The spinal column is supported and controlled by a network of muscles all working together to maintain alignment and prevent injury. If you have a herniated disc, exercises may alleviate some of the pain, but it must be the right types of exercise. Herniated disc exercises usually target the muscles that support the injured area while working around the injury itself. This includes abdominal and hip strengthening exercises, lower back extension exercises, hamstring stretches, and gentle overall conditioning exercises such as walking or swimming.
Once you have your doctor's approval, there are many herniated disc exercises that can help alleviate pain during your recovery. Any beginning exercise program should be approved by a doctor, but if you have a herniated disc, it is absolutely vital that you follow your doctors instructions regarding whether or not to exercise. Usually, patients are instructed by a physical therapist about which types of herniated disc exercises are best for their particular injury. The most important point to remember when exercising after an injury is to go slowly, listen to your body, and stop immediately if your pain worsens during the exercise.
Abdominal Isometrics: This exercise can be performed virtually anywhere, while sitting, standing, or lying down. Simply pull your stomach muscles inward and hold for as long as you can. Visualize pulling your navel towards your spine. If you are lying on the floor or bed, press your lower back into the surface you are lying on. Be sure to isolate the abdominals with this exercise, and don't use your legs to help. Work up to ten repetitions.
Lower Back Extension: Lie on your stomach, and prop your upper body on your elbows while keeping your pelvis on the floor. At first, simply hold this position for as long as it is comfortable. As you gain flexibility, you can push up onto your hands and stretch your upper body towards the ceiling. This exercise should be performed very slowly and carefully, and discontinue immediately if you have any pain.
Lower Back and Hip Stretch: Lie flat on your back with knees bent and arms relaxed at your sides. Slowly let your knees drop to one side, hold for a few seconds, and return to starting position. Repeat on the other side. Work up to ten repetitions on each side, paying attention to your body's signals and not stretching too far until you are more flexible.
Hamstring stretch: Lie on your back with your knees bent. Raise one leg slowly and place your hands behind your knee. Straighten your leg as much as you can, and gently pull it toward your chest. Hold for a few seconds, then return to the starting position and repeat with the other leg. Do not force this exercise! You should feel a stretch in the back of your thigh. If you feel pain or discomfort anywhere else, discontinue this exercise until you are stronger.
General Conditioning: Your doctor will probably recommend a general conditioning exercise in addition to specific herniated disc exercises. Walking and swimming are both gentle, safe ways to keep your body active without worsening your injury. If excess weight is contributing to the injury, walking and swimming are both aerobic exercises that burn calories, helping you with your weight reduction plan as well.