Remaining active is critical in the healing of a herniated disc. After the initial pain begins to subside, it’s important to start moving the injured area as soon as possible. Try and move the area as much as possible while avoiding pain. Do not spend too much time resting hoping it will heal your herniated disc faster. Too much rest is detrimental for three reasons:
1. The lower back is one of the fastest muscle groups to atrophy when it is not used. By avoiding activities and exercises involving your lower back, the spinal erectors will become weak and wont be able to support the spine as effectively.
2. Discs have a poor blood supply and rely on movement to bring oxygen and nutrients to and from the annular fibers. Keeping active will constantly flush out metabolic waste and bring in new nutrition to the disc. Resting slows down this healing process.
3. Movement will send signals to the brain of the discs current state (e.g. painful, improving etc.). By understanding which areas are painful and which areas are good, the body can use this information to map out how it is going to heal the disc. By resting, the brain has no information to “go off” and healing will take longer.
A combination of cardiovascular and strength-based exercises are ideal to help bring nutrition to the disc and take pressure off the spine. Moving the low back through its ranges of motion will signal to the body that this range of motion is still needed. This will help the body heal itself better as new tissue will be modeled where it naturally should be. Staying immobile will cause new tissue to be modeled in a bad position, much like a broken bone that has healed with bad alignment.
Cat Camel Stretch
The cat camel stretch is one of the few low back stretches that can take your spine through a good range of motion without causing too much shear force on the discs within the spine. It will enable you to maintain the mobility within your lower back while your injury heals.