When you’re suffering from the discomfort of a herniated disk, exercise may be the last thing on your mind. But adding more activity and some carefully selected stretches to your daily routine can go a long way towards a slow and steady improvement in your symptoms, strengthening muscles and increasing flexibility. At our lumbar spine specialty practice, exercise is an important component in our conservative approach to treating back pain, rehabilitating, and maintaining a healthy back. The key is that you not exercise or stretch to the point of pain and to choose the right exercises and stretches.
When it comes to selecting from popular exercises, the ones that are best for a herniated disc are gentle: they don’t jar the back and they don’t put undue stress on the muscles that support the back. Instead, they elongate and gently stretch. Good options include:
If you experience any pain while doing any of these exercises, stop immediately.
Beyond doing these exercises, there are stretches that can help alleviate both neck pain and back pain. When done correctly, these will decrease pressure that herniated or slipped discs are putting on the nerves.
- Neck stretches – To be done while sitting with a straight back, in a chair. Bend you head so that your chin touches your chest, then lean it back as though trying to touch the back of your head to your spine. Return your head to an upright position and then lean your head as if to touch your left ear to your left shoulder, then repeat on the right side. Do this exercise five times.
- Seated chair stretch – To be done while sitting with a straight back, in a chair. Place your right foot flat on the floor with knee bent and extend the left leg so that it is straight and your heel is on the floor. Lean forward over the left leg until you feel a stretch in the back of that leg. Hold and then switch legs, extending the right leg and bending the left at the knee. Repeating the stretch over the right leg and hold. Repeat five times.
- Back flexion stretch – Lie flat on the floor on your back, holding both knees towards your chest while bending your head forward to stretch the lower back. Hold. Repeat five times.
- Knee-to-chest stretch – Lie on your back on the floor with both knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Put your hands behind your right knee and pull it towards your chest while extending the left leg straight out. Hold. Switch and repeat with your left knee towards the chest. Repeat five times.
- Piriformis muscle stretch – Lie on your back on the floor with both knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place your right ankle on your left knee, then pull the left knee towards your chest until you feel a stretch in your glutes. Hold. Repeat on the other side. Repeat exercise five times.
If exercising doesn’t provide you with relief, it may be time to set up an appointment with our spine specialist in New Jersey to see what other interventions may help.