Having a herniated disc can cause you a lot of pain and stress if you are not consistent with your weight loss program. With the lower back pain and numbness spreading like fire on your legs, getting back on your feet and to what you normally do seems frustrating and emotionally heartbreaking. I know the feeling, I have five herniated discs myself and every movement I made seems impossible and too painful at times.
In 1999, I was advised by my ortho doctor for an operation, but I refused. It is not that I didn’t want it, truthfully, I just didn’t have the money to pay for it. Well, it is true having no money can make you rely more on your miracle worker rather than science.
The herniated disc can irritate nearby nerves and result in pain, numbness or weakness in an arm or leg. I experienced all three in my left leg. Sleeping at night can be a real challenge, because the sciatica pain won’t make you sleep. It was a terrible nightmare!
I decided to take my own risks. I wake up at 5am each morning and did some slow walking on my own, even if my left leg was numb and cannot feel much anymore.
I was depressed, but I decided to beat my problem on my own with much prayers plus determination. Sometimes, the solution to our physical problems can just be us and our mindset!
As I walked, I swear I would sometimes shed tears. I patiently did the walking exercise until I recovered and finally did some running. Hah, I think God can never say no to perseverance.
I am sure it was less than a year that I was able to combine my early morning fitness routine with a short distance jog. From that day onwards, everyone would see me each day at 5am walking and running on the street for an estimated 3k distance.
The biggest challenge was losing weight. Excess body weight causes an extra stress on the discs. Repetitive lifting, pulling, pushing, bending sideways and twisting may increase the risk of a herniated disc.
Strengthening the trunk muscles helps stabilize and support the spine. The first thing that my orthopedic doctor asked me is to lose weight. My physical therapist asked me to make my waistline smaller. Yup, I need a miracle to continue surviving!
Having a solid core creates an awesome back support. The abdominals and back work together to support the spine when we sit, stand, bend over, pick things up, exercise and more.
I need to have a good exercise to train core muscle group so the muscles can support my upper body and my weight may put less stress on my herniated discs. Simple math, but whew, I just can’t draw the line in achieving a flatter stomach + muscles on abs. Help!
Let me remind you that a high impact exercise is not good for the weight bearing joints, especially your knees. If you are overweight, you need to consult your doctor first. In addition, I do have my own limitations.
Most individuals with a herniated disc have limited movements, largely depending on the severity of the slipped disc and the pain level. I continued with my walking and running.
My physical therapist told me to watch my posture at all times and not to lift heavy weights. The maximum weight I can carry is only 10 kgs. Here is the lesson.
If you plan your exercise on your own, it might get worse. Consulting your physical therapist for the right weight loss program is highly critical to the success of your back pain management.
A physical therapy or back rehab with a trained medical professional is preferred before embarking on any weight loss program, so you can improve your pain level first, and also, know which exercises are good for your herniated discs. The physical therapy includes education and training with the correct posture and movements to help keep the spine in neutral positions during the day’s activities.
Incorrect movements can add up to your pain. You need to avoid undue stress on the lower back, such as sudden twisting or bending.
You should avoid exercises that puts much pressure on your back unless you already achieved well-toned, flat abs and turned your visceral fat into muscles. Repetition increases flexibility, builds endurance, and strengthens specific muscles to support and neutralize your spine. Walking is good for starters.
With the daily walking exercise, you can slowly gain your momentum until maybe, you can run short distances. If it is painful, just walk slowly, but never ever stop walking.
Back pain management for people with slipped disc is really difficult. Largely depending on the level of pain, you can adapt to your new life and level of pain soon.
Take note that a sedentary lifestyle can make you more fat and yes, worsen the pain. A low impact cardio exercise can strengthen your back muscles. Would be better if you combine it with stretching exercises.
About 60 to 80% of adults will experience lower back pain issues at some point in their lives. Nonsurgical treatments are available for people with slipped discs, so you are able to better manage your disc bulge and rupture pinching pain as well as your pocket.
