Best Stretches and Exercises for Degenerative Disc Disease
Best Stretches and Exercises for Degenerative Disc Disease

Best Stretches and Exercises for Degenerative Disc Disease

What is Degenerative Disc Disease?

Simply put, degenerative disc disease refers to the breakdown of the rubbery discs between your vertebrae that results in chronic low-level pain with intermittent flare ups of more intense pain. It’s one of the most common causes of neck and back pain in young and older individuals alike.

Despite its name, it’s not actually a disease but a normal part of aging. The good news is that degenerative disc disease usually does not result in long-term disability, and rarely requires surgery.

In fact, simple strength and stretching exercises can help reduce back and neck pain in most cases of degenerative disc disease.

How Does Exercise Help with Degenerative Disc Disease?  

Your back is designed for motion. Your spine and associated muscles and ligaments all work together to help you bend, twist, and reach. Any tightness or lack of flexibility in your back can result in low back pain.

Controlled, low-impact back exercises can help the back regain strength and flexibility, which means less pain while moving. Exercise also delivers nutrients and fluid to the back which is beneficial to your spine, ligaments, and joints.

Always check with a doctor specializing in orthopedics and pain management before starting any exercise program. He or she can help you determine which exercises will be best for you.

What Stretches are Good for Degenerative Disc Disease?

Hamstring stretches are effective at reducing the pain associated with degenerative disc disease. Your hamstrings consist of 3 large muscles that run down the backs of your thighs. Tight hamstrings can pull on your pelvis and increase the stress on your low back.  

Here are 2 simple hamstring stretches:

Towel hamstring stretch

  • Lie on your back and life one leg in the air with a bent knee and let the other leg lie flat.
  • Wrap a towel around the back of the thigh that’s the air.
  • Slowly straighten your knee and try to get the bottom of your foot parallel to the ceiling.
  • When you feel a slight stretch, hold for 10 seconds.
  • Do this 3 times for each leg. Perform the exercise daily.

Seated hamstring stretch

  • Sit on the edge of a chair with one leg straightened in front of you, heel on the floor.
  • Hinge forward until you feel a stretch in the back of your leg. Hold for 20 seconds. Avoid bending your back. Keep your back straight and bend at the waist.
  • Do this 3 times for each leg. Perform the exercise daily.

What Strength Exercises are Good for Degenerative Disc Disease?

The best strength exercises for degenerative disc disease are called lumbar spine stabilization exercises. These exercises require you to keep your spine in a straight, neutral position while performing them.

Here are 3 simple strength exercises:             

 Cat Curls

  • Get down on all fours. Make sure your shoulders are positioned above your wrists and your hips are above your knees.
  • Keep your back and neck in a neutral, straight position. You want your body to resemble a table. Your eyes should be pointed to the floor.
  • Once in that position, slowly tighten your abdominal muscles and round your back to the ceiling. Hold for 5 seconds.
  • Release the hold and return to your starting position.
  • Then, arch your back slightly to create a curve in your lower spine. Hold for 5 seconds.
  • Release and return to neutral position.
  • Continue this cycle for 30 to 45 seconds. Then repeat.  Do this exercise twice daily.

Arm/leg raises

  • Get down on all fours. Make sure your shoulders are positioned above your wrists and your hips are above your knees.
  • Keep your back and neck in a neutral, straight position. You want your body to resemble a table. Your eyes are pointed to the floor.
  • Slowly straighten your left arm in front of you. At the same time, extend your right back leg behind you in a straight line. Hold for 3 seconds.
  • Release and return to your starting position.
  • Slowly straighten your right arm in front of you. At the same time, extend your left back leg behind you in a straight line. Hold for 3 seconds.
  • Complete 5 repetitions on each side. Do this exercise once daily.

Bridge

  • Lay on the floor with knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  • Place hands palm down on either side of you.
  • Tighten your stomach muscles and slowly raise your buttocks off the floor until your stomach is in line with your knees. Hold for 5 seconds.
  • Lower your buttocks back to the floor.
  • Repeat this motion 5 to 10 times. Do this exercise once daily.

General Tips When Exercising for Degenerative Disc Disease

  1. Wear comfortable clothing that will not constrict movements.
  2. Exercise in a large area free of anything that will impede movement.
  3. Move slowly and do not force your body into difficult or painful positions. Exercise should be challenging but never painful.
  4. Start with one or two exercises and slowly add more to your routine as you get stronger.
  5. Always consult with a physician before starting any exercise program.

If you’re experiencing degenerative disc disease or any type of pain that’s interfering with your quality of life, then make an appointment to see a pain specialist such as Dr. Mingi Choi of Somerset Orthopedic & Sports Medicine. Dr. Choi has more than 25 years of experience successful diagnosing and treating those who suffer from chronic pain. He is board-certified by the American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and a Fellow of American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

​New Jersey's Top Docs

Dr. James Parolie, M.D.

Specializ​ing in Sports Medicine Injuries and Arthroscopic Surgery

Dr. ​Mingi Choi, M.D.

Specializing in Conservative and Interventional Treaments of Musculoskeletal and Spinal Disorders

For More Information or to Schedule an Appointment Contact Somerset Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Today!
Call 908-425-4990

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