Studio Australia Barcelona Blog
How to Recover from a Herniated Disc
Nat’s Journey Back – part 2
Last post we told you about how Nat was able to get herself back to work and out of pain in 3 weeks. She was not only suffering a herniated disc in her lumber spine but multiple other issues. Put the link with her diagnosis.
Many people come to our studio for Pilates in Barcelona, and some have spent years in pain and unable to function well day to day in their lives because of back pain.
After 20 years of experience working with lumbar spine disc problems, Nat developed her own method to stabilize this type of injury. Using a series of exercises, stretches and manual releases, she is able to support and release different muscles around the injured area. The result is reduced pain. Once stable, she can begin to rehabilitate.
After injuring herself last year she was able to put all of her knowledge to the test!
Want to know Nat’s exercises, stretches and releases for recovery?
I always start my program off with a quad stretch. I find it essential in my pain relief. This stretch is not only stretching my quads but also my hip flexors and if I am in the correct position, my ITB band. It is a very safe stretch for the back. It applies no pressure to the back like a standing quad stretch. I call this my wonder stretch. People often feel better just after doing this stretch alone. I repeat the stretch 3 times on each side and hold the stretch for 40 seconds.
No cheating. The stretch must be held for the muscles to relax and let go.
By lifting my arm it brings a much more intense stretch for my psoas. Depending upon how much pain you are in this may not be possible to do at first.
The piriformis release. This little magic ball is my savior. My piriformis was in such a spasm when I hurt my back. I was terrified of getting sciatic pain. By using this ball I was able to hold off extra sciatic pain from a tight piriformis by daily release with a ball. That is not to say, if the disc is pressing on the nerve you will still get pain. I was in a lot of pain and my leg hurt a lot. With the constant releasing I had some control over it. But if I had also had a tight piriformis I would have been in pain for a lot longer.
The idea is to release all the muscles that are spasming or tighter than normal because they are in contraction from the disc herniation. Including your quads, piriformis, psoas and quadratus lumborum. Place the ball in the middle of your glut about one third of the way down. I would spend about 2 minutes on each side. One side will hurt more than the other, but I believe that both sides should always be done to keep a balance. There are lots of spots in the glutes that can do with a good trigger point release and roll out. Be careful and support yourself with your elbows. In the first stages I actually laid right down on my back so I was fully supported on the floor. For the best results any trigger point work must be followed with a stretch.
I do not recommend this stretch the first weeks after a herniated disc episode. I recommend a much more gentle glute stretch while lying on your back and bringing your ankle to your opposite knee and gently bringing it towards your chest. However desperate I was to get back to this stretch, I still waited 4 weeks to do it. When I could finally safely make the stretch, I was very relieved. No other stretch, for me, stretches the piriformis quite like this one. You must be very careful how you get into this stretch. Everything must be done with such care. I felt vulnerable in every part of my body. I stayed in the stretch for 30 seconds and did two repetitions on each side. If you find it too difficult to lie all the way down, then bring your back into an extension and support yourself with your arms.
On Front Lats
The On Front Lat is a classic safe back extension. You will notice that I am not lifting to high. My body is basically in a neutral position. I am contracting my abdominals and pelvic floor first then lifting off into the extension. Elongate out through the neck. Pull down through your lats, lengthen out through your fingertips and hold the position for 4 seconds. Feel all those muscles working from the tip of you head to your toes. Repeat this 10 times. It is essential that you are working your abdominals before you lift off to extension.
Side stretch with arm and leg extension
The side stretch is another golden healer. Make sure you are lying in perfect neutral spine on your side. As you breathe out lift your leg to hip height, no higher, then elongate your leg away from your head and also elongate your arm along your body. Reaching long through your fingers activate your lats and serratus anterior. As you reach your leg away you may feel your top hip begin to shift by rolling forward. If you focus on drawing your psoas in it will bring the hip back into placement. Also focus on drawing up your pelvic floor. This exercise is another one of those that if you do not concentrate on everything that you are doing, you may not feel it. If you zone in completely, it is super intense. It’s tricky!!