Herniated, also called bulging, discs affect a large portion of the population. Symptoms of a disc herniation include low back pain, leg pain, numbness, tingling, and muscle weakness. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s worth a trip to the doctor for a diagnosis. For those who are diagnosed with a herniated disc there are exercises that may help.
So what is a herniated disc anyway? Discs are located between each of the bones (vertebrae) of the spine. They are filled with a gel-like substance which makes them flexible and adaptable. Their job is to cushion the bones, absorb pressure, protect the nerves, and to avoid shearing of bone against bone.
Think of the disc like a water balloon. If you place the balloon between your hands and exert equal pressure on it, it feels stable and supportive. However, if you squish one side of the balloon, then the opposite side becomes tense and tight. A herniated disc is like that squished water balloon. Instead of being supportive it exerts pressure on nerves, thus causing pain.
So what should you do, and not do, if you have a herniated disc? Since my expertise is yoga mixed with physical therapy, I will explore how yoga affects this condition. Yoga can offer many benefits for a herniated disc. However, it is important to note that some yoga postures can exacerbate low back problems, and should be avoided, or approached with caution. One should avoid forward folds that round the spine. These put additional pressure on the discs. Intense backbends should also be avoided, as should deep twists and many inversions.
Now let’s explore the benefits of a carefully structured yoga sequence for low back pain and disc herniations. These benefits include: reduction of pressure on the discs, improved blood circulation, improved range of motion, decrease in muscular tension, increase in core strength, improved posture, stress relief and relaxation. Whew! That’s a lot of benefits! A few yoga postures that can help ease the disc matter back into place and relieve pressure include:
Bhuganjasana (Cobra Pose)
Ado Mukha Svavasana (Downward Facing Dog)
Salabasana (Locust Pose)
Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Salute)
To enjoy some of these benefits with an individualized yoga sequence, contact me for Functional Yoga Coaching. In addition, I’ll have a video with a special yoga sequence to help with this in my next newsletter. Subscribe to my newsletter here for this and other tips for spinal health through yoga.