Yours in Healing with Dr. Rachel Lys

What Exercises are Safe to perform if you have a herniated disc?

Dr. Rachel Lys

Yes, gentle exercises, stretches and activities can all help relieve the pain of a herniated disc. Exercises can also strengthen and improve flexibility in the spine, neck and back.

A herniated disc, slipped or ruptured disc, occurs when some of the soft jelly in the center of the disc slips out past the tough exterior. It can be very painful and may cause:

  1. back pain
  2. neck pain
  3. shooting arm pain
  4. tingling, numbness, or weakness in the leg or foot
  5. tingling, numbness, or weakness in one arm

People with a herniated disc do not usually need surgery. Doctors often recommend physical therapy to treat the symptoms of a herniated disc.

Any disc in the spine can become herniated, including the neck, but it most commonly occurs in the lower back. Different exercises can help depending on where the herniated disc is. This article will look at some of the exercises that can relieve pain and help speed up recovery.

How can exercises help?

Exercises and Physical Therapy are important parts of recovery from a herniated disc. Doing gentle activities and exercises will strengthen the muscles that support the spine and reduce pressure on the spinal column. They will also promote flexibility in the spine and may help reduce the risk of a herniated disc from recurring.

Gentle activities that can help with a herniated disk include: yoga, swimming, walking and cycling. Pilates mat classes under direct supervision are also a great option.

Neck stretches to relieve pain and pressure from a herniated disc near the neck, people can try the following exercise:

  1. Sit upright in a chair and move the chin toward the chest, then back against the headrest, stretching the neck.
  2. Move the left ear toward the left shoulder, then the right ear toward the right shoulder.
  3. Repeat this pattern several times.

Low Back stretches to relieve pain from a herniated disc, people can try a gentle, seated stretch along the hamstring:

  1. Sit in a chair with one foot on the floor and the other extended out straight, with the heel on the floor.
  2. Straighten the back and lean forward over the extended leg until there is a stretch along the back of the upper thigh.
  3. Hold this position for 15–30 seconds.
  4. Switch legs and repeat several times.

There are a few exercises to avoid if you have a herniated disc. A person can get a herniated disc through heavy lifting, a sudden pressure on the back, or repetitive strenuous activities. People with a herniated disc should avoid doing strenuous activities during recovery.

People should avoid all exercises that cause pain or feel as though they are making the pain worse. Avoid hamstring exercises when experiencing sciatica. People might wish to avoid high-impact activity, such as jogging or martial arts. These can jar the spine. Starting small and building up to more intense exercise is the safest way to reduce symptoms. That said, starting exercises and stretches early can also help improve a person’s outcome.

A person should speak to a doctor about the best exercise regimen for their specific needs.

Doing gentle exercises and stretches can help ease the pain and pressure of a herniated or slipped disk. Strengthening the back and hamstring muscles can ease pressure on the spinal column to prevent pain and recurrence. Always speak to a doctor before doing any exercises to make sure they will not damage the back or cause further pain. A Doctor of Physical Therapy can recommend the best exercises for each individual depending on which disc has herniated.

As Always Yours in Healing,  Dr. Rachel Lys DPT

631-668-7600    •