I’m frequently asked if one can exercise with a disc bulge. Assuming clearance has been attained from a physician, then YES. However, you must be super careful, and a very specific set of exercises may need to be done prior to moving forward with correcting muscle imbalances with a program such as my End Your Back Pain Now! program. Here is a free downloadable PDF that you must check out:
Are there really Disc Bulge Exercises that are beneficial?
First of all, let me answer that question by generally saying, YES. We have to define what an exercise actually is. By my definition, its any movement with the intention of improving movement ability or any movement quality. This could mean coordination, strength, flexibility, endurance, or anything else.
Since discs don’t contain any muscles, they cannot contract, so technically any exercise that is aimed at helping reduce a disc bulge problem is NOT directly impacting the disc itself, but rather reducing the potential movement problems that may be agitating the disc issue.
What the heck do I mean by that??
Well, when we consider that the vast majority of disc bulges are POSTERIOR in nature, it would mean that any pressure on the front side of the disc (toward the abdomen) would exacerbate disc problems. Therefore, wouldn’t it make sense to address the muscle imbalances that make this situation worse?
This means stretching any tight abdominal muscles, loosening the tight hamstrings (not necessarily by stretching!), or any other muscle that causes the lumbar spine to flatten. So…YES. This is how you perform exercises for a disc bulge. INDIRECTLY.
Welcome back to part 3 of this special series on my non-surgical approach to disc herniations. As mentioned previously, the information in this blog is for INFORMATION ONLY. Please DO NOT attempt any movements that have not been approved by your doctor. Failure to listen to this advice could potentially cause you more pain if used inappropriately, or in use with a mis-diagnoses.
So, with that said, I am now going to introduce to you a movement that has brought me a tremendous amount of success with patients with disc herniations. I don’t take credit for this movement, originally learned through Robin Mckenzie, a renowned physical therapist who introduced flexion and extension based therapies for spinal dysfunctions.
This movement, along with what I have been talking about all along, is focused on improving extension in your spine, which is ideal for relieving pressure on spinal discs, particularly of the posterior disc bulge variety. In this video, I will explain how to perform the movement:
As you have seen, there are a few progressions to this movement. It is CRITICAL to make sure you start with the MOST appropriate level of the movement based on your pain levels and to the degree that your disc is bulging. This movement at times can create quite a bit of discomfort if done with too much intensity, even if it is the best thing for you.
When giving this protocol, I usually start off with the following protocol:
1. Lay face down for 3-10 minutes to allow muscles to relax and pain levels to diminish
2. If you feel better, then slowly begin to work yourself up onto your forearms, and relax there for 30 seconds to 60 seconds, depending on comfort.
3. You may then rest for 30 seconds, and repeat for 3-6 reps, or move to the next movement.
4. Prop yourself up onto your elbows, then repeat the procedure as outlined in #3
5. Lastly, begin performing the pushup to tolerance and/or upper body endurance, repeated for 10 repetitions.
There may be a stage between each of these steps by 1-7 days, depending on the severity of the condition. If all done on the same day, proceeding through the steps as sort of a “warm up” procedure, then each set (from 1-5) is only done once.
This procedure may be done as frequently as every hour on the hour, especially if you work at a seated postion all day, as compressive loads during sitting are one of the worst for disc bulges.
Again, this is ONLY a general outline. When using this in my practice, often times it will be INDIVIDUALIZED with EVERY patient, depending on pain levels, severity of the condition, and VERY importantly, how well they are sticking to the lifestyle outlines!