Exercise, in itself, will not remedy your slipped disk or the related pain. However, low-impact activities such as swimming can help you stay active without aggravating the pain. Consult your doctor and seek specific exercise advice from a physical therapist. When you are advised to resume activities such as swimming, start out gently, with low-intensity exercises and strokes.
A Resting Phase
Often, during the initial days of pain, a slipped disk may leave you unfit to do much more than lie in bed. However, excessive bedrest only weakens your muscles and stiffens your joints. If you become stiff from staying in bed for such long periods, but you can't manage walking or sitting up, let the buoyancy of water reduce your load. Floating in the shallow end of a pool may prove more relaxing to your back than lying on the sofa or sitting in your normally comfortable chair. If you have access to a swimming pool, alternate between the two to avoid stiffness. Mayo Clinic recommends limiting your time in bed to no more than 30 minutes at a time. Gauge the time you spend in the pool according to your comfort and your doctor's recommendations.
As you heal and return to normal activities, sitting still is among the worst things you can do for a slipped disk. However, many sedentary adults spend large amounts of time at a desk or on a sofa. Instead, some unstructured time in the swimming pool may ease the pain, simply because of your reduced weight while in the water. Even if you aren't yet up for swimming, test out simple exercises, such as treading water for short intervals or supporting yourself against the side of the pool and kicking with your legs. If these basic movements are too challenging, just walking around the pool is a lower impact alternative to a walk around the neighborhood.
A Water Exercise Routine
Once your recovery is under way and your doctor and physical therapist give their approval, check out water aerobics classes in your area. A gentle, social swimming program may relieve stress, which typically magnifies the sensation of pain. Practice deep breathing as you swim, using your diaphragm, to further relieve stress and ameliorate any pain.
Once your slipped disk has righted itself, adopting a regular swimming routine can strengthen your abdominal and back muscles, helping to stabilize the spine and decrease the likelihood of another slipped disk. Especially if you are overweight, swimming is an ideal form of exercise to protect your back; it offers an aerobic workout together with strength training and puts minimal stress on your joints and spine.