Stretches for herniated disc can help you heal faster, but there are some you must avoid if you don’t want your condition to get worse.
Some exercises can make herniated disc symptoms worse; others, on the contrary, are beneficial. Which ones should be avoided? This time we share them in detail.
The practice of exercises seems to contribute to the treatment of the herniated disc. However, due to the complexity of this injury, there are some activities that should be avoided. As an article published in Current Reviews in Musculoskeletal Medicine exposes, this condition is a leading cause of low back pain.
And although at first it is advisable to rest to avoid complications, as the days go by it becomes essential to activate the muscles through physical activity. This, in general, reduces the pressure on the discs, maintains a healthy weight and strengthens the core.
Even so, it must be borne in mind that not all exercises are suitable for these cases. Which ones should be avoided and why? This time we tell you more about it. Keep reading!
What is herniated disc?
To begin with, it is convenient to explain that the vertebrae of the spine are separated by cartilaginous discs. They serve as shock absorbers and are responsible for avoiding friction between the bones. In turn, they act as ligaments and provide flexibility and mobility.
The disc consists of two parts, each of which has a function. Let’s see what it is about below.
The nucleus: it is the central part that absorbs the pressure between the vertebrae.
The ring: it is the outer part that limits the rotation.
A herniated disc occurs when the nucleus pushes and expands outward due to a tear in the outer ring. In turn, this can cause irritation or compression of a nearby nerve, leading to pain or numbness.
Its possible causes include the following:
- Degeneration typical of aging.
- Bad movements or physical overexertion.
- Overweight and obesity.
- Type of work (if it involves activities of high physical demand).
- Physical activity or sports.
Treatment is often through pain relievers, rest, lifestyle changes, and exercises. In rare cases it may require a surgical procedure. In any case, you also need to take certain precautions, such as avoiding some forms of exercise.
Stretches for herniated disc to avoid and practice
Studies published in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy recognize the importance of exercise as part of the rehabilitation protocols for a herniated disc. While it is true that training should be individualized, in general it is better to avoid some stretches for herniated disc and practice other.
Exercises with weights – Avoid
First of all, exercises that place a load on the vertical axis of the spine should be avoided. This is what happens with squats, which are done by bending the knees as if squatting. These are usually worked with weight, with a barbell behind the neck.
Overhead load exercises are also not recommended; for example, the so-called military shoulder press or front press. In this exercise, the bar is grasped and the hands are held prone at shoulder height. Then, it is raised to extend the elbows.
But why avoid them? To carry them out it is necessary to keep the back as straight as possible, so that it can withstand the impact. Because of this, they are considered inappropriate for those suffering from a herniated disc.
Alternative exercises – Practice
In order not to exert too much force in the lower back, the practice of front squats is suggested. That is, those in which the weight is not placed behind, but at the level of the clavicle. Of course, it’s best to avoid squatting while the injury is improving.
On the one hand, those who wish to develop more volume can opt for the machine known as a press. In this exercise, the weight is also supported by the legs, but the impact is less, as long as the person remains seated correctly, without lifting the buttocks when pushing.
On the other hand, as an alternative to the military press, you can row, with the torso inclined, supporting one knee and one hand on a bench. In this way, you avoid overloading the weight on the affected part.
Abs – Avoid
In herniated disc injuries that occur in the lower back, the sciatic nerve is often affected as well. Due to this, there is presence of pain from the waist and towards the hips, buttocks and legs.
Now, most abdominal exercises force the lower spine to flex and create tension on that point. This occurs both with those in which the torso is raised (upper), and in those in which the legs are raised (lower).
Therefore, abs should be avoided, whether with or without weight. Even those that are made with special devices are not so recommended. These can help to concentrate the effort to avoid bad movements, but they also force to do flexion.
Alternative abs – Practice
Planks are the best alternatives for the muscles of the abdominal area. They allow the abductor abductor to be strengthened and keep the spine in a neutral position. There are several kinds of plates. Those of less impact are the following:
Plank or anaerobic plank: it is performed facing the floor, with the body horizontal, supporting the weight with the forearms and the tip of the feet.
Side plank: with the body on its side, inclined, resting on one elbow. The position is held for a few seconds.
Stretches, rotations and hyperextensions – Avoid
Spinal stretches, rotations and extensions are usually ideal to start a stronger exercise session. However, when treating a patient with a lumbar disc herniation, care must be taken.
Exercises that bring the knees to the chest or touch the feet with the legs stretched out can aggravate the injury. This is because the position can create more stress and friction on the discs. And in a person with a herniated disc, this is not an area that must flex a lot, or bear weight.
Alternative stretches – Practice
An alternative to avoid impacting the spine too much is to work lying down. For example, as in the back stretch. In this way, the spine is strengthened, in addition to working the muscles and reducing the tension in the lower back.
The oblique crunch, which is also done lying down, is advisable to stretch the legs. This is done on your back, on a mat, with your legs bent. Then the knees are brought to the left and to the right, alternately.
Are the exercises suitable if there is a herniated disc?
Having a herniated disc is not synonymous with staying inactive. On the contrary, it is suggested to do physical activity, although with some precautions. To do physical exercise when there is a herniated disc, it is necessary to remember two keys: low weight and no tension on the spine.
The most important thing is to avoid a sedentary lifestyle, as this is usually counterproductive to these injuries. Of course, the ideal thing is to exercise under the guidance of a professional trainer or physiotherapist to avoid wrong postures. In addition, it is possible to do low-impact activities such as yoga, swimming or Pilates.
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