Best Exercise for Bulging Disc and Sciatica

Best Exercise for Bulging Disc and Sciatica

Best Exercise For Bulging Disc

If you have had back pain with sciatica chances are you may have been diagnosed with a bulging disc or herniated disc. A bulging or herniated disc is a very common problem that can cause sciatica pain down the leg and pain in the low back. This sciatica pain is often caused by too much bending forward of the back during lifting and sitting slouched. In order to calm down the sciatic and low back pain, the OPPOSITE of bending forward can often give relief to the area. Many people will spend time doing various types of stretches that actually make the condition worse!

What is a disc?

The disc is a cushion in our low back that sits between each vertebrae. The purpose of the disc is to absorb shock and allow for greater movement in our spine. The disc also helps create space for the nerves in our low back to exit the spinal cord and go down into the legs. The disc is made up of two different portions. The outer ring which can be characterized as a “protective wall” encases the more fluid portion (think jelly like material). The makeup of the disc allows for shock abortion and mobility in our back and neck.

Bulging Disc and Sciatica

What can cause a bulging disc/herniated disc and sciatica?

Typically, an injury to the disc happens with either:

  1. Repetitive movements (this includes posture) or
  2. Sudden movement that usually involves lifting or transferring an object.

Many people who experience back pain or sciatica say “the pain came out of nowhere”and that it “was not caused by any particular movement”. In these cases, the likely cause of the sciatica and back pain is due to repetitive movements over time or poor posture. When we perform the same movements throughout the day (typically bending our spine forward) our body sounds the alarm (which is pain) to let us know that we need to change the way we move. The same can be applied for our postures in sitting and standing. We typically spend most of our days in a “slouched posture”. Over time our body becomes weary of this position as it can cause more pressure to be placed on the disc. One of the hallmark signs of a bulging or herniated disc is pain with sitting in a slouched posture. Once appropriate postural corrections are made then sitting can become less painful. You can read more how to fix sciatica here.

The second reason for pain with a bulging disc or herniated disc can come from the movement that occurs with lifting a heavier object or the combination of lifting and twisting at the same time. When a movement like this takes place an increase amount of pressure is placed on the disc all at once causing it to result in pain and discomfort. Again, this is another way of your body telling you that you need to be more aware and diligent about how you perform lifting tasks in order to prevent any further injury! Whatever the cause of the herniated and bulging disc might be it will still be important for you to understand the common signs and symptoms of his type of injury. You can read more Top 3 Signs of a Herniated Disc here.

Do you need an MRI or scan in order to diagnose a bulging disc?

MRI’s and other scans are not necessary for the typical low back pain or sciatica episode. There are many instances where the imaging “finds something wrong” in your low back and points to that as the reason for the pain but what researchers have recently found is that this may not always be the case.The condition can be diagnosed with an appropriate history taking and movement analysis. A good clinician will be able to assist you in understanding what is causing your pain and what you need to do about it without needing expensive unnecessary imaging. Do you need an MRI? You can learn about why spending more money for an MRI may not help your condition.

Can Bulging Disc Heal?

Yes! Discs can be healed. Movement is the key to healing and returning back to living a life pain free without relying on medications, injections or surgery. Understanding which movements make the pain worse and what movements help decrease the pain is important for healing in a timely manner. The time frame for which healing occurs depends on several factors including how long the pain has been going on for, severity of pain, nature of the injury, and work/exercise factors.

What is the best exercise for bulging disc/herniated disc and sciatica?

If the correct diagnosis has been made then appropriate exercises can be undertaken in order to begin healing and start moving pain free again. A commonly prescribed exercise is bringing your knees to chest in some form or variation

While this exercise may provide some short term relief it actually can make the condition worse because it applies more pressure on the disc. You will want to avoid any variation of exercise that involves bending your spine including the above mentioned stretch and child’s pose. (In some cases these exercises can be beneficial HOWEVER in the majority of cases they are incorrectly administered and are the opposite of what you will want to do!)Watch this video below and try the exercise to help decrease your sciatica and low back pain.

What else can I do?

If you are experiencing bulging disc, herniated disc, or sciatica pain then first thing you MUST do is avoid panic and fear. Understand that back pain will occur in 80% of the population at some point in their life and will go away with appropriate treatment. Recent research suggests that in general you want to avoid bed rest and stay as active as possible (within pain limits). Taking the appropriate steps to change your movement patters, adjust your posture, and performing the right set of exercise can allow you to heal and return to pain free movements.

