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Stretches for a Herniated Disc

author image Jim Thomas
Jim Thomas has been a freelance writer since 1978. He wrote a book about professional golfers and has written magazine articles about sports, politics, legal issues, travel and business for national and Northwest publications. He received a Juris Doctor from Duke Law School and a Bachelor of Science in political science from Whitman College.
Stretches for a Herniated Disc
Stretching may relieve pain from a herniated disc. Photo Credit: Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images

A herniated disc, also called a slipped or bulging disc, occurs when disc material protrudes outside the boundaries of the disc itself. This can produce irritation of the nerves near the disc and cause back pain. Sometimes the irritation causes pain to radiate along the sciatic nerve and into the leg, a condition known as sciatica. Herniated discs are painful, sometimes almost incapacitating. Stretching exercises for a herniated disc are designed to reverse the movement of disc material and thereby relieve your back of pressure and pain.

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Stretching Exercises

"The New York Times" reports that people who suffer from herniated discs should have an exercise and stretching program designed by a professional -- one study cited reported that those who devise their own exercise program fare badly when compared to people in physical therapy or under the care of a doctor. If you have a herniated disc, do partial sit-ups or crunches to strengthen your lower back. To stretch it out, lie on your back with knees bent and roll your knees from side to side. Another good stretch for a herniated disc is to start from a position on your hands and knees, lift and straighten out one arm while at the same time lifting straightening the opposite leg.

Advanced Stretching

Pain from a herniated disc, such as sciatica pain down the leg, can be treated with a stretching program recommended by Spine-Health. There are three stretches for the early stages of exercise, including a press-up with your hands and elbows on the ground, a push-up with your hands and legs remaining on the ground and simple standing backward arch if the prone positions are too painful.


Another school of medical professionals believes stretching is not the solution for a herniated disc. As explains, "Calisthenics, yoga, tai chi and other forms of stretching are terrific fun, great exercise and a valuable part of a health maintenance program, but are simply not good choices for actively treating a herniated disc." These doctors and therapists believe that spinal decompression, a relatively new form of therapy, is the answer. "Decompression will gently and precisely stretch the spine, while encouraging bulging discs to shrink back into place."


Back problems such as herniated discs are tricky to diagnose and treat. Some treatments, such as epidural injections, have little evidence to support their use. Back surgery is often unsuccessful as well. Stretching exercises and/or spinal decompression seems the best bets as of January 2011 to treat a herniated disc. However you decide to treat it, do it under the supervision of a specialist in back disorders. And consider this tip from the "The New York Times"-- don't do exercises that require you to bend over when you first get out of bed in the morning. Your discs are filled with more fluid when you get up and thus more vulnerable to herniation.

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