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TOPIC: Best Exercises to do With Herniated Disc

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August 23, 2011 12:58 PM
Hey all,

Just wanted to check and see what everyone would suggest.

What would be the best exercise to do when you are trying to avoid agiatating a Herniated Disc in your lower back. My disc between S1 and L5 has a "mountain" size herniation and I do not want to have surgery to "fix" it. Could you let me know what exercises are safe... I need to lose weight, I am at 260 and was at 228 while my back was really bothering me, but now that I am feeling better I have come back to 240. I think my issue stems from my hamgstrings being super tight, I can't bend over to p/u anything to save my life. This is also embarrassing considering I am only 28 and having this much trouble already.

Any suggestions are greatly appreciated!
August 23, 2011 1:01 PM
Funny because I have a herniated disk as well. It's tough because you want to lose weight, but many exercises cause shock to your body, which could aggravate your disk. The best exercise is swimming. It's easy on your joints and helps with resistance to strengthen muscles. I am currently looking at gyms with swimming pools so I can get my exercise in, but without adding stress to the body. What I definitely wouldn't do is spinning. I used to do it a lot and noticed that during it my lower back would be killing me....just an fyi. Keep me posted as to what you end up doing! =)
August 23, 2011 1:04 PM
I would think swimming but the Dr that diagnosed you should advise on that.
August 23, 2011 1:06 PM
Swimming has always helped my lower back. When mine isn't hurting me..I do strength training on certain machines to strengthen it.
August 23, 2011 1:06 PM
Swimming and walking.....had two surgeries. L4-L5 and L5-S1. neurosurgeon told me both are good exercises.
August 23, 2011 1:06 PM
Cycling. If you assume the position on your bike where you are bent over with your face near your handle bars, then it will work out your legs, core, chest and tricepts without any shock to your back.
August 23, 2011 1:07 PM
Also I forgot stretching those hamstrings is crucial!! Like daily...
August 23, 2011 1:09 PM
Don't have any ideas what exercises would not hurt you but any that would strengthen your core would be the best. I had a herniated disc at a young age and ended up getting a spinal fusion L4, L5 ... I will have to say for me that having the surgery was the best choice I ever made.. not mentioning it was the only choice I could really make. My disc totaly degenerated and I had nothing left. It's been 7 years since my surgery and I have not had and problems with the surgery and I am able to do most things. I do have some limited range of motion due to a cage, 4 screws and 2 rods but it's pretty low so it's no problem..

Good Luck with your back... it's the worst! I think the swimming, like someone else mentioned would probably be the best!
August 23, 2011 1:12 PM
Stretching Stretching Stretching and Water Water Water!!! Have you considered seeing a PT or MT? I completely understand wanting to avoid the surgery, but other options are available that are much easier on the body and less intrusive, thankfully!! Good luck!
August 23, 2011 1:27 PM
Funny, I have herniations in L5 and S1 myself!! Careful about what you do, biking is a NONO according to my Dr, the bent position puts pressure on the discs and can increase your chances of blowing them. My Dr says swimming with not too much hip movement is good, walking and I've been carefully doing the elliptical. NOTHING with impact. Strengthening your core is key, if you can go to physio they can help with some suggestions. A good one is to get on all fours and lift opposite leg and arm at the same time and hold for a count of ten or however long you can without pain. I started at three seconds. I tighten my abs, lift the arm first, get my balance then lift the leg. Alternate for about 15 reps. Massage will help if you have muscle spasms like I do from my back trying to protect itself. If you have an exercise ball, sit on it and gently bounce once a day for a few mins, sounds stupid but it will help push blood and nutrients into your discs to increase mobility and reduce pain. the problem is when you hit around 30 the blood/nutrient supply is cut off from your discs which causes disc deterioration (which I have) and hence, bulging (herniation). I hope this helps, getting the weight off will help too, I couldn't imagine where I would be if I still had that extra 60 pounds on me. Remember that losing weight is 85% diet, 10% exercise and 5% genetics, so eat well and just do what you can. Take care of yourself, I feel your pain. I have all of this plus Facet Syndrome, it's brutle. Good luck! bigsmile
Edited by jb_sweet_99 On August 23, 2011 1:28 PM
August 23, 2011 1:43 PM

Also I forgot stretching those hamstrings is crucial!! Like daily...

