Safe Exercises to do with Herniated Disc

What is a Herniated Disc?

Need to know about safe exercises to do with a herniated disc? Let’s dig into the deeper details and know which ones are good for relieving pain and providing relief.

A herniated disc is an issue generally found in the lower back. However, there are certain cases found where the issue could be triggered in the neck as well, known as the cervical spine area. The actual issue of herniated disk actually refers to an issue with the discs or the rubbery cushions found between the vertebrae, which makes up your spine by stacking up.

You may also consider the spinal disc as a jelly donut of a small size that has a much softer center encapsulated within a tough or hard exterior. The herniated disc is also alternately known as a ruptured disc or slipped disc.

Such issue occurs when there is a tear in the hard exterior and the softer jelly pushes out through it. The issue can be extremely painful and it may irritate some or many of the nearby nerves as well.

How to treat herniated Disc?

The nature of herniated disc in most cases doesn’t warrant the patient to go through any surgical procedure. However, this might not be the case always and it depends upon the clinical investigations of your doctor about the issue.

Generally, in most of the cases, doctors recommend physiotherapy to counter the issue. Even in case of a surgical procedure, physiotherapy still plays a pivotal role in the recovery process from a herniated disc.

Can I exercise with a Herniated Disc?

The typical symptoms associated with herniated disc includes one or more of the following:

  • Tingling or numbness in different parts of the body
  • Pain in the leg(s) or arm(s)
  • General weakness due to the muscles impacted by the affected nerves

Anyone or more of the above issues raises certain questions in the mind of the people, especially related to the treatment. They develop concerns about the exercises just because of the nature or sensitivity of the issue, as they don’t want to make things worse for them.

Consulting a doctor is important, who could initiate treatment and also suggest the exercises to be done. Medical treatment and exercises both go and in hand actually for the treatment of the herniated disc. Forgoing physical activities or specific exercises might make your body not to respond well to the treatment.

Exercising not only would provide long term solution from the issue, but it will also provide quick relief from pain that the patient may experience.

How Does Exercise help in the Herniated Disc Recovery Process?

In the case of a herniated disc, exercising is actually the word of mouth coming from all medical experts and patients who have gone through the subject recovery process. In most of the cases, you will find doctors suggesting a few days of bed rest after being diagnosed with a herniated disc. Some light exercises and gentle activities are recommended that are known for strengthening the muscles surrounding the spine and at the same time, it considerably reduces the pressure being exerted around the spinal column area. Moreover, with regular exercises, the spine would be much more flexible and that would also eliminate or at least lessen the risk of a herniated disc from recurring in the future.

The physiotherapist usually recommends starting small and gradually buildup in the level of physical activity. There is some specific exercise that physiotherapist do recommends, while there are also certain activities that they advise not to do in order to successfully go through the recovery process.

A few of the top gentle activities that could help with herniated disc recovery process are as follows:

  • Swimming
  • Yoga
  • Cycling
  • Walking

All general exercises mentioned above should be done in a very controlled and slow manner. This is especially important when the person is actually lifting something or bending. ‘Safe Exercising’ is actually the mantra here for quick, safe and healthy recovery. Those exercises count that does not hurt. If a particular exercise results in any more pain, then that should be stopped with immediate effect and the doctor should be consulted right away.

Top Safe Exercises to be done for recovering from Herniated Disc:

This is the time to get to the specifics and identify those exercise, which is termed as safe by doctors in the herniated disc recovery process. Targeted exercise in most of the cases is considered as the first-line treatment in case of herniated disc issue.

Once you get started with your physiologist-approved exercise then your doctor might couple this program with the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin for quick pain relief.

Such medicines also decrease inflammation so that you can work-out to strengthen your body and muscles with less pain.

The following is a list of some top and safe exercises that you may consider in the herniated recovery process:

Spinal Decompression 

This is by far the safest and probably the top of the exercise list activity that your doctor would recommend you. This exercise actually creates a space between the vertebrate and for this reason, it takes off the pressure from the bulging or herniated disc. In this exercise, you need to just hang yourself using a crossbar with hands for some time. 3 x sets of 30 seconds each would be sufficient.

Spinal Decompression

Towel Stretch 

You need to lay flat on your back with your legs extended in the ground straight. Now bend one knee and lop a towel around the foot, while pushing your leg/ knee towards the chest area. Then straighten that leg stretch towards the sky and keep on stretching until you feel that the stretching is actually happening in the center area of the hamstrings. Hold this posture for 20 – 30 seconds and do this here times a day for each leg.

Towel Stretch

Wall Stretch 

Unlike the towel stretch exercise mentioned above, this wall stretch is quite simple. Again, you need to lie over the floor near to the wall. One leg should be extended and another bent while placing the bent leg’s foot on top of the wall. Now, start straightening the leg (bent) up to the wall until you experience a notable stretch. Hold this position for 20 – 30 seconds and switch between legs. Repeat this 2 to 3 times daily for each leg.

