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Herniated Disc: Exercises


Here are some examples of exercises for you to try. The exercises may be suggested for a condition or for rehabilitation. Start each exercise slowly. Ease off the exercises if you start to have pain.

You will be told when to start these exercises and which ones will work best for you.

How to stay safe

These exercises can help you move easier and feel better. But when you first start doing them, you may have more pain in your back. This is normal. But it is important to pay close attention to your pain during and after each exercise.

  • Keep doing these exercises if your pain stays the same or moves from your leg and buttock more toward the middle of your spine. Pain moving out of your leg and buttock is a good sign.
  • Stop doing these exercises if your pain gets worse in your leg and buttock. Stop if you start to have pain in your leg and buttock that you didn't have before.

Be sure to do these exercises in the order they appear. Note how your pain changes before you move to the next one.

If your pain is much worse right after exercise and stays worse the next day, do not do any of these exercises.

How to do the exercises

1. Rest on belly

Position for resting on belly
slide 1 of 4
slide 1 of 4, 1. Rest on belly,
  1. Lie on your stomach, with your head turned to the side.
    • Keep your arms beside your body.
    • If that position bothers your neck, place your hands, one on top of the other, underneath your forehead. This will help support your head and neck.
  2. Try to relax your lower back muscles as much as you can.
  3. Continue to lie on your stomach for 2 minutes.

2. Press-up back extension

Position for press-up back extension
slide 2 of 4
slide 2 of 4, 2. Press-up back extension,
  1. Lie on your stomach, with your face down and your elbows tucked into your sides and under your shoulders.
  2. Press your elbows down into the floor to raise your upper back.
    • As you do this, relax your stomach muscles and allow your back to arch without using your back muscles.
    • Let your low back relax completely as you arch up. Don't let your hips or pelvis come off the floor.
  3. Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds.

    Then relax, and return to the start position. Over time, work up to staying in the press-up position for up to 2 minutes.

  4. Repeat 2 to 4 times.

3. Full press-up back extension

Position for full press-up back extension
slide 3 of 4
slide 3 of 4, 3. Full press-up back extension,
  1. Lie on your stomach with your face down, keeping your elbows tucked into your sides and under your shoulders.
  2. Straighten your elbows, and push your upper body up as far as you can.

    Allow your lower back to sag. Keep your hips, pelvis, and legs relaxed.

  3. Hold this position for 5 seconds, and then relax.
  4. Repeat 10 times.

    Each time, try to raise your upper body a little higher and hold your arms a bit straighter.

4. Backward bend

Position for backward bend
slide 4 of 4
slide 4 of 4, 4. Backward bend,
  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, and don't lock your knees.

    Your toes should be pointing forward.

  2. Place your hands in the small of your back.
  3. Bend backward as far as you can, keeping your knees straight.

    Hold this position for 2 to 3 seconds. Then return to your starting position.

  4. Repeat 2 to 4 times.

    Each time, try to bend backward a little farther, until you bend backward as far as you can.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Where can you learn more?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.