Lumbar Disc Injuries and Exercise Benefits
Author: Tedd Falk Let’s first begin with the fact that all lumbar disc injuries are different and can create many different symptoms. Always consult your physician before you start any rehabilitation. That being said, any careful exercise that can safely be performed will be extremely beneficial to the healing process of that disc. Personally, I was a collegiate hockey player who ended up with two bulged discs and DJD (Degenerative Joint Disease) at the L-4, L-5 and L-5, S-1 sections of the spine. 3 months and 2 epidural shots later, I was lying in bed thinking my life was over. Unbearable sciatic nerve pain, muscle spasms, and the inability to bend over to even brush my teeth, I did not see any light at the end of the tunnel. Luckily, I am back to the point where I can play the sport I love pain free again. Here are a few exercise related tips that I believe can help you too: 1. Move, move, and move some more. Whatever movements, stretches, exercises you can do, do them! Being a couch potato is one of the worst things you can do with a disc injury but it is unfortunately, sometimes the only thing we feel we can do. Our muscles eventually get used to that lack of movement, which will in effect tighten them up and make us less flexible. And tight muscles (hamstrings, quads, back, etc…) mean more pressure on our joints and disc! 2. So what can I start doing? Typically, walking on a treadmill, riding the exercise bike, or maybe even using the standing or seated elliptical is a good place to start. You will probably find one to be more comfortable or enjoyable than the others, but this low impact exercise should not agitate your symptoms any more than they already are. You will probably find that when you are done, the increase in blood flow, and heat in the muscles will decrease your symptoms. The increased blood flow will also hydrate your discs with the necessary nutrients to aid in healing. 3. Now that I am starting to feel a little better, how can I continue to progress? Core strengthening is very important when it comes to the healing process. A strong core will help protect the area around the spine, so when you do bend over to pick up that heavy box on the ground those core muscles will kick in and make sure you don’t get injured again. Grab an exercise ball, medicine ball, or Bosu ball to really work those small stabilizer muscles around the spine. I recommend the static plank as a great core exercise to work on and eventually master. 4. I’ve lost some flexibility since my injury, how can I get it back? A stretching regimen can work and your physician will most likely recommend a plan for you, but one thing I found to be totally lifesaving is YOGA. Yoga is all about the lengthening of your muscles and spine and this will ultimately take pressure off of your back. Yoga can seem a little intimidating at first, but every instructor I have ever met is always willing to help you through a practice if you ask. Just make sure to start slow and avoid any painful forward bending. 5. I sit all day at work and it is the worst! What can I do to make work more tolerable? I recommend sitting on an exercise ball to help keep the core engaged and to work on good posture. Also, I would strongly consider the LifeSpan treadmill desk so you can walk and work at the same time.