Physiotherapy For Slipped Disc Articles
Targeted Exercises for Relieving Herniated Disc Pain

Targeted Exercises for Relieving Herniated Disc Pain

Living with a herniated disc can be incredibly painful and debilitating. The constant herniated disc pain can make even the simplest tasks seem impossible. However, there's hope for relief. In addition to medical treatments, exercises specifically designed for disc herniation can help alleviate the pain and discomfort.

In this article, we will explore how these exercises can provide relief, as well as other tips and alternative treatments for managing pain associated with lumbar disc herniation and other types of herniated discs.

What is a Herniated Disc?

A herniated disc, also known as a slipped, ruptured, or bulging disc, occurs when the nucleus pulposus, the soft inner core of the intervertebral or spinal disc that normally moves to accommodate changes in posture, bulges out unusually through the annulus fibrosus, the tough outer core.

In more severe cases, the herniated disc may protrude outside of the intervertebral disc space, leading to it exerting pressure on nearby nerves that, in turn, results in pain, numbness, or weakness in an arm or leg.

Herniated discs commonly occur in the lower back (lumbar spine), although they may also occur in the neck (cervical spine) and cause significant back and neck pain. These areas are particularly susceptible to disc herniation due to the significant amount of stress and movement they endure.

How Can Herniated Disc Stretches and Exercises Help Relieve Back Pain?

Herniated disk exercises are targeted movements that help to strengthen the muscles surrounding the affected area. This, in turn, provides support to the spine and reduces the pressure on the herniated disc.

One of the key benefits of herniated disc exercises is the improvement in blood flow to the affected area. This increased circulation helps to promote healing and reduce inflammation. Similarly, performing different types of gentle exercise for herniated disc pain can help strengthen muscles, which in turn can help stabilise the spine, reducing the risk of further injury and minimising the chances of recurring pain.

Gentle Exercises for Herniated Disc

When it comes to exercising with a herniated disc, it's important to start with gentle movements that do not put excessive strain on the spine. Here are some safe back and neck stretches and exercises that can be beneficial in helping symptoms improve:

Spinal Decompression

Spinal decompression exercises are a form of therapeutic movement designed to alleviate back pain, particularly pain associated with conditions such as herniated discs. These specific exercises for back pain aim to gently stretch and decompress the spine and relieve pressure on the intervertebral discs and surrounding structures.

Here are the steps for performing this exercise:

Consultation: Before beginning any exercise regimen, it is essential to consult with a healthcare provider or a qualified physical therapist, particularly when dealing with a herniated disc.

Warm-Up: Start with a gentle warm-up to prepare the body for the exercises. This can include light aerobic activity such as walking or stationary cycling to increase blood flow to the muscles and ligaments of the spine.

Flexion Exercises: Perform gentle forward-bending exercises, such as the knee-to-chest stretch. While lying on your back, bring one knee toward your chest, holding the stretch for 15-30 seconds before alternating to the other leg.

Extension Exercises: Engage in exercises that promote gentle backward bending, such as the prone press-up. While lying on your stomach, press your upper body up while keeping your pelvis on the ground, holding the position for a few seconds before lowering it back down.

Lateral Flexion Exercises: Incorporate side-bending movements to stretch the muscles and ligaments on the sides of the spine. For example, while standing or sitting, reach one arm overhead and gently lean to the opposite side, holding the stretch before repeating on the other side.

Rotation Exercises: Perform gentle twisting movements to promote spinal mobility. An example is the seated trunk rotation, where you sit upright and twist your upper body to one side, holding the position before repeating on the other side.

Strengthening Exercises: Include exercises to strengthen the core and supporting muscles of the spine, such as pelvic tilts, bridges, and bird-dog exercises.

Cool Down: Finish the session with a brief cool-down, incorporating gentle stretching and deep breathing to help relax the muscles and promote circulation.

Standing Extension

The standing extension exercise is a simple yet effective movement that can help relieve back pain from herniated discs by gently stretching and strengthening the muscles and structures supporting the spine. Here's a summary of how this exercise is performed:

Starting Position: Stand with your feet separated at a width the same distance as your shoulders while keeping an upright and tall posture.

Hand Placement: Place your hands on your hips for stability and to guide the movement.

Gentle Backward Bend: Slowly and gently lean backwards, focusing on arching your upper back. Ensure that the movement originates from the upper (thoracic) spine rather than the lower back.

