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3 Exercises Safe for a Bulging Disc

What is a bulging disc?

A bulging disc is when the outer surface of a spinal disc is weakened and protrudes outside of its normal position. The liquid-like inner nucleus of the spinal cartilage finds the weakest point of the disc and balloons out. This ballooning typically causes little or no pain, but can lead to serious damage if not treated. The bulge can place pressure on nearby nerves causing serious discomfort.

Most often, people experience a bulging disc or herniation in their lower back that is commonly facing posteriorly.


What to avoid?

Since the disc is protruding posteriorly, it is very important to limit spinal flexion and any exercises that add load to the spinal column. Exercises that involve spinal flexion can actually exacerbate symptoms and make the herniation worse. This is because the added pressure from spinal flexion can potentially push the disc out even further.


What exercises are safe to perform?

1. Superman or McKenzie press

Any type of extension exercise is going to be the safest and most effective for a posteriorly herniated disc. This is because the added pressure is going to attempt to push the leaked contents back into the correct positioning in the spinal column.


Superman holds are simply when you lie on your stomach and lift your hands up in front of you and feet off the ground squeezing the glutes. Holding this position for about 30 seconds or less depending on your abilities.


A McKenzie press resembles an “upward facing dog” in yoga. You want to lie on your stomach, pressing the hands into the floor and extending backwards keeping the hips on the floor. This exercise can be done statically or in pulses.


2. Heel taps

Static abdominal exercises are great for strengthening the entire core and stabilizing the spine.

With the heel tap, you want to start lying flat on your back with your knees bent and legs elevated to 90 degrees. Once you are in this position, you want to lower one heel at a time to the floor while tightening your abdominal muscles and pushing your lower back into the floor. It is important not to let your lower back arch while performing this exercise. Try to keep your back as flat as possible while lowering your heel to the floor.


3. Glute bridges

Glute bridges are a safe and effective lower body exercise to strengthen the hamstrings and glutes. These muscles are important for sacral stabilization, which is important in limiting lower back pain.

Lying flat on your back with knees bent and heels on the ground, you want to place your feet about shoulder width apart. Lift your hips off of the ground until your shoulders, hips, and knees are in a straight line. Make sure to squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement.

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