Exercises for Spinal Disc Pain: Bulging Disc, Herniated Disc & DDD

What you will learn in this article:

- Spinal Pain Insights: Spinal disc conditions like herniated discs and degenerative disc disease can severely impact daily life, causing mobility challenges and taking an emotional toll.

- Movement's Magic: Targeted exercises, distinct from regular workouts, are scientifically proven to enhance spinal health, aid recovery, and manage pain.

- Recovery Blueprint: Preparation is key; from setting up a conducive exercise space to following detailed exercise instructions and tracking progress, every step matters.

- Holistic Healing: Beyond physical exercises, a balanced diet rich in specific nutrients and a focus on mental well-being are essential for comprehensive recovery from spinal conditions.

Every twinge, every sharp stab, every movement that reminds you of the pain lurking in your back – it's a constant battle.

Spinal disc conditions, be it the notorious herniated disc or the wear-and-tear of degenerative disc disease, have a way of making their presence felt.

But imagine a world where you're not held hostage by this pain. A world where you can move freely, without fear.

Sounds dreamy? It's more attainable than you think.

Unlock the Power of Movement

The secret? Targeted exercises.

This isn't about lifting heavy weights or running marathons.

It's about specific movements designed to fortify your back, enhance flexibility, and most crucially, diminish that nagging pain.

In the coming sections, we'll delve deep into the science of spinal health, introducing exercises that have transformed lives.

Exercises that are backed by research, and more importantly, have been the cornerstone of countless recovery stories.

Your Roadmap to Recovery

As we journey through this guide, you'll be equipped with a clear, actionable plan.

From understanding the nuances of spinal disc conditions to diving into each exercise with detailed instructions, we've got you covered.

And it's not just about the physical aspect; we'll also touch upon the holistic elements of recovery, including nutrition and mental well-being.

So, brace yourself. It's time to reclaim your life, one movement at a time.

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The Silent Agony of Spinal Disc Pain

Every step, every bend, every twist – when your spine isn't at its best, these simple actions can become monumental challenges.

The root of this discomfort often lies in conditions that affect the spinal discs, those gel-like cushions between our vertebrae.

Let's dive into the heart of the matter and understand what's really going on.

Understanding Spinal Disc Conditions

Exercises for Spinal Disc Conditions

Our spine, a marvel of human engineering, is made up of vertebrae stacked upon each other.

Between these vertebrae are discs that act as shock absorbers, ensuring flexibility and movement.

However, when these discs face issues, the pain can be, quite literally, back-breaking.

What are the Conditions that can Develop?

Bulging Disc Exercises

Bulging Disc

Also referred to as a Protruding Disc or a Slipped Disc, a Bulging Disc is a spinal condition, where the outer wall of the disc (the Annulus Fibrosus) becomes weak and starts to bulge into the spinal canal.

Herniated Disc Exercises

Herniated Disc

Also referred to as a Disc Prolapse or a Prolapsed Disc, a Herniated Disc occurs when the outer wall of the disc (the Annulus Fibrosus) tears and the center of the disc (the Nucleus Pulposus) begins to push through the wall.

Ruptured Disc Exercises

Ruptured Disc

Also referred to as a Sequestered Disc, a Ruptured Disc is the final stage of a disc injury, where the outer wall of the disc tears completely through, and the center of the disc starts to leak outside of the wall of the disc.

Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD) Exercises)

Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD) is a condition where a spinal disc (or multiple discs) will start to deteriorate.

The Impact on Daily Life

Living with a spinal disc condition isn't just about managing physical pain. It's about navigating a world that doesn't always understand the depth of your discomfort.

Mobility Challenges

Simple tasks like bending to tie a shoe, lifting a grocery bag, or even sitting for prolonged periods can become daunting.

The unpredictability of the pain can make individuals hesitant to engage in activities they once loved, leading to a sedentary lifestyle that further exacerbates the condition.

The Emotional Toll

Beyond the physical, there's an emotional battle being waged. The constant pain can lead to feelings of frustration, anxiety, and even depression.

Social activities might be declined, relationships can strain, and the overall quality of life can diminish.

In the face of such challenges, it's essential to arm oneself with knowledge and the right tools. Understanding the root of the pain is the first step towards reclaiming one's life.

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Unlock the Power of Movement

Movement, often taken for granted, becomes a beacon of hope for those grappling with spinal disc conditions.

But why is movement so powerful, and how can it be harnessed to combat the pain and limitations of spinal issues?

