear and tear on the spine, but accidents or other injuries can cause herniated discs too. While symptoms vary from person to person, a herniated disc can cause sudden, severe pain that makes moving normally difficult.

Many doctors recommend herniated disc exercises as a mainstay of herniated disc treatment. In some cases, other interventions like surgery or pain medications are necessary to manage symptoms. If your doctor thinks exercises are right for you, he or she will recommend an exercise plan that helps relieve slipped disc symptoms and reduces the likelihood of further injury.

Herniated Disc Exercises

For many, physical therapy and other forms of exercise provide relief of the symptoms caused by a herniated disc. Research indicates that motor control exercises, such as sitting knee extension, along with core stability exercises, provide long-lasting symptom relief when performed under the watchful eye of a doctor or physical therapist.

But you can also stretch and perform other herniated disc treatment to strengthen your back at home. These exercises are designed to relieve pain and strengthen the muscles in your back that help you maintain correct posture.

  • Knee-to-chest stretch: Lie on your back with your knees bent so the bottom of your feet are flat on the floor. Put both hands around one knee, then pull your knee up to your chest while tightening your abdominal muscles. Try to press your spine into the floor. Hold this position for five seconds, then put your foot back on the floor. Now, do the same stretch with your other knee. Finally, repeat this stretch while holding both knees to your chest at the same time.
  • Cat stretch:Come onto your hands and knees on the floor. First, slowly arch your back, just like a cat might when they are scared. Then, relax your back, letting it and your abdomen drop toward the floor. Return to the starting position on your hands and knees.
  • Lower back flexibility exercises: Part of herniated disc treatment involves strengthening your spine. For many people, slipped discs occur in the lower back. You can strengthen this part of your spine with specific exercises targeted toward this area. First, lie down on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor beneath you. Then, flex your abdominal muscles so that your belly pulls away from your belt or waistband. Hold this position for about five seconds, then relax. Next, flatten your back and try to pull your bellybutton into the floor beneath you. Hold this for another five seconds, then relax.
  • Bridge exercise. Once again, lie on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. While keeping your head and shoulders in place, tighten your abdominal muscles and lift your hips, making a straight line between your shoulders and your knees. Hold the position for a few seconds, then lower your hips back down to the floor, returning to your starting position.

As with any exercise, you should start slowly and gradually work up to increased repetitions. Keep in mind that without caution, it's possible to reinjure your back, causing more pain and a longer recovery period. If you have any questions about which herniated disc exercises are best for you, ask your doctor to recommend specific treatments designed to help your personal symptoms.

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