What is Herniated Disc Physical Therapy?
- Intervertebral discs act as spacers between the vertebrae of your spine
- The disc is made up of two parts: the nucleus is the viscous center of the disc, and the annulus are the fibrous rings on the outside of the disc
- The nucleus is made up of about 85% water, and the annulus is about 60% water
- The ability of the disc to maintain water content allows it to absorb shock through the spine and maintain normal flexibility of the low back
- Over time, as the disc degenerates from normal wear and tear, the its ability to maintain water content decreases
- As the disc degenerates it is predisposed to injury, including disc herniation
- Maintaining the health and water content of the disc will help stave off disc related low back pain, as well as help to manage symptoms related to disc specific low back pain
- While drinking water is important for all your tissues, disc hydration is about more than just being well hydrated with water throughout the day
- Discs lose water content due smoking, vibration, prolonged sitting or standing, and impact activity
- A healthy disc will lose 12% of its water content in the first four hours of the day
- A degenerated disc will lose up to 25% of its water content in the first four hours of the day
- Discs imbibe fluid best when you are laying down, you’ll have the most water content in your discs upon first waking in the morning. This may be a problem if you are currently experiencing symptoms, because it increases pressure in the painful disc.
Exercises for Disc Herniation
- To dehydrate your discs first thing in the morning, try one of the following gentle techniques:
- Go for a short walk upon first waking
- Lay on your stomach, propped up on your elbows if pain free
- Perform pain free, small range back bends
- Additionally, avoid bending and lifting for the first 2-3 hours of the day
- Discs are most dehydrated toward the end of the day as your daily activities, and weight of gravity pushes the water out of your discs.
- To rehydrate your discs, try one of the following techniques prior to the onset of your afternoon pain, try to sustain the position for 10-15 minutes for maximal rehydration:
- Lay down in a comfortable position (on stomach, on back with knees propped up, in child’s pose position)
- Sit in a chair with knees pulled up to your chest
- Slouch in a chair while maintaining a relatively straight back
To ensure a thorough diagnosis and for additional information, schedule an appointment at our Seattle-based physical therapy office or via teleheatlh if you are located outside of Seattle.