Let's delve into the transformative power of exercise and its role in spinal health.

The Science Behind Exercise and Spinal Health

Our bodies are designed to move. When we engage in physical activity, blood flow increases, nourishing our muscles and spinal discs.

This enhanced circulation brings essential nutrients to the discs, promoting healing and reducing inflammation.

Furthermore, exercise releases endorphins, the body's natural painkillers, providing an immediate relief from discomfort.

How Movement Aids Recovery

Regular movement ensures that the spinal discs, which lack direct blood supply, receive nutrients through a process called imbibition.

Think of it as a sponge soaking up water. When we move, our discs expand and contract, soaking up essential nutrients from the surrounding tissues, facilitating faster recovery.

The Role of Exercise in Pain Management

Beyond recovery, consistent exercise offers a proactive approach to pain management.

Strengthening the muscles around the spine provides better support, reducing the strain on the discs.

Moreover, a flexible spine is less prone to injuries and disc issues.

Introducing Targeted Exercises

Not all exercises are created equal, especially when it comes to spinal health. Enter targeted exercises – a curated set of movements designed specifically for those with spinal disc conditions.

The Difference Between Regular Workouts and Targeted Exercises

While regular workouts focus on overall fitness and muscle building, targeted exercises zone in on specific areas, in this case, the spine.

They prioritize safety, ensuring that there's minimal strain on the affected discs while maximizing the benefits.

Benefits of Targeted Exercises for Spinal Conditions

Pain Reduction: By strengthening the spinal and core muscles, these exercises alleviate the pressure on affected discs.

Improved Mobility: Enhanced flexibility means a broader range of motion, making daily tasks easier.

Prevention: Strengthening the spine can prevent further deterioration and potential future injuries.

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Exercises to Consider

Core Strengthening Exercises: Think planks and pelvic clocks. A strong core acts as a protective shield for your spine.

Planks to strengthen the core, a great exercise for spinal disc conditions


Hold your body in a push up position, except on your forearms.

If this is too difficult for you, try to hold the normal push up position.

The goal would be to be able to hold this position for a full minute, but slowly work your way up to that.

Pelvic Clocks, an exercise for spinal disc conditions in the lower back

Pelvic Clocks

Lying on your back with knees bent, tighten your abdominal muscles and push your lower back into the floor.

**Photos courtesy of "Get Your Life Back: The Ultimate Guide to Healing a Herniated Disc" by Dr. Ron Daulton, Jr.**

Flexibility and Stretching Routines: Incorporate movements like the Serratus Roll and child's pose. These not only improve flexibility but also promote relaxation and relief from tension.

Serratus Roll, a great exercise for spinal disc pain

Serratus Roll

On all fours, alternate between arching your back and letting it sag, promoting flexibility.

Childs Pose, a great exercise for spinal disc conditions

Child's Pose

This yoga pose is a great one to do for a spinal disc condition in the lower back.

Low-Impact Aerobic Exercises: Activities like walking, swimming, or cycling get the heart rate up without jarring the spine, promoting overall well-being and spinal health.

If your spinal disc condition is in your neck or upper back, here are a few great stretches to add to your daily routine. 

All of these images come directly from "Get Your Life Back: The Ultimate Guide to Healing a Herniated DIsc" by Dr. Ron Daulton, Jr.

Upper Back Stretch, a great exercise for a spinal disc condition in the neck or upper back

Upper Back Stretch

Bring both arms forward and interlock your hands.

Stretch the shoulders forward, dropping your head.

If you can't drop your head comfortably, simply stretch the shoulders forward.

Neck Glide, an exercise for spinal disc conditions in the neck

Neck Glide

Gently glide your head forward and backward.

Imagine there is a plate on your head that you have to balance as you move your head back and forth.

Shoulder Square Shrugs, an exercise for spinal disc conditions in the neck and upper back

Shoulder Square Shrugs

Lift the shoulders up, then back, then down, then forward.

Do not roll your shoulders.

Your Roadmap to Recovery

Embarking on a journey to alleviate spinal pain requires more than just enthusiasm; it demands preparation, dedication, and a holistic approach.

Here's a comprehensive guide to ensure you're on the right track, maximizing the benefits of each exercise and nurturing both your body and mind.

Getting Started: Preparing for the Exercises

Before diving into the exercises, it's crucial to set the stage. This means ensuring you're physically ready and have the right environment to support your efforts.

Safety First: When to Consult a Doctor

While exercises can be transformative, they're not a one-size-fits-all solution.

If you're experiencing severe pain or have had recent surgery, it's paramount to consult with a healthcare professional.

They can provide guidance tailored to your specific condition and needs.

Setting Up Your Exercise Space

- Choose a quiet, spacious area free from distractions.
- Invest in a good-quality exercise mat to provide cushioning and support.
- Ensure adequate lighting to maintain proper form and prevent injuries.
- Keep essentials like water, a towel, and maybe some calming music within arm's reach.

Tracking Your Progress

The journey to recovery is as much about the milestones as it is about the end goal.

Keeping a Pain and Progress Journal: Documenting your daily experiences can provide insights into what's working and where you might need to tweak your approach.

Celebrating Milestones: Did you manage to do an exercise without pain? Or perhaps you've been consistent for a month? Celebrate these victories, no matter how small.

Additional Tips for a Holistic Recovery

Recovery isn't just about the physical; it's about nurturing the whole self.

Diet and Nutrition for Spinal Health: Incorporate foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, and vitamin D. Hydration is key, so ensure you're drinking ample water.

Importance of Mental Well-being and Coping Strategies: Meditation, deep breathing exercises, and even counseling can be invaluable. Remember, it's okay to seek help when navigating the emotional challenges of chronic pain.

With this roadmap in hand, you're not just on a path to physical recovery, but to a rejuvenated, holistic sense of well-being.

Every step, every stretch, every mindful moment brings you closer to a life where pain doesn't dictate the narrative.


Movement increases blood flow, nourishing our muscles and spinal discs. It's like giving a parched plant water. The enhanced circulation brings essential nutrients to the discs, promoting healing and reducing inflammation. Plus, exercise releases those feel-good endorphins, acting as natural painkillers. But, on the flip side, excessive or incorrect movement can exacerbate the problem. It's like comparing yoga to high-impact aerobics; both are exercises, but their impact on spinal health is vastly different.

While regular workouts aim for overall fitness, targeted exercises are laser-focused on specific areas, especially the spine. They're designed to ensure minimal strain on affected discs while maximizing benefits. Think of it as comparing a general practitioner to a spine specialist; both are doctors, but their expertise levels are poles apart.

It's like having a personal diary that gives insights into what's working and what's not. The pros? It helps track progress, identify patterns, and tweak your approach. The cons? It requires consistency and commitment. But trust me, it's worth it. It's like comparing noting down your expenses versus being clueless about where your money goes.

Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, and vitamin D have been my saviors. They're like the superheroes of the nutritional world for spinal health. Hydration is key too; think of water as the elixir of life for your spine. But, like any diet, moderation is crucial. It's like comparing a balanced diet to crash diets; both might offer results, but their long-term impact is vastly different.

Meditation, deep breathing exercises, and counseling have been invaluable. They're like the safety nets, catching you when you're about to fall. Remember, it's okay to seek help. It's like comparing talking to a friend versus bottling up your feelings; both are approaches, but their outcomes can be worlds apart.

High-impact exercises or those that put excessive strain on the back can be detrimental. It's like comparing walking on a smooth road to hiking on a rocky terrain; both are forms of movement, but their impact on an injured spine is poles apart. Always consult with a healthcare professional before diving into new exercises.


Ravindra, V., Senglaub, S.S., Rattani, A., Dewan, M., Härtl, R., Bisson, E., Park, K.B., & Shrime, M. (2018). Degenerative Lumbar Spine Disease: Estimating Global Incidence and Worldwide Volume.

Kim, Seung-Kook, Kang, Sang-Soo, Hong, Young-ho, Park, Seung-Woo, & Lee, Su-chan. (2018). Clinical comparison of unilateral biportal endoscopic technique versus open microdiscectomy for single-level lumbar discectomy: a multicenter, retrospective analysis.

Laratta, Joseph L., Shillingford, J., Saifi, Comron, & Riew, K. (2017). Cervical Disc Arthroplasty: A Comprehensive Review of Single-Level, Multilevel, and Hybrid Procedures.

Maclean, Mark A., Touchette, C., Han, J., Christie, S., & Pickett, G. (2020). Gender differences in the surgical management of lumbar degenerative disease: a scoping review.

Dr. Ron Daulton, Jr.

About the Author

Dr. Ron Daulton, Jr., an acclaimed chiropractor, esteemed educator, and inspiring author, has devoted his life to fostering understanding of natural healthcare and enhancing well-being across society.

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