Wall Stretch

Chair Stretch 

This is much relaxing activity and requires you to be seated on a chair with one foot extended straight in the air and the other one over the floor. With a straight back. Lean over the extended leg. Hold this position for nearly 30 seconds and repeat this 5 times for each leg.

Chair Stretch

Standing Extension

This simple activity would simply revert the impact of any hunching, which is a posture associated with most of the people suffering from bulging disc issues. This act would neutralize and rather push back the disc into its actual position. In order to start with this, just stand straight and place both your hands on either side of your lower back. Using the slight force of your hand, push the pelvis and extend back your spine. 10 x reps in a set of 3 would do the job for you in a day. This activity especially counts more if you have an office job and sits on a desk for good long hours.

Standing Extension


Planks are quite common and most of the fitness enthusiasts are well aware of the posture. It requires to go down on the floor with your forearms or it could also be done with extended arms, just as in a high push-up position. In any desirable posture, the hips need to be totally in line with the heels and the shoulders blades onto the back side. The crown of the head should then be extended in the forward direction and then press your navel onto the spine. This posture should be held for good 30 seconds and could be extended up to 120 seconds after a few days.


Side Plank

Just like the standard plank mentioned above, you need to begin here again as in a tabletop neutral position having your hands beside your shoulders. The knees should be beneath directly to your hips. The left foot should then be in a pivot position so that it could make a kickstand behind and the right leg should be extended straight behind you. Proper inhaling/ exhaling is very important in this activity.

side Plank

The rep should begin by inhaling, stacking up the hips and opening up your body. The right hand could stay in rest position over the right hip or it may also be extended upwards to the sky. Both legs should be straightened and balance with your feet or one leg should be used supporting the balance and weight of your body. Deep breathing needs to be ensured and switch to the other side after holding the position for 5 x breaths.

Cobra Posture

The cobra posture is categorized into two different types. One is the half cobra and the other one is the full cobra posture. The latter one is just the advanced extension of the former. In both the postures, pushes back the disc material aligned more towards the center side of the intervertebral disc. This helps in quick and pain-free healing. For the half cobra exercise, you need to lay on your belly and use your elbows to prop-up your position for 15 seconds and then return back to the prone/ neutral position.

Cobra Posture

10 x reps are good for this activity. For full cobra posture, you need the same initial posture as half cobra, but this time, you need to use your hands to a press-up, while keeping your pelvis always in contact with the ground with a relaxed lower back. Just like a half cobra, you can have the same number of reps with equal time durations to get the most out of this safe herniated disc activity.

Back Flexion Stretch

The black flexion stretch typically stretches the spine and also strengthens the back muscles as well. You really need to speak to your doctor in case you are looking to exert this way after sustaining a back injury. You need to lie on your back on the floor and pull both your knees towards your chest with hands. The head should move forward with the stretch. Repeat it 10 times a day.

Back Flexion Stretch

Whole Body Exercise

Low Impact – This is aerobic category low impact whole body exercise that helps a great deal in herniated disc issues and is termed safe as well. Such aerobic low impact exercises include walking, swimming, and biking, etc., which could improve your overall health, while specifically treating you for the herniated disc issue.

Whole Body Exercise


If you experience any pain in any of the above-mentioned exercises, then stop the activity immediately and consult your doctor. Any forced physical activity despite pain could further worsen the recovery process and could result in more pain as well.

If you experience any pain in any of the above-mentioned exercises, then stop the activity immediately and consult your doctor. Any forced physical activity despite pain could further worsen the recovery process and could result in more pain as well.

Exercises to Avoid in the Herniated Disc Recovery Process:

Just as specific exercises are important in the herniated disc recovery process, there are certain exercises that are equally important to be avoided. Any sudden or heady pressure on the back, heavy weight lifting or performing strenuous activities on a loop could trigger herniated disc. The following is a list of specific exercises that should be voided at all cost and are not termed as ‘safe’ in the herniated disc recovery process.

Forward Bends or Leans

Forward bends or leans that re unsupported puts extreme stress on the already struggling tendons and ligaments in the back. Such exercising postures other than being disastrous in the recovery process can be extremely painful as well. Therefore, it must be avoided at all cost.


Sit-ups are known for exerting super pressure on the lower back and should be not in your exercise plan.

Leg lifts with Lower Back Use

If you are preferring leg lifts in your exercise routine then make sure not to use your lower back for the lifting legs. This could result in further problematic injury and would also lead to strained muscles, which a person in the herniated disc recovery process never wants.

High Impact Physical Activities

Brisk walk, running or doing any other high impact physical activities can further complicate the recovery process. During the recovery process, a break from the mentioned and any other high impact physical activities should be considered.

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