6 Exercises to Ease Herniated Disc Pain

Sep 10, 2020

6 Exercises to Ease Herniated Disc Pain When the soft jelly in the center of your discs slips out past its normally hard exterior, this can be known as a herniated, slipped, or ruptured disc. This can cause intense back pain, pain in the neck, and arms, as well as a tingling or numb feeling in the extremities. In most cases, people who visit a spine doctor are able to recover from a herniated disc without surgery, instead focusing on pain management and physiotherapy. Exercises done under the supervision of a medical professional can help not only to relieve pain, but also to speed up healing and prevent the discs from herniating again in the future.

Why Exercises Help

After experiencing a herniated disc, it will likely be recommended that you first rest to avoid further irritating the injury. During this time, you may use over the counter pain medication, ice and heat therapy, and massage to relieve the immediate pain. You can then begin starting with small gentle exercises and building up to a more normal level of activity slowly.

Cautious activities and exercises can strengthen the muscles supporting the spine, which ultimately reduces pressure on the spinal column. These muscles can also increase the spine’s flexibility, which can reduce the risk of herniated discs occurring in the future.

All exercises should be done slowly and with caution. Once you begin feeling better, normal movements like bending and lifting should also be done with caution. The exercises should not be painful to perform, as working around that pain can cause further injury. All exercises should be performed after speaking to a spine doctor who can help monitor your progress.

1. Piriformis Muscle Stretch

The piriformis is a small muscle located deep in the buttocks. To stretch this muscle, you will lie on your back with the knees bent, planting your feet flatly on the floor. You will then cross one leg over the other, with your ankle resting on the bent knee. Grab the crossed knee and gently pull it towards the chest until you feel a stretch in the buttocks. Once done, switch legs and repeat on each side.

2. Knee to Chest Stretch

This stretch will work muscles on each side of the body independently. For this stretch, you will start on your back with knees bent, both feet flat on the floor. Place both hands behind one of your knees, pulling it gently towards the chest, holding it in place for a moment. This can be repeated on each side.

3. Back Flexion Stretch

These stretches are designed to target the spine and back muscles and should be done gradually after suffering an injury. To perform the back flexion stretch, lie on your back with both knees held to the chest. At the same time as this, move the head forward to find a comfortable stretch across the mid and lower back. Repeat this several times, slowly.

4. Towel Hamstring Stretch

For this, you will want to use a towel and a yoga mat. Lie flat on your back on the mat and lift one leg straight into the air, with a towel wrapped around that foot. Hold the ends of the towel in each hand and use it to gently pull the leg towards the body, holding for 15 to 30 seconds. Switch legs and repeat several times.

5. Seated Hamstring Stretch

To gently stretch the hamstring, sit in a chair with one foot flat on the floor, and extend the other foot out straight with your heel on the floor. Straighten your back and lean forward over the extended leg. You will feel a stretch along the back of the upper thigh; hold this for 15-30 seconds. Switch legs and repeat several times.

6. Neck Stretches

Many people experience pain and pressure near the neck when they have a herniated disc. To alleviate this pain, sit upright in a chair and slowly move the chin towards the chest, then lean the head all the way back, stretching the neck.

You can also move the head side to side, bringing the left ear to the left shoulder, then the same on the right side. Repeat this several times on each side.

All of these exercises should be done under the supervision of an experienced spine doctor. At AICA Orthopedics, our orthopedic doctors work closely with physical therapists and chiropractors to develop comprehensive plans of care to heal herniated discs and other spinal injuries. Our goal is to offer safe, effective, and holistic care to help you return to mobility and health.


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