Slipped disc, bulging disc, ruptured disc: disc herniation is known by many names. As one of the most common causes of back pain, herniated discs often come up in my yoga classes, workshops, and yoga therapy sessions.
Understanding how yoga therapy can help manage herniated disc symptoms is personal to me. When I was in my 20s, I experienced pain from herniated discs in my lower back, and began to use yoga to alleviate discomfort. Practicing yoga was always a positive experience, but it took me a long time to figure out what actually worked for me in terms of pain alleviation; there was just so much mixed information out there.
I hope this post will clarify some of that information, so you can begin to understand how yoga therapy can help manage herniated disc symptoms.
What is a herniated disc?
First of all, what is a herniated disc? Imagine a jelly donut. Now, imagine that the inner “jelly” material is escaping through a tear in the outer layer, causing a sticky mess. Your discs are like the jelly donut; they have an inner, soft layer and an outer, firm layer.
Discs are the rubbery cushions that separate each vertebrae in your back. When the outer layer weakens, which can happen for many reasons, the jellylike center seeps out and can press on your spinal nerves, causing discomfort.
Symptoms of disc herniation happen when the escaped substance compresses a nerve. Symptoms include back pain, numbness, intermittent pain, nerve tingling, muscle weakness, stiffness, as well as sharp pain in your buttocks, thigh, calf, and foot.
Are you experiencing any of these uncomfortable symptoms? Do you have students who are experiencing symptoms like this? Let’s dive into how yoga therapy can help.
How do I relieve herniated disc pain?
Herniated discs can be extraordinarily frustrating, and painful. Yoga therapy can help manage the symptoms of disc herniation.
- Yoga therapy can increase core strength of the deeper abdominal muscles, providing support for the spine.
- Yoga postures can strengthen weak areas of the body.
- Yoga postures can also stretch tight areas of the body.
- Mind-body awareness improves through practicing yoga. You get better at noticing what’s happening in your body, if you’re moving in a way that will aggravate your back, or if you’re becoming stiff.
- Breathing techniques learned in yoga help activate the parasympathetic nervous system and reduce stress. Stress can contribute to back pain.
What is the best slipped disc treatment?
The best herniated disc, or bulging disc, treatment seems to be a combination of therapies, including yoga therapy. I know this from experience, and the scientific research backs it up.
In fact, The American College of Physicians specifically recommends yoga as one of the non-drug therapies to treat acute or subacute low back pain, writing that “for patients with chronic low back pain, ACP recommends that physicians and patients initially select non-drug therapy with exercise, multidisciplinary rehabilitation, acupuncture, mindfulness-based stress reduction, tai chi, yoga,”1 and more.
It’s been great to see so many studies coming out that connect yoga therapy with pain relief, specifically pain related to herniated discs. One study came out in January of this year determining that yoga “stretch and strength-based yoga exercise could be a promising treatment option for neuropathic pain” due to lumbar disc herniation. Low back pain and disability decreased in the yoga group compared with the control group, while function increased, measured using the modified Schober and passive knee extension test.2
Another study reviewed thirty articles on 27 individual studies and concluded that that “yoga revealed robust short-term and long-term effects for pain, disability, physical function, and mental health, when compared with nonexercise controls.”3 Not surprisingly, a couple of studies actually posit that yoga therapy “designed for chronic low back pain patients was as effective as physical therapy.”4 This research is very telling, and confirms my personal experience with yoga therapy and the positive effects it can have on the body and pain due to disc herniation.
Yoga Therapy and Disc Herniation
Since suffering from disc herniation myself and working with others, I have gathered and tested therapeutic yoga methods that really work to help manage back pain and stiffness that come with disc herniation. I know which postures to choose that will develop the strength and flexibility a client needs when they are dealing with disc herniation. These postures stretch tight muscles and strengthen weak ones, helping to maintain a mobile, supported spine. Here’s the thing, though: not every method works for every person. Different bodies need different things. It’s important to experiment and see what works for you. That’s why one-on-one yoga therapy is so important.
Yoga Therapy For Everyone
My yoga therapy sessions are built for your individual needs, and are based on years of experience working with yoga practitioners who have therapeutic goals. Your unique body and symptoms will always be honored in one-on-one yoga therapy sessions. Interested in learning more about yoga therapy? Check out my Introduction to Yoga Therapