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Five exercises to help degenerative disc disease in the back

Degenerative disc disease is a natural consequence of the aging process. While not everyone experiences pain or requires treatment, everyone is affected to some extent. One of the best ways to deal with inevitable disc degeneration — even before it begins — is to adopt positive lifestyle habits, such as consuming a nutritious diet, maintaining a healthy body weight and exercising regularly.

While exercise can be particularly beneficial for degenerative disc disease, it is important to understand that it cannot cure the condition, nor can it reverse spinal damage that has already occurred. However, regular physical activity can be very effective not only for relieving painful symptoms, but also for slowing the progression of the degeneration in the spine.

Exercises for a healthy spine

Here are five exercises that, when performed regularly, can make it easier to live with the effects of degenerative disc disease:

  1. Walking. Prolonged rest and immobility will only intensify back pain. Walking is a gentle way to get some heart-healthy exercise and simultaneously reduce the stress on a stiff spine. The use of a cane, walking stick or trekking pole can help ensure a steady stride.
  2. Cycling. A stationary bicycle equipped with a back rest can provide an excellent lower body workout that can strengthen the leg muscles and increase stamina without overly pressuring the spine.
  3. Water aerobics. When pain limits movement, water is an excellent place to begin exercising. The natural buoyancy of the water will reduce the effects of gravity and, in turn, the stress on the body. For instance, water walking can provide sufficient tension for a gentle workout without the stress of traditional exercise.
  4. Yoga. The practice of yoga can improve degenerative disc disease symptoms by enhancing spinal flexibility, relaxing taut muscles and increasing core body strength to better support the spine. For instance, relieving tightness in the hamstring muscles can reduce tension in the lower back. This can be accomplished with yoga poses such as a seated forward bend, standing forward bend and warrior III pose.
  5. Psoas muscle stretches. Taut muscles in the lower back strain the spine and lead to pain and fatigue. One relatively simple way to stretch these muscles is to lie down and extend one leg upward. Place a belt or strap around the sole of the extended foot and gently pull to feel a stretch in the hamstring and lower back. Hold the stretch as long as comfort allows, then release and switch sides.

How to address persistent degenerative disc disease symptoms

If degenerative disc disease pain doesn’t respond sufficiently to several weeks of exercise and other conservative therapies, it may be time to consult a spine specialist. The team at USA Spine Care can provide a free MRI review* to determine if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive outpatient surgery, which is a safer and effective alternative to traditional open spine surgery.^ Contact us today.

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