What To Do If You Have Back Pain?

What To Do If You Have Back Pain?

   What Can You Do for Your Low Back Pain to Find Relief?     

Chances are you have experienced some sort of nagging pain, discomfort, or maybe even that sharp catch in your low back. Research indicates that 8/10 people will experience some sort of back pain over their lifetime. Unfortunately when we feel that pinching or tightness in our low back we fear the worst (Will I need to take off work? How long is this going to last? Will I be able to enjoy my life from now on?) There is good news! It doesn’t have to be this way.

Most occurrences of back pain can be likened to the common cold. It comes with a vengeance but over time, with the right treatment and care, it will go away. Research has shown that most acute episodes of low back pain will subside within 4-8 weeks with proper care. The sooner you address the pain the better.

The problem, however, lies in our world of “quick fixes” and “pills” that are sold to us as permanent relief when in reality they just put a band-aid on the issue. With these band-aids come harmful side effects. Did you know that Americans consume the vast majority of the world’s hydrocodone (painkillers)? There has to be a better way. There is a better way! Movement is the key to knocking down those debilitating back pain episodes. The key to healthy and correct movement is to know how to move, what type of activities you should be doing, and how to avoid aggravating your condition. This is where a Physical Therapist can help in your recovery.

What To Do If You Have Back Pain?

What shouldn’t you do when you are in back pain?

So what shouldn’t you do when you have back pain? For starters, you want to avoid prolonged bed rest. When you have back pain the stabilizing muscles in your low back do not work as well compared to when you were pain-free. Lying down feeds into the cycle of your muscles inability to do their job appropriately..…which is to support the spine. Instead of lying down, it is recommended to carry on with your normal activities throughout the day within your pain limits. This type of activity keeps your muscles engaged throughout the day and limits the disuse of the muscle caused by the pain.

A lot of times people will have pain with certain movements such as twisting to put on a seatbelt, bending forward to pick up objects, standing up from a chair, sitting for prolonged periods, or even standing for extended periods of time. This will cause them to reconsider any type of movement because these movements often produce their pain. But what most don’t realize is that the fear of movement due to pain can actually feed into the pain causing it to increase. The best approach to take initially will be to move your spine gently without the fear of pain and avoid any excessive and quick movements.

Track Your Progress to Reach Your Goal

Our bodies require movement in order to heal from injuries, but the key is in deciphering which movements will heal you and which movements will harm you. A safe bet to take when you first injure your back is to begin a gentle walking program. This may start as a 3-minute walk and hopefully, blossom to a 30 min walk.  It will be important to log down a few things when you walk. You will want to keep track of how long you walked and how much discomfort you may have felt. By logging your progress each day/week you can begin to see how you are able to walk farther and with less discomfort. The goal is to continue to improve your tolerance to the specific activity. Want to know the greatest benefit of walking? It’s FREE!

Walking helps the body release its “natural medicine cabinets” of powerful chemical neurotransmitters that help decrease your pain and make you feel better. Unlike those addictive pain meds many doctors prescribe, the natural painkillers the brain produces are free of cost and have no side effects. The bonus to walking is that it also reduces your risk of heart disease and diabetes!

Understand When Pain is “OK” and When it is Not

Now the key here, in the beginning, is to remember that “hurt” does not always mean “harm”. Many folks will start a gentle exercise or walking regiment when they get hurt, but then quickly give in at the first sign of discomfort. But what is important to decipher is whether or not this “discomfort” is just soreness or if it is actually irritating pain. When you begin your walking program it will be important to understand your limits. Everybody experiences pain differently so there is no cookie cutter approach. I would recommend walking to the point of where you feel minimal discomfort (say 3-5/10 pain) depending on your tolerance. You never ever want to push through a lot of pain “just to get it done,” but it will be important to tolerate some moments of discomfort in order to be able to condition your body to accommodate.

These tips won’t necessarily heal your back pain. However, if you are like the thousands of DIY people out there and are looking for a place to start, then your best bet will be with these tips. There are many interventions aimed at decreasing your back pain.  It is important to choose treatments that you can perform on your own (i.e specific exercises, aerobic activities) so that you can be in control of your condition. This will allow you to improve your mobility and participate in the activities you love to do.