Hold the Position: Hold the backward lean for a few seconds, making sure to maintain a comfortable and controlled stretch without causing pain.

Return to Starting Position: Slowly return to an upright standing position, being mindful of the movement and maintaining good posture throughout.

Repetition: Repeat the movement several times, gradually increasing the range of motion as comfort and flexibility allow.

Standing Row With Resistance Band

The standing row with resistance band exercise is beneficial for relieving back pain from herniated discs as it helps strengthen the muscles of the upper back and shoulders, promoting better posture and spinal alignment. The exercise also engages the core muscles, providing stability and support for the spine.

Here's a step-by-step guide on how to perform the standing row with a resistance band:

Setup: Secure one end of the resistance band to a stationary object or utilise a door anchor. Hold the other end of the band with both hands, palms facing each other, and step back to create tension in the band.

Starting Position: Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees bent slightly, and maintain a neutral spine.

Rowing Movement: Keeping your elbows close to your body, exhale as you pull the band toward your lower ribs, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Keep your wrists straight throughout the movement.

Hold and Squeeze: Hold the position briefly at the fully contracted position to maximise muscle engagement.

Return to Starting Position: Inhale as you slowly release the band, extending your arms back to the starting position while maintaining control.

Repetition: Perform 10-15 repetitions, focusing on controlled movements and proper form.


The bird-dog yoga pose, also known as "tabletop pose," is a beneficial exercise for strengthening the core and stabilising the spine, which can help relieve back pain from herniated discs. This pose involves extending one arm and the opposite leg while maintaining a stable, neutral position of the spine.

Here's how you can perform this yoga pose properly:

Starting Position: Start by positioning yourself on your hands and knees in a tabletop position, ensuring that your wrists are aligned under your shoulders and your knees are under your hips.

Engage Core Muscles: Engage your core muscles to stabilise your spine and pelvis.

Extension: Simultaneously extend your right arm forward and your left leg backwards, keeping them parallel to the floor. Ensure that your hips and shoulders remain square to the ground.

Hold and Breathe: Hold this extended position for a few seconds while focusing on maintaining stability and balance. Remember to breathe evenly throughout the movement.

Return to Starting Position: Gently lower your arm and leg back to the starting position.

Repeat on the Other Side: Extend your left arm forward and your right leg backwards, holding the position for a few seconds before returning to the starting position.


The Cat-Cow yoga pose, also known as Chakravakasana, is a gentle flow between two yoga poses that helps to warm up the spine and improve flexibility. It can be beneficial for relieving back pain associated with herniated discs by promoting spinal mobility and stretching the back muscles.

Here's a step-by-step guide on how to perform this yoga pose:

Starting Position

Start by assuming a tabletop position on your hands and knees, ensuring that your wrists are aligned under your shoulders and your knees are bent under your hips.

Cow Pose (Bitilasana)

Inhale as you arch your back, dropping your belly towards the mat.

Lift your head and tailbone towards the ceiling, allowing your spine to assume a slightly curving position.

Cat Pose (Marjaryasana)

As you exhale, round your spine upward toward the ceiling.

Tuck your chin towards your chest, and draw your belly button towards your spine to create a rounding in the back.

Flowing Movement

Coordinate your breath with the movement, transitioning between the Cow Pose on the inhale and the Cat Pose on the exhale.

Inhale as you move into Cow Pose, arching the back.

Exhale as you transition into Cat Pose, rounding the back.


Flow smoothly between the two poses for several breaths, allowing the movement to become a gentle and rhythmic sequence.

Cobra Pose

The cobra pose is a yoga posture that can help relieve back pain, including discomfort from herniated discs, by stretching and strengthening the muscles of the back and spine. Here's a step-by-step guide on doing the cobra pose:

Starting Position: Begin by lying on your stomach with your legs extended and the tops of your feet resting flat on the floor.

Hand Placement: Position your hands under your shoulders, with your elbows close to your body.

Inhale and Lift: Inhale deeply as you gently press into your hands and lift your chest off the floor, keeping your pelvis and lower ribs grounded.

Elbow Position: Ensure that your elbows remain slightly bent and close to your body, allowing the movement to be driven by the muscles of the back.

Shoulder Relaxation: Keep your shoulders relaxed and away from your ears, maintaining a gentle opening through the front of your chest.

