Herniated, bulging and slipped discs are some of the most common issues which bring people to the chiropractor, for many of us they’re considered a “fact of life” as we age – but this does not have to be the case!
Discs – It’s all about the core
First of all, we should be honest with you – you could do absolutely everything right when it comes to spinal health, and still, end up with a disc injury. They can occur as a result of a trip or fall, strain or injury elsewhere in the body. Old age does make us more prone to these kinds of problems as does poor posture – and when they occur, yes, there’s the chiropractor and help is available. But if you’re like most people, you’d probably like to avoid these kinds of problems as much as possible, right?!
When it comes to fortifying your spinal discs, it’s all about the body’s core — the set of muscles, ligaments, and tendons that support your spinal column and help your spinal discs move. The spine carries the weight of the body and gives us a structure to move around – but the muscles that support the spine are just as important in our overall functioning as a whole, it’s the muscles which actually provide movement after all. Therefore, your core needs to have a balance of strength and flexibility to perform at its best. A strong core allows your body to have the support it needs to move, bend, and twist without causing injuries, and a flexible core is crucial to allowing the body to move well and through a full range of motion.
So, our top 3 ways to prevent a herniated disc are:
- Core exercises – these can help your back maintain a balance of strength and flexibility.
- Movement of the spine – promotes the delivery of nutrients to the spinal discs, and also takes place as a part of exercise.
- Chiropractic adjustments – can improve your range of motion and help to decrease pain when issues do occur.
Ways to Prevent a Herniated Disc at Home
As noted in the list above, engaging in exercise to improve your core strength or to strengthen the abdominal, back extensor and rotator muscle groups can help you reduce your risk of spinal disc injury. The stronger your core is, the less load your disc sees with activities of daily living, ultimately lessening the risk of herniation, so here are some easy exercises you can try at home!
We recommend the following exercises and stretches below and aiming for 10 repetitions of each and then repeating each 2-3 times a week. As always though, do what’s comfortable for you – exercise should be noticeable, but not painful and one repetition is always a million times better than no repetitions!
- Start in a push-up position, bend your arms, and support your body with your forearms.
- Keep your hips, legs, and torso in a straight line while tightening your abdominal and glute muscles.
- Draw your core muscles in at the level of your belly button and hold that position as long as you can.
- Get on all fours, making sure your spine is neutral (not arching up or down).
- Then, engage your core muscles and slowly reach forward with your right arm as you extend your left leg behind you.
- Hold for a breath and then slowly return your limbs to the starting position.
- Repeat the exercise on the other side.
- Lie on your back with knees bent 90 degrees and feet flat on the floor.
- Engage the muscles of the deep core and move into a bridge position by lifting your bottom off the floor. Instead of forcing your belly up by arching your back, try to maintain the natural curve in your lower spine.
- Lift your left foot off the floor and extend your left leg to maintain a straight line through your left heel.
- Return your foot to the floor and repeat with your right leg.
- Begin lying on your back with both arms extended towards the ceiling.
- Lift your legs off the floor to 90 degrees.
- Exhale to bring your ribcage down and try to flatten your back onto the floor by rotating your pelvis upwards and bracing your core muscles (this is the starting position for this exercise that you need to hold throughout the movement).
- Start the exercise by extending your left leg, straightening at the knee and hip and bringing the leg down to just above the floor (don’t let your lower back arch).
- At the same time, lower your right arm back to just above the floor.
- Keep your abdominal and gluteal muscles tightened and return your left leg and right arm to the starting position.
- Repeat with your right leg and left arm.
- Lie face down on a mat and place the hands on the floor or behind the head (more advanced).
- Contract the abs and keep them contracted throughout the exercise.
- Squeeze the back to lift the chest a few inches off the floor.
- Lower and repeat.
- Lie on the back with both legs flat against the floor.
- Lift the right leg, bending the knee toward the chest.
- Use both hands to pull the right knee toward the chest.
- Hold the right knee against the chest for several seconds.
- Return to the starting position.
- Repeat with the left leg and then return to the starting position.
Kneeling Back Stretches
- Begin the exercise on the hands and knees, positioning the knees hip-width apart, with the shoulders directly over the hands.
- Round the back, pulling the belly button up toward the spine and tilting the lower back toward the floor. Hold the position for 5 seconds.
- Rock gently backwards, lowering the buttocks as close as possible to the heels. Ensure that the arms are stretched out in front. Hold the position for 5 seconds.
- Rock gently back up to the starting position.
Modified Seat Side Straddle
- Sit on the floor with one leg extended to the side and the other leg bent.
- Keep your back straight and bend from your hips toward the foot of your straight leg. Reach your hands toward your toes and hold for 5 seconds.
- Slowly round your spine and bring your hands to your shin or ankle.
- Bring your head down as close to your knee as possible.
- Hold for 30 seconds and then relax for 30 seconds.
- Repeat on the other side.
Help for disc injuries
You’d be surprised at how many small painful complaints will, with a bit of patience, be resolved by a basic exercise program like this. For most people, a simple routine like this will provide enough movement and strengthening to stave off many common issues – but what about if you already have a disc issue, or if you work in an environment which puts extra strain on your spine? When there are other factors at play, or you have a painful musculoskeletal complaint that just doesn’t seem to clear, that’s a great time to see a Chiropractor.
Our expert team will work with you to assess your movement and create a plan of action to correct any issues and then keep you pain-free and at the top of your game for years to come!