This article is the second in the series of the How To Heal A Herniated Disc Guide and part 1 can be found here. It is also accompanying a video posted on youtube which can be found here. If you haven’t as of yet I suggest you read and watch the first article and videos as it’s best to follow this guide in order.
Mobility is a term used to describe a joints capacity to move freely through it’s full range of motion, often confused with flexbility which would be the abilty to extend a joints range of motion to it’s greatest capacity.
Stretching is often associated with flexbility but can also when used correctly a tool for increasing mobility and is mnost effective when use in conjuction with other methods. Here are the methods we shall be using to improve general and local mobility.
Stretching can be approached in many ways but the most effective techniques for maximising the effectiveness of any stretch is a combination of priopreceptive neuromuscular fascilitation (pnf) in combination with static.
PNF also known as contract and relax is exactly that. By contracting the muscle being stretched for 10-15 seconds then relaxing that muscle and sinking deeper into the stretch, reciprocal inbhibition occours via stimulation of the gogli tendon. When a muscle contracts in order to fascilitate this contraction the antagonis muscle must relax. PNF takes advantage of this.
Fascia is type of connective tissue that permiates the entire body on multiple levels and passively transmits mechnical tension. The muscularfascial tissues can become stiff, knotted and have adhesions restricting mobility and even possibly inflamed. Myofascial release is a technique which undoes these effects that restrict mobility and even cause localised pain.
These are used to manipulate the skeletal positioning of a joint and put the body in proper alignment. This alone can be effective but often the effects can be tempoorary due to the pull the muscles have on the skeletal system which would need to be addressed including any postural habits.
We’re going to attack the symptoms you are experiencing from every possible angle to take note of what is working and what doesn’t, both in that moment and long term so you are greater prepared, having a better understanding of any pain you may experience.
Understanding your natural posture
Just as explained in my previous post having poor posture can have negative consequences on any back pain you may be experiencing with your herniated disc. Being self aware of your posture as often as possible will allow you to prevent any future damage or dysfunction. The first step is to take a full body picture side on wearing the bare essentials and draw a line starting from the ankle to the top of your head.
Take note of your pelvic tilt. If you are over extending your lower back, sticking your butt backwards and have your stomach protuding out it could be quite possible you have a strong anterior pelvic tilt also knwn as lordosis. It’s normal for men to have a pelvic tilt of 5-10 degrees and women 10 to 15. I’m not expecting your to measure the exact degree that your hip is tilting but it is important to understand your natural posture.
I’ve personally found having a strong anterior pelvic tilt only exhaserbates any symptoms you may be exerpiencing due to your herniated disc be it localised pain in the lower back or shooting pains from the hip to the foot.
In a later article I will cover how I fixed my lordosis in a week.
Before we start we’re going to use the slump test in combination of take a self aware approach of how much pain you’re experiencing or lack thereof. During these steps stay aware of any neural tensionssyou may be experiencing in your body not to be confused with muscular stiffness.
-Sit on a flat surface with feet hanging of the edge
-Relax the spine
-Relax the spine and bend the neck towards the chest (cervical flexion)
-Now add extra pressure to the top of the head to bend further
-Fully extend one leg pointing the toes away from you then switch legs
-Fully extend one leg then point your toes towards you then switch legs
-Fully extend one leg then point your toes towards you and releasing the cervical flexion
Each stage of the slump test provides more and more tension on the sciatic nerve. Using this as a guide we will compare the effectiveness of each of the following exercises by performing the most uncomfortable stage of the slump test before and after each of the following exercises.
There are several approaches when using myofascial release and a variety of tools. The most usefull I have found are a foam roller, tennis balls and lacrosse balls. Using these tools to apply pressure to troublesome spots we can release tension and increase mobility and tissue quality. The first technique is cross friction, applying moderate pressure to a particular muscle and massaging the implement, for example a lacrosse ball against the direction the muscle fibres run. If they run from top to bottom cross friction will be applied from left to right.
The second technique is similar to PNF stretching where the tool is applied with as much pessure to a troublesome spot until the tissue is completely relaxed and an tension has be released.
Lastly generally rolling on the localised area will also provide results.
The following pictures are marked displaying the most effective locations to use any of the above methods. I would also advices a general roll on the entire muscle in the area starting with a foam roller then progressing to a tennis or lacrosse ball to then finally apply cross friction.
Quadratus Lumborum and Erector Spinae
Glute Masimus, Medius and Minimus
These stretches are fairly simple but very effective. The goal here is to focus on isolating the muscle we’re stretching. These stretches are slightly modified to accommodate for having a herniated disc. The goal here to always keep a neutral spine during these stretches to not put the discs in a compromising position. Hold each stretch for 1 to 2 minutes and either sink into the stretch or use PNF, contracting the muscle you’re aiming to stretch and it’s antagonist contractor and the release the tension on the agonist muscle we’re stretching and sink deeper into the stretch.
This process should be repeated until you can no longer go any further and add a final contraction.
1. Lay flat on your back keeping a neutral spine throughout the stretch, if can’t achieve this place something under your back.
2. Bring both knees to your chest and place one foot in front of your knee
3. Bring your hands through your legs and pull your legs towards you
1. Laying flat on your back bring one knee towards your chest
2. Using your opposite arm clasp your knee and bring it across your body
3. Keep your opposite shoulder on the floor through the whole stretch
1. Kneeling and keeping a neutral spine throughout place one leg out infront of your
2. Point your toes away from you and gently bend forwards
3. Focus on rotating your forwards and sitting backwards
1. While wearing shoes place your foot on wall attempting to bring your heel as close to the wall as possible
2. Keeping the leg straight focus on extending the hips so the remain completely open
3. Then focus bring your hips forwards towards the wall
1. Start from a kneeling position bring one leg in front of keeping a right angle at the hips
2. Squeeze your gluteals and rotate your hips backwards
3. Maintaining this position push your hips forwards
The goal of these adjustment exercises are to put the disc in a more structurally sound position relieving pressure on the spinal cord and nerve roots. These can be highly effective and relieve pain instantly but if the nerves are inflamed the complete effects will not be felt without constant practice.
Prone Cobra / Back Extension
1. Lay on the floor prone flat on your stomach
2.Bring your hands under your shoulders and gently press towards the sky
3. Release this position and lay flat on the floor once again
4. Repeat step two but try to press up slightly further this time
Pelvic Side Shift And Bonus Exercises
These exercises can be found in my video and will have a better explanation that in this article. This link goes directly to this point in the video