Neck Alignment: Be mindful of your neck alignment, avoiding excessive strain or compression by keeping it in line with the rest of your spine.

Hold and Breathe: Hold the pose for a few breaths, feeling a gentle stretch through the front of your body and the strengthening engagement of your back muscles.

Release: Exhale as you slowly release back to the starting position, allowing your chest to lower back down to the floor.

Backward Bend Exercise

The backward bend exercise, also known as the back extension exercise, is a movement that can help alleviate back pain, including that resulting from herniated discs, by promoting spinal extension and strengthening the muscles supporting the back. Here's how to do this exercise:

Starting Position: Begin by lying on your stomach with your hands placed beneath your shoulders, elbows close to your body, and your legs extended.

Engage Core Muscles: Gently engage your core muscles to support your lower back and protect your spine.

Lift Upper Body: Inhale as you lift your upper body off the ground, using your back muscles to extend your spine. Keep your hips grounded and avoid putting excessive pressure on your hands.

Hold the Extension: Hold the extended position for a few seconds, ensuring that the movement is comfortable and does not cause pain.

Return to Starting Position: Exhale as you slowly lower your upper body back to the starting position, allowing your spine to return to a neutral position.

Repetition: Repeat the movement for several repetitions, gradually increasing the range of motion as comfort and flexibility allow.


The plank exercise is a great way to strengthen the core muscles, which in turn provides support to the spine. Start by getting into a push-up position with your forearms on the ground. Keep your body in a straight line and hold this position for as long as you can. This exercise targets the stomach muscles and helps to stabilise the spine, reducing the pressure on the herniated disc.

Exercises to Avoid

While exercise can be beneficial for herniated discs, certain movements should be avoided, as they aren't safe exercises for herniated discs and can even exacerbate the condition.

Avoid exercises that involve heavy lifting, twisting or bending forward, and high-impact activities such as running or jumping. These movements can put additional strain on the spine, resulting in more pain and worsening the other symptoms of a herniated disc.

Always listen to your body and consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new exercise program.

Why Physiotherapy Works Better for Pain Relief than Exercising Alone

While exercises for herniated discs can provide significant pain relief, combining them with physical therapy or physiotherapy can yield even better results and help speed recovery.

Physiotherapists are experts in treating musculoskeletal conditions and can provide personalised treatment plans tailored to your specific needs. Our experts at Phoenix Rehab can guide you through the proper exercises, ensure correct form and technique, and make adjustments as necessary to maximise the benefits.

Slipped disc physiotherapy may also incorporate other modalities, such as manual therapy, electrotherapy, and heat/cold therapy, which can further aid in pain relief and healing. Working with a physiotherapist can provide comprehensive care and guidance throughout your recovery journey, ensuring the best possible outcome.

Other Ways to Relieve Pain from Herniated Discs

In addition to exercises and physiotherapy, other methods can help alleviate pain from herniated discs. These include medications, massage therapy, and, in some cases, surgery.


Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can help reduce pain and inflammation associated with herniated discs. However, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional before taking any medication, as they can have side effects and interactions with other medications.

Massage Therapy

Massage therapy can provide relief by targeting the muscles surrounding the herniated disc. Therapists use various techniques to release tension, improve blood flow, and promote relaxation. Regular massage sessions can help reduce pain and improve overall well-being.


In severe cases where conservative treatments have not provided relief, surgery may be considered. Surgical options for herniated discs include discectomy, laminectomy, and spinal fusion. These procedures aim to remove or repair the herniated disc and alleviate the pressure on the nerves. Surgery is usually considered a last resort and should be discussed thoroughly with qualified neurological surgeons.

When to See a Doctor

If you're experiencing symptoms like persistent back pain, leg weakness or numbness, or loss of bladder or bowel control, it is important to seek medical attention immediately. These symptoms may indicate a more serious condition requiring urgent intervention, such as a pinched nerve or a coexisting condition.

Final Words

Living with a herniated disc can be challenging, but with the right exercises and treatments, you can find relief from the pain and discomfort. Incorporate gentle exercises into your daily routine, seek the guidance of a physiotherapist, and explore other pain management options, such as medications and massage therapy.

Listen to your body and consult a healthcare professional to determine the best course of action for your specific condition. With dedication and proper care, you can regain control of your life and minimise the impact of a herniated disc on your overall well-being.

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