The role of a spinal disc is to provide a cushion between the vertebrae of your spine. When one of these discs slips out of place, the result is in the lower back, with pain and numbness sometimes extending down into the legs with the constriction of spinal nerves.
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After the initial pain of a slipped — or herniated — disc has settled, you can carefully begin rehabilitation with exercise. Once cleared by your doctor or physical therapist, there are safe exercises you can do with a herniated disc. Exercising without a doctor's consent may worsen a slipped disc.
1. Lower Back Stretch
The lower back stretch can relieve tightness of the muscles around the spine that may be causing discomfort to your slipped disc.
HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your back on the floor. Keep your arms at your sides and bend your knees. Rotate your knees over to one side as far as they can go, and hold the position for at least 20 seconds. Breathe normally — do not hold your breath. Once 20 seconds has passed, move your knees to the other side for another 20 seconds.
2. Aerobic Exercise
In addition to cardiovascular benefits, aerobic exercise is a low-impact way of strengthening the muscles of your back, glutes and legs. According to a September 2016 study published by BMJ Open, active exercise interventions — including aerobic activities such as walking and cycling — are more commonly used in physical therapy for the treatment of lumbar disc herniation.
Abdominal strength is a major component of a healthy back. Add crunches as a safe exercise to do with a herniated disc.
HOW TO DO IT: Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the ground. Your hands should be at your chest. Contract your abdominal muscles to crunch the shoulders and head off the floor, then return to neutral position. Do not sit up all the way. Repeat for a total of 8 to 10 repetitions.
Supermans strengthen your abdominal muscles and your glutes.
HOW TO DO IT: Get down on all fours. Both knees and both hands should be touching the ground in a neutral position. Slowly extend your left arm straight forward. At the same time, raise your right leg and extend it straight backward. Hold the position for three seconds and then do the other side. Perform 8 to 20 repetitions per side.
Planks strengthen core muscles that support your spine, making them safe exercises to do with a herniated disc.
HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your stomach on the floor. Prop yourself up on your elbows, then raise up to your toes so that only your elbows and toes are touching the ground. Keep your back straight, do not let your hips dip or curve. Hold this position for 10 to 30 seconds.
6. Back Extensions
You don't need to lift very high to strengthen your muscles with back extensions.
HOW TO DO IT: Lie face down on the ground with your hands behind your head. Raise your chest and head off the ground while simultaneously contracting your glutes to raise your legs. Lower, and repeat for 8 to 10 repetitions.