Mckenzie Exercises for Lumbar Disc Herniation

A lumbar disc herniation occurs in the lower back and results in symptoms such as sharp or dull back pain, muscle spasm, leg weakness and sciatica. Lumbar disc herniations are common problems, affecting an estimated 1 to 2 percent of Americans, according to a September 2006 article in "The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery" entitled "Radiculopathy and the Herniated Lumbar Disc." McKenzie exercises may be effective in decreasing symptoms, especially leg pain.

A young man stretching his back in a yoga pose.
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McKenzie Method

McKenzie exercises centralize back pain, moving it from the leg to the lower back with daily exercises that works to relieve acute or chronic pain. McKenzie exercises prepare you for more-challenging exercises, such as lumbar stabilization. Lumbar stabilization exercises strengthen the core muscles to keep the lumbar spine in neutral position -- no arching or rounding of the lower back -- through a variety of positions, from lying down to jumping. These exercises are sometimes more successful than McKenzie exercises in rehabilitation of a lumbar herniated disc, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

Extension Exercises

McKenzie exercises fall into two categories with opposite movements, extension and flexion. Extension and flexion exercises involve moving the spine in opposite directions. Whichever direction brings the pain to the center of the lower back is the type of exercise you should use. Extension exercises work by moving your spine backward, which is spinal extension. An example is to lie on your abdomen and work up to raising your head and chest off the floor to prop yourself up onto your elbows. Raising your head and chest makes your lower back curve as your spine moves backward. McKenzie extension exercises also involve straightening the spine, such as to stand or sit up straight to improve posture.

Flexion Exercises

McKenzie flexion exercises involve bending the spine forward, in the opposite direction as spinal extension. You can perform flexion exercises seated, standing or lying on your back. An example of a standing exercise is to bend forward at the waist. You may also do this sitting in a chair. Bringing your knees to your chest while lying down is an example of a lying flexion exercise. Do not perform any exercise if you have a herniated disc unless your doctor recommends it.


McKenzie exercises may increase range of motion, speed recovery and reduce or even eliminate pain, but only with a specific program designed by an expert. A patient must go through a thorough examination to correctly diagnose exactly what movements are beneficial for his specific problem. You cannot learn thes exercises on your own and put together a program for yourself. McKenzie exercises do not work for everyone and may be limited by other physical conditions, which your doctor should will determine.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
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