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.
Overall, with this approach, we are moving the herniated disc forward and away from the back side where it compresses the nerve. Once you decompress the nerve, it starts to relieve the pain or numbness or tingling symptoms. It's just like "unkinking" a garden hose this is kinked. Once the kink in the hose is opened up, then the water will normally flow through. Therefore, we are looking to see these lower leg or foot symptoms start to ease up in the lower leg and return back towards the lower back. This process is called Centralization and that is exactly what we want to have happen in order to progress towards a proper recovery and getting our clients back to returning to their sport or favorite activity without any symptoms, and without pain medications, injections, or risky surgery.
#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...
#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:
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