The Back: Disc Herniation – Lori Ryan AEP

Carrying on from last weeks post on sciatic pain, it’s time to delve a little deeper into just one of a long list of conditions that can result in sciatic pain; disc herniation. Disc herniations most commonly occur in the lumbar spine due to its anatomical make up and the biomechanical loads it is subject to such as repetitive twisting and bending. A herniated (or prolapsed) disc occurs when the nucleus polposus and the annulus fibrosus, the inner parts of the disc, leave the intervertebral space. This process can happen in stages beginning with failure of the inner most rings causing this material to radiate outward. This cause the inner material to bulge out of the outer ring. The pain associated with this is often caused by the herniated portion of the disc compressing a nerve root, resulting in pain both at the region and referral pain such as sciatica.


Benefit of Exercise

For those with a lumbar disc herniation (LDH), exercise can help to strengthen the surrounding muscles, alleviate pressure on the spinal column by improving posture, treat symptoms such as referral pain, and reduce the risk of re-injury. Using exercise in the conservative treatment of LDH has multiple goals including the resumption of movement and exercise, pain management, and education. Exercises prescribed to those with a LDH include:


  • Aerobic exercise (ie. walking, bike riding)
  • Flexibility and mobility (ie. stretching, yoga)
  • Proprioception and balance
  • Strengthening exercise, particularly of the abdominals, pelvic floor, and back; and
  • Motor control exercise


Due to the individual nature of symptoms and location of pain that accompany a LDH, ask your Accredited Exercise Physiologist about how to implement safe and effective exercise into your treatment.