Degenerative disc disease of the lower spine may be caused by too many years of carrying heavy objects, jobs where you’re forced to bear weight and turn at the same time, or even by repetitive movements like swinging a baseball bat or golf club. Some of the most common symptoms of the condition include a general aching or burning pain, but the pain may turn sharp during bending or twisting movements.
Degenerative disc disease is also known as lumbar degenerative disc disease, as it occurs in the lower, or lumbar, portion of the back. The condition causes pain in the lower back and may inhibit normal range of motion, mobility, flexibility, strength and function, according to Dr. Peter Ullrich Jr. of the Spine-Health website. In many cases, the disease is caused by general wear and tear on the base of the spine as a result of aging, but it can occur in individuals between 30 and 50 years of age as well.
Stretches are a gentle way to manipulate the muscles of the lower spine. Avoid stretching or other types of exercise that hyperextend the back, and resist bouncing while stretching. Instead, perform forward-bending stretches such as a hamstring stretch or a bending down or bending forward toe touch. Lying on the back and lifting the knees to the chest is another option. Such stretching exercises help lengthen the muscles along the base of the spine and relieve pressure and tension in the lumbar spine, offering relief from weight load and spinal cord or nerve compression caused by damaged or worn-down vertebral discs.
Lower Back Strengthening Exercises
Certain exercises help stabilize the lower spine and strengthen muscles in the lumbar area. One of the most effective, according to Ullrich, is what he calls a dynamic lumbar stabilization exercise. This involves finding the “natural spine” position that offers you the most comfortable weight-bearing stance while sitting, walking or standing, and offers you the best spinal support. Weight-bearing exercise such as walking will help strengthen the lower back and trunk muscles, offering more stability and support while you're sitting, walking and standing.
Physical Therapy Exercises
Physical therapy performed by professionals may help ease symptoms caused by degenerative disc disease. Types of physical therapy may include active or passive range of motion exercises, Pilates and yoga positions, and joint mobilization and body mechanics exercises.
Regularly engage in low-impact exercise such as walking, stationary bicycle riding and swimming to gain the benefits of exercise without placing undue stress on the lower spine. Hold the lower abdominal muscles in while exercising to help provide additional support for the lower back.