Best Stretching Exercises for Disc Bulge
Domlur, Bengaluru Feb 9, 2017
Is the debilitating pain of bulging disc the reason for your unhappiness and constant mood swings? Is it preventing you from spending quality time with your loved ones? Do not worry, as there are some exercises which not only offer immediate pain relief, but also teach how to condition the body to prevent further injury. Also, there are certain types of stretching exercises that strengthen your muscles to live life better.
Physical therapy often plays a major role in herniated or bulging disc recovery. As already mentioned, the benefits of physiotherapy are two-fold:
Conditioning the body
There are a variety of physical therapy techniques. Passive treatments relax your body and include deep tissue massage, hot and cold therapy, electrical stimulation (eg, TENS), and hydrotherapy.
The physical therapy program will usually begin with passive treatments. But once the body heals, one starts active treatments that strengthen the body and prevent further pain.
Passive Physical Treatments for Herniated Discs
• Deep Tissue Massage: There are more than 100 types of massage, but deep tissue massage is an ideal option if one has a herniated disc because it uses a great deal of pressure to relieve deep muscle tension and spasms, which develop to prevent muscle motion at the affected area.
• Heat and Cold Therapy: Both hot and cold therapies offer their own set of benefits, and the physical therapist may alternate between them to get the best results.
Therapist may use heat to increase blood flow to the target area. Blood helps heal the area by delivering extra oxygen and nutrients. Blood also removes waste byproducts from muscle spasms.
• Conversely, cold therapy (also called cryotherapy) slows circulation. This reduces inflammation, muscle spasms and pain. Your physical therapist may place an ice pack on the target area, give you an ice massage, or even use a spray known as fluoromethane to cool inflamed tissues.
• Hydrotherapy: As the name suggests, hydrotherapy involves water. As a passive treatment, hydrotherapy may involve simply sitting in a whirlpool bath or warm shower. Hydrotherapy gently relieves pain and relaxes muscles.
• Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS): A TENS machine uses an electrical current to stimulate your muscles. It sounds intense, but it really isn’t painful. Electrodes taped to the skin send a tiny electrical current to key points on the nerve pathway. TENS reduces muscle spasms and is generally believed to trigger the release of endorphins, which are body’s natural pain killers.
• Traction: The goal of traction is to reduce the effects of gravity on the spine. By gently pulling apart the bones, the intent is to reduce the disc herniation. It can be performed in the cervical or lumbar spine.
Active Treatments for Herniated Disc
Active treatments help address flexibility, posture, strength, core stability, and joint movement. An exercise program may also be prescribed to achieve optimal results. This will not only curb recurrent pain but will also benefit overall health.
• Core stability: Many people don’t realize how important a strong core is to their spinal health. Core (abdominal) muscles help back muscles to support the spine. When core muscles are weak, it puts extra pressure on back muscles. Core stabilizing exercises are used to strengthen the back.
• Flexibility: Learning proper stretching and flexibility techniques will prepare one for aerobic and strength exercises. Flexibility helps body move easier by warding off stiffness.
• Hydrotherapy: In contrast to simply sitting in a hot tub or bath like its passive counterpart, active hydrotherapy may involve water aerobics to help condition your body without unnecessary stress.
• Muscle strengthening: Strong muscles are a great support system for spine and better handle pain.
Basic Stretching Exercises to Treat Bulging Discs
Care should be taken not to stretch beyond the comfort point and stop if it causes pain.
The pelvic tilt strengthen the lower back muscles and improves posture. Start with five repetitions in the beginning and work the way up to ten a day.
- Lie down on with back on the floor, knees bent, with either a towel or mat to give some cushioning.
- Gently tighten the buttocks and abdominal muscles so that back flattens to the floor completely.
- Tilt the pelvis upwards.
- Hold for a count of five.
- Return to original position.
- Arch the lower back so that the pelvis tilts downwards.
- Hold for a count of five, and then relax.
The knee-to-chest stretch helps strengthen abs and supportive back muscles. Repeat the exercise with both knees two to three times daily.