+1. It's strange how much your hamstrings affect your lower back.

Also agree with stretching. Cat and dog stretches helped me out a lot; it may help you.
August 23, 2011 2:11 PM
yet another L4/L5 "victim" here...

my suggestion.. Physio, physio followed by some physio.

Speak to a professional who will asses YOU and YOUR condition and put together a suitable recovery plan.

Mine gave me hyper extention, kinda, "stretches" to work the discs "back" into a more suitable state, some core exercises, which were described to me as being akin to pelvic floor exercises.

I, in my wisdom, bought a X Trainer... thinking that the "zero" impact would help lose weight, inturn reducing stress on my back... The physio recommended NOT using the handles, as this could introduce too much hip movement.

I also started ice skating!!!!!!! had already paid for a block set of lessons for my son, partner and myself... hell i wasnt gonna waste the ££..

lets just say that i took to the ice like old folk make love.... slow and cautious!!!

I rarely get a twinge, now, 3 years on. Other than the odd "cattle prod" moment, when it just gives me a warning shot to go steady.
August 23, 2011 2:18 PM
Thanks to everyone for the replies!

What are the best hamgstrings stretches when you have trouble doing bending forward with your leg crossed.... Like if your sitting down and bring your left leg up to your right knee?
August 23, 2011 3:18 PM
Maybe you should let your body heal as much a possible, try the McKenzie method, you can Google it. I have had two bouts with heriated disc. The latest one was earlier this year. Swimmmng is good once you feel stronger. Listen to you body at all times and please don't push yourself to hard.
August 24, 2011 7:53 AM
I am letting it heal that is for sure. Lately it has just been sore by the time I get towards the end of the day. I have been doing stretched as much as I can through the day. When I am on a break or lunch I do them and then ICE my back when I get home. I have found that Heat doesn't help it at all. Also Bio-Freeze has been a god send when I am at work and can't ICE my back when I want to.

I have also tried to use Tennis Balls to try and relieve some of the tightness in my muscles that have gotten tighter to try and compensate for the weakness of others. I was also going to a Chiropractor to help with it as well they would adjust me and give me exercises to do to correct muscle inbalances in my body. I stopped going because 50.00 a visit each week is a little expensive and my insurance wouldn't cover 100%. I do think I need to go see a Physical Therapist to help but I'm not sure where to go and not sure if i need a perscription in order to do it and have insurance cover it.

So I guess my other question is what are good ways to stretch out the hamstrings and hip flexors.
August 24, 2011 11:47 AM
I would go and get a massage on your legs and ask the therapist for some good stretches, it's worth it even for one visit. I just got my legs and glutes done the other day to relieve some of the pulling on my back from being so tight and it has helped me.
August 29, 2011 9:50 AM
The only thing I worry about with massages are that I'm super Ticklish... It is rediculous!! But thank you for the suggestions everyone! I'm doing my exercises/stretches about 3 times a day. I've been using my HIT Interval trainer to make sure I am doing even time on stretches.
August 31, 2011 1:51 PM
I'm insanely ticklish too, I was worried about that too but there's something different about massage. Nomally I can't sit still and get goosebumps everywhere when someone touches my back but with massage I'm ok so it might be worth a try for you too. And what you're doing sounds like a great start, good luck!
January 30, 2014 10:18 AM
I know you posted two years ago, but I am hoping that you are still an active member. smile I am 27 with a lower spine herniation (same place) and I lost 100 lbs but have gained 10 back now that I can't walk more than 10 minutes without excruciating pain. Can I ask what helped you get better in the end and if there are any particular exercises you found? Is your back doing better now?
January 30, 2014 10:43 AM
All you really need to do are "Doctor Meetups" and "Note Takedowns"... seriously...
March 26, 2014 2:16 AM
I've been getting over a herniated disc that sounds similar to yours taciturncheru, I had excurciating pain when waliing, particularly in the thigh/quad area. I have herniated the disc between L3/L4.

I saw a spinal specialist who reommended and referred me to a good physio. What I have been told/learned to do is this:

Surgeon told me no cycling for long periods under any circumstance as the position increses loads on the spine/disc.
Surgeon advised swimming was fine, and running would be fine eventually as well. He also told me to lose weight - I didn't realise how heavy I had become.

Having said that, the initial rehab I got from the physio included:

Initially I used a hydropool - an 8ft deep pool where you attach a floatation belt and essentially run around the pool.

Then I moved onto:
Doing 30mins in the hydropool
10mins on an exercise bike, sitting upright with back straight as a warm up.
Bridge exercise for core strenght, building in time held and then doing with one leg raised (I am now building with one arm and one leg raised)
Lie on your back, bring your knees up to plant your feet on the floor and then raise your body up to support weight on feet/shoulders.
Back extensions

My recommendations in addition to the above:
Stretch as much as possible, especially hamstrings, hips and quads - IT band as well if you can (you can google stretches for these) and your cavles.

I have been doing the rehab for almost a year, I have expanded on the core exercises inot a routein including pull ups, dips, hanging leg raises etc.
I use the leg press machine but won't squat, I also find the leg curl (hamstring isolation) very difficult, especially on my right leg - it's a lot weaker than the left and I am a righty.

I also swim a mile 2 or 3 times a week and have been able to do kettlebell body routines.

My focus now is more on bodyweight exercises and cardio than the heavier weights I used to lift in traditional weight training programs.

Hopefully that's of some help.
Edited by Buchy78 On March 26, 2014 2:16 AM
March 26, 2014 4:16 AM
L4/5 here too!

The option of surgery was brought up a while back, but at that time, it was my first time of disk issues, so i turned down that option to try and heal naturally... roll forward a few months and i thought i had it beaten! yay! But no. It came back again pretty bad. Currently undergoing physio and have a referral to the specialists again, and this time, i will take the surgery route.

Anyhow, we're all unique. What i find hard/impossible, may not be so bad for yourself etc. So i've bought some resistance bands (waiting delivery) so i can at least start doing some workouts again.

I have the effect that the back issue causes depression and suppresses my appetite, and i lose weight. Rapidly. So i'm trying to put back on what i lost, plus a little more.
March 26, 2014 4:23 AM
You poor thing. We all seem to feel your pain- mine was at L5 and as others have said walking and swimming worked best for me. Even when the pain was at it worst walking was the best thing I could do. I got a pedometer and the days that it was at it worst were clearly the days that I wasn't moving.

I also did a lot of Physio and used one of those Core Balls. Lately I'm trying Yoga and Pilates to try and get some of the movement back.

I was supposed to have the back op, but a blood clott and blood thinning tablets stopped that. In the long run that blood clott helped me as it delayed the hospital visit and my family still talk about me walking off the back pain.

I hope it all goes well.
March 28, 2014 6:27 PM
Well it looks as if we all feel the same pain when it comes to back pain! My L1-L5 are herniated. I'm in so much pain and refuse to take painkillers that I'm staring surgery in the eye in the near future! The pain is definitely affected my life in many ways, from not being able to work a full day, can't eat, I've lost 15 pounds in 4 months and my motivation is very low.

So I decided to do something about it, I'm going to join a gym with a pool and start doing exercises that won't affect my back! I'm glad I found this site :) lots of helpful information and answers to questions I had!! But I'm still undesisive about getting surgery...??? But with 5 herniated discs my life has completely changed for the worst and think that's probably my only option!?
March 29, 2014 11:45 AM
i was looking for some thread to help me since I suffered a severe back spasm 3 weeks ago that has turned my world upside down. The back/hip muscles released within about a week, but there is serious pain stemming from lower back into hip, down the IT band, calf and through the heel. I've been to physio twice, chiro and therapeutic massage, nothing seems to be the magic cure I'm looking for. I try to stretch several times a day, and I also try to get on my elliptical daily, but sometimes the pain is just too much. The pain meds (OTC and prescription) mostly just take edge off and I have to keep up every 3-4 hours. Is there a point where you just stay off your feet and NOT stretch or exercise?


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