• Henry Fensome

Lower Back Disc Bulges - The 8 Best Exercises


A disk bulge or herniated disc occurs when some of the soft jelly in the centre of the disc slips out past the tough exterior.

Up to 80% of individuals will suffer from an episode of back pain during their lifetime, currently Low back pain accounts for 11% of the total disability of the UK population and disc bulges/herniation is frequently the underlying cause. The highest prevalence of disc bulges is among people aged 30-50, with a male to female ratio of 2:1. In people aged 25-55 years, 95% of disc bulges occur at the lower levels of the lumbar spine, disc bulges from mid to upper lumber spine are more common in those over the age of 55. Disc bulges are most common in the lower back (Lumbar region) but can occur anywhere from the neck to the low back.

Symptoms of a disc bulge/herniation:

  • Low Back Pain

  • Leg Numbness or Tingling

  • Leg Pain

  • Weakness in the Legs

  • Loss of Bowel or Bladder control (Rare and Urgent Medical Attention is Required)

4 Stages of Disc Bulge:

  1. Disc protrusion

  2. Prolapsed Disc

  3. Disc Extrusion

  4. Sequestered Disc

How can exercise help?

Exercise and Physical Therapy ( Osteopaths/Physiotherapy) are often the most important parts of recovery from a herniated disc.

Doing gentle activities and exercises will strengthen the muscles that support the spine and reduce pressure on the spinal column. They will also promote flexibility in the spine and may help reduce the risk of a herniated disc from reoccurring.

Gentle activities that can help are;

  • Pilates

  • Yoga

  • Swimming

  • Walking

  • Cycling

Perform all exercises in a slow and controlled manner, especially when bending or lifting. If a person feels pain, they should stop doing the exercises and speak with your Osteopath.

How Long Does the Pain Last?

Most patients with a lumbar disc bulge/herniation will gradually improve over a period of days to weeks after the flair up, with most patients being symptom free within 3-4 months.

8 Best Exercises for Disc Bulges (Prevention and Rehabilitation)

1. Spinal Decompression:

- Use a bar or anything you can hang from, and just allow your body to "Hang".

- Hang for 30 seconds and do 3 sets.

- If you feel worse doing this exercise technique, stop and try some of the other exercises.

2.Cobra Stretch

- Begin the exercise by lying on your stomach and slowly prop yourself on your elbows while keeping your hips in contact with the floor.

- Hold this position for 10-15 seconds before returning to the prone position (laying face down).

-Gradually increase to holding the end position for 30 seconds and perform up to 10 reps for this stretch.

-To progress further try going up onto your hands instead of your elbows.

3.Cat-Cow (Camel) Stretch

- Begin this stretch on your hands and knees. Inhale and let your stomach "drop" towards the floor as you look up towards the ceiling.

-Follow this by exhaling and slowly rounding your spine while pressing into the floor with your hands and slightly curving your neck to look at your feet.

-Aim for 10 reps x 2-3 sets.

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