Shape up tips
Fitness is for everybody, but not all types of vigorous exercise are for everyone. So, if you feel a weakening of your thighs, get any nearby support, a stool or a chair.
If running hurts, don’t do it. Instead, do brisk walking or light walking. Calisthenics, aqua exercise, and swimming are good anytime. If you cannot get into a pool, then ask your physical therapist to prescribe you isometric exercises for less or no impact fitness.
Building a stronger back
To achieve a stronger back, you need to get flat abs and build abdominal muscles. This is the only way you can support your upper body weight.
I am aware this is difficult to achieve, but the saying says, if there is a will, there is a way! Getting a lean muscle mass for a stronger back is no rocket science.
Know that the pressure on the sciatic nerve is what you call as sciatica. Sciatica refers to the irritation of the sciatic nerve, usually from a compressed nerve root in the lumbar.
If you have a slipped disc, you are likely to suffer from sciatica too. Having a back attack would mean having difficulty walking, difficulty walking upright, and difficulty to even sit or stay in one position for long.
The technique is to stand or walk around for 5 minutes after every 30 minutes of sitting. Prolonged sitting or standing is not recommended for individuals with herniated discs.
If you are a mom like me, you should not carry your baby while standing. Sit down and carry the baby and if your back hurts, stop it.
You can try
You may do sit-ups, but just observe your body if it does not feel excessive strain (Schafer, 2008). If you feel excessive strain, then stop the sit-ups.
Lie on the floor with knees bent and inches apart. Tighten your abdominal muscles by pressing your lower back against the floor. Lower back would refer to the lumbar region, which is located just above the hips. We may best describe this as a pelvic tilt. You lie with knees bent, feet flat, and arms at your sides. You are able to contract your abs when you tilt your pelvis towards your upper body. Hold for a second, then repeat.
The easiest abdominal exercise is to hold your stomach muscles inward. Hold it as long as you can. Perform this anywhere, sitting, standing, or lying down. This will help you contract your stomach muscles. This abdominal isometric is very doable, but usually ignored by patients.
Isometric exercises promote neuromuscular development. It helps protect the lower back. Maintain and observe good posture at all times with minimal load and pressure. Regular, consistent exercise is critical to maintaining fitness and in keeping your pain level to the minimum.
Isometric training includes strength training exercises and can be used as a primary strength exercise. It is done by contracting the muscle at maximum or near maximum force for 3 to 10 seconds to create high stress on muscle, bone, and the endocrine system.
Sleeping position for people with slip discs
Sleep on your back with a pillow beneath your knees at night or sleep on your sides with a pillow in between your knees. This will keep your spine naturally aligned and help ease your chronic lower back pain.
Gillot, C. (2015). Sciatica: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments. Medical News Today.
Schafer, C. F. (2008). Health and humor. USA: Charles Schafer.
Williams, D. (2014). The Benefits of Isometric Exercises. DrDavidWilliams.
Prevention strategies include weight loss, regular stretching and smaller waistlines. The back muscles and abdominal muscles, referred to as the core muscles, weakened with age unless specifically exercised. Most importantly, having strong back and abdominal muscles help heal common forms of back pain, such as those caused by soft tissue injury.
People with episodes of lower back pain should consider the benefits of walking as a low impact form of exercise. Exercise walking is one way to benefit from regular exercise while not aggravating the structures in the lower back. Water therapy aqua jogging or deep water aerobics low impact exercise can do you great because buoyancy reduces the compression on the lower back, thus allowing more pain free movement.
Exercise walking strengthens the muscles in the feet, legs, hips and torso. It increases the stability of the spine and conditions the muscles that keep the body in the upright position. Exercise walking nourishes the spinal structures and facilitates strong circulation, which enables you to pump nutrients into the soft tissues while draining the toxins.
Exercise walking along with regular stretching allows greater range of motion and keeps you in your ideal weight if possible. Regular walking strengthens the bones and reduces bone density loss, prevent osteoporosis and aids in reducing osteoarthritis pain.