- Lie with back on the floor and knees bent.
- Using abdominal muscles raise one knee towards the chest as far as it can go without strain.
- Grip the knee with hands, breathing evenly.
- Hold for a count of five.
- Lower the leg, again using the abs.
- Repeat with the other leg.
Shoulder Blade Stretch
The shoulder blade stretch involves squeezing the shoulder blades. It helps relieve tense muscles and can help alleviate pain. It helps to perform this exercise in an armless chair. Do up to five repetitions twice daily.
- Start with straight back, chin tucked in and arms relaxed at your sides.
- Pull shoulder blades together slowly to feel the pull. Loosen the squeeze if it the movement causes pain.
- Hold for a count of five, breathing.
- Release and relax.
The bridge will strengthen the back and neck. Start with five repetitions of the exercise and then gradually work the way up to 20.
- Lie on back with bent knees and place your feet flat on the ground to begin.
- Tighten abs and glutes. Keep head and shoulders relaxed.
- Raise hips off the floor until they are aligned in a straight line from the knees to the shoulders area.
- Hold the position for a count of five, taking deep breaths, and then relax.
Advanced stretches can be used to further increase the mobility. Add the following exercises after getting used to stretching exercise for bulging discs.
Lower Back Rotational Stretch
The lower back rotational stretch strengthens the back and quadriceps, while also working the abdominal muscles. As with any problems involving a weak back, strengthening the abdominal muscles is a key part of ongoing health and fitness. Repeat the sets eight times.
- Lie down flat on back with knees bent and feet planted flat on ground.
- Keeping back and shoulder on the ground, roll bent knees to the left until they touch the floor or as close to the floor as one feels comfortable.
- Hold for five counts.
- Roll the knees to the right until they touch the floor.
- Hold for a count of five.
- Relax legs and rest.
Back extensions are an important stretch to reduce fluid and improve flexibility.
- Lie on stomach.
- Prop up upper body with the elbows slowly. Keep the hips, legs and feet on the floor. Do not try to stretch beyond where one can breathe well and keep the hips in place.
- Hold for a count of ten, breathing deeply, then release.
The eventual goal is to be able to stretch the upper body as high as it will go, propping oneself up on hands with straight arms. This is a good exercise to perform first thing in the morning and again before going to bed.
Tips for Safe Stretching
It can be easy to forget the basics when one is desperate to feel strong, but remember to be gentle and not exceed your body’s limits. One gets stronger and more flexible with time. However, if pushed too hard, there is a risk for serious injury that will take even more time to heal.
Concentrate on breathing! When a stretch is difficult, the instinct is to pant. Slow, deep breaths as used in yoga will help to center one’s self and feel the stretch more fully.
Don’t over-repeat. Work with a therapist to set reasonable goals for repetitions and hold times. When one feels strong enough, the therapist will re-establish a new stretching routine.
Cat & Camel Exercise
Get down on hands and knees on the floor. Relax head, and allow it to droop. Round the back up toward the ceiling until a nice stretch is felt in upper, middle, and lower back. Hold this stretch for as long as it feels comfortable or about 15 to 30 seconds.
This is one of the safest ways to stretch the lower back without straining it.
- Start on the knees and lean forward, reaching straight out in front.
- Try to get butts on heels
- Hold this for 5-10 seconds, repeating as desired
- If knees hurt then a pillow can be placed under them
- Exhale as one reaches forward and relax.
- Start slowly and progress as comfortable.
Bird Dog Exercise
This is an excellent exercise for improving core stability because it hits multiple functions at once. The Bird Dog works both anti-extension and anti-rotation, improves coordination, and puts the glutes and shoulders to work. We can think of this exercise as a plank-superman hybrid. And much like the dead bug, it’s a great exercise to help prepare for cross-crawl exercises.
This includes flexion and extension type of exercises to improve back flexibility and strength. It also heals the disc bulge by inserting it back to its original position and relieves pain and improves overall health.
If your bulging disc is troubling you, get in touch with the best physiotherapists in town.