Thumbnail image of: Herniated Disk Exercises: Illustration

Herniated Disk Exercises

Your healthcare provider may recommend exercises to help you heal. Talk to your healthcare provider or physical therapist about which exercises will best help you and how to do them correctly and safely.

  • Side plank: Lie on your side with your legs, hips, and shoulders in a straight line. Prop yourself up onto your forearm with your elbow directly under your shoulder. Lift your hips off the floor and balance on your forearm and the outside of your foot. Try to hold this position for 15 seconds and then slowly lower your hip to the ground. Switch sides and repeat. Work up to holding for 1 minute. This exercise can be made easier by starting with your knees and hips flexed toward your chest.
  • Gluteal stretch: Lie on your back with both knees bent. Rest your right ankle over the knee of your left leg. Grasp the thigh of the left leg and pull toward your chest. You will feel a stretch along the buttocks and possibly along the outside of your hip. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds. Then repeat the exercise with your left ankle over your right knee. Do the exercise 3 times with each leg.
  • Quadruped arm and leg raise: Get down on your hands and knees. Pull in your belly button and tighten your abdominal muscles to stiffen your spine. While keeping your abdominals tight, raise one arm and the opposite leg away from you. Hold this position for 5 seconds. Lower your arm and leg slowly and change sides. Do this 10 times on each side.
  • Extension exercise
    1. Lie face down on the floor for 5 minutes. If this hurts too much, lie face down with a pillow under your stomach. This should relieve your leg or back pain. When you can lie on your stomach for 5 minutes without a pillow, you can continue with Part B of this exercise.
    2. After lying on your stomach for 5 minutes, prop yourself up on your elbows for another 5 minutes. If you can do this without having more leg or buttock pain, you can start doing part C of this exercise.
    3. Lie on your stomach with your hands under your shoulders. Then press down on your hands and extend your elbows while keeping your hips flat on the floor. Hold for 1 second and lower yourself to the floor. Do 3 to 5 sets of 10 repetitions. Rest for 1 minute between sets. You should have no pain in your legs when you do this, but it is normal to feel some pain in your lower back.

    Do this exercise several times a day.

  • Dead bug: Lie on your back with your knees bent, arms at your sides, and feet flat on the floor. Draw in your abdomen and tighten your abdominal muscles. While keeping your abdominal muscles tight and knees bent, lift one leg several inches off the floor, hold for 5 seconds, and then lower it. Repeat this exercise with the opposite leg. Then lift your arm over your head, hold for 5 seconds, and then lower it. Repeat with the opposite arm. Do 5 repetitions with each leg and arm.

    Once this exercise gets easy, raise one leg and the opposite arm together. Hold for 5 seconds. Lower your arm and leg and raise the opposite arm and leg up and hold for 5 seconds. Do 3 sets of 5 repetitions.

Walking is also good exercise for you.

If you have a herniated disk, you should not drive or sit for more than 30 minutes at a time.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-05-22
Last reviewed: 2014-05-22
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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