Learn more below about the... Top 3 Exercises for Herniated Discs and Sciatica
#1. "Prone Prop" - If you believe you have a Herniated Disc, or if you have been diagnosed with a Disc Bulge or a Disc Herniation, or if you are experiencing Sciatica (pain, numbness, or tingling running down the back side of your leg)... the first movement or home exercise you should try is the Prone Prop. This position or exercise starts with you lying face down on your stomach and then slowly and gently propping yourself up onto your elbows. You will then be supporting yourself on your elbows and forearms. During our In-Home Physical Therapy house call visits, we have our clients hold this position for 2 minutes, if tolerable. Why this position? Because the spine requires extension (backward bending or arching backward) when there is a Herniated Disc. Therefore, stage 1 of reversal of your Herniated Disc is to try to reintroduce backward arching in your lower back (lumbar spine).
The prone prop position should not increase your pain, numbness, or tingling going down the back side of your leg. If that happens, then stop immediately as you are not yet ready for this position. A regression to the Prone Prop is lying face down on a medium sized pillow.
It's best to perform this on a firm carpeted floor or on a yoga mat. However, if you are unable to comfortably and safely get to the floor due to severe lower back pain or sciatica, then you can start this position on your bed.
#2. "Press-Up On Stomach" - This exercise is a prone press up from the stomach position. Start with your hands down on the carpeted floor in a traditional push up position where your hands are about shoulder width apart. Keep your legs and waist relaxed and flat on the carpeted floor/yoga mat/treatment table, while pressing up your upper body and straightening out your elbows. Hold that for a second or two, and then slowly lower down. At the peak of the movement, hold it for 1-5 seconds. The hold position doesn't need to be held long at all. The value is actually in the repetitive backward bending movement (lumbar extension) of your lower back (lumbar spine). Perform this movement 20-30 times and then reassess your symptoms. If you can't go up all the way due to pain or stiffness or arm weakness, then just do what you can.
This exercise is right for you if you have symptoms down into your lower leg or foot, and these symptoms start to decrease and feel less intense in your lower leg. If that happens, that is good progress and you can continue performing this exercise.
Finally, the 3rd and final top exercise for Herniated Discs and Sciatica is...
xc cc c c #3. "Standing Back Bend" - For people who sit at a computer and work all day long, this is a great exercise or movement that they can do to reverse prolonged sitting and ease lower back pain and stiffness. Place your hands on your lower back, and gently arch backward or bend backward. You only need to hold the end range of your back bend for 1-5 seconds. The hold position doesn't need to be held long at all. The value is actually in the repetitive backward bending movement (lumbar extension) of your lower back (lumbar spine). Perform this movement 20-30 times and then recheck how you feel. Did it ease any pain or did it improve your stiffness?
For someone older who is afraid to arch themselves backward, especially if they have a recent history of falling or dizziness, they can perform a modification. For the modification position, stand facing a wall, place both hands on the wall directly in front of you. Keeping your elbows straight and locked out, bring your waistline/hips/pelvis toward the wall (taking your belly button towards the wall in front of you). This will create the same lower back arching (lumbar extension) that we are looking to fix your Herniated Disc and Sciatica.
Starting from the lowest effort and least aggressive (#1 above) and progressing into more movement (#2) and then eventually into a standing position (#3), those 3 exercises are our:
When we are talking about a herniated disc (or bulging disc)... if you took a hundred people without back pain and they all got an MRI, about 80% of those people would have a bulging disc or a disc herniation on their MRI imaging report. But, why don't they have pain?
Another question is - How does a herniated disc work and what can I do about it?
The graphic image here shows 2 bones and these bones are vertebrae in your lower back (lumbar spine). The top bone is L4 and the bottom bone is L5. In between L4 and L5 is your disc. The disc is made of dynamic material that allows you to move around and also helps as a cushion and shock absorber.
Running right down through this is your spinal cord. In between each level of bone vertebrae, there is a space (exit hole called a foramen) where a nerve root and nerve passes from the spinal cord through this space. As you can see in the image here, the disc is next to this exit hole space where the nerve passes from the spinal cord and out of the back area.
The middle part of your disc is a jelly-like core called the nucleus pulposus, while the outer area is softer, spongier, and a toothpaste-like consistency that allow our spines to bend, twist, and move in most directions. The very outer layer of the disc is a network of collagen fibers like a wicker weave. These fibers are termed the annulus fibrosus.
How does a normal disc get injured and become a disc herniation? First, what happens is you just get a little disc bulge. The disc pushes out the back and bulge out. Very rarely will this cause pain.
If it progresses further, the next level is a disc herniation. And, that's where the fibers actually start to tear and the disc material, that toothpaste-like substance begins to push out through those fibers. So, you're getting even more pressure of the edge of the herniated disc putting pressure on the nerve.
As this happens, with more disc pressure on the nerve, it can send sharp shooting pain down the back side of your leg (as well as numbness or tingling or a burning sensation).
For most people with a true disc herniation and nothing else going on, when they bend forward, the pain will stop them in their tracks... they may have trouble breathing (like being caught by surprise)... And, regarding their sharp, shooting pain down the back of their leg - they'll be able to trace it along the back of their leg. They will be able to show and describe a specific and particular path of the sharp shooting pain going down the back side of the leg. That's called sciatica.
So, a herniated disc is a major cause of lower back pain, as well as a cause of sciatica. Therefore, what we want to do is move that disc material forward and off the nerve. This process is called decompression, which basically is "unkinking a kinked garden hose."
Now, can a herniated disc heal?
From our experience in our practice, Concierge Pain Relief, and also what the research shows is "Yes" - it is possible to heal a herniated disc.
For some odd reason, many New Yorkers do not believe that it's possible. But, it is possible. It just takes a little bit of work and a little bit of know-how, but it's very possible.
Now, to reverse and fix a herniated disc, we perform hands-on manual therapy, comfortable spinal mobilizations, and other pain-free techniques or decompression drills and exercises. When we do so, one of the common things we will instruct our patients and clients to do is showing them a back bend (arching backwards). What this is doing is that it's pushing all of that material forward which allows us to:
1.) Take pressure off the nerve, 2.) Allow these structures to heal.
What the person usually will experience is less and less sharp, shooting pain in the leg. That's great, and that's positive progress!
If this person came to us with pain and numbness from their lower back pain down to their calf or foot... after receiving corrective manual therapy and treatment, they will typically describe that they may be feeling less symptoms in their lower leg/feet, but that it's in their buttocks/hip or just their lower back area. Again, that is positive progress.
We suggest to trust the process and continue with this form of rehabilitation and treatment approach. Regarding the positive progress above - we call that centralization.
Centralization is exactly what we've looking for. (The opposite is peripheralization, which was what happened when you first developed those symptoms going down the back side of your leg.).
When a person is experiencing less and less symptoms in their lower leg or less symptoms in the hamstring area, then that means you are in the process of taking pressure off of the nerve. That is what confirms that someone has a herniated disc, and that their herniated disc is treatable, resolvable, and fixable by our Doctors of Physical Therapy.
And, these people do have hope. They do have hope of healing and naturally resolving this condition, without pain medications, injections, or risky surgery.
If you are experiencing lower back pain and/or sharp, shooting pain or symptoms going down the back side of your leg, then does it make sense to contact us and speak with one of specialists?
Feel free to call us 24/7 at (646)-781-8884 or complete the brief form below to tell us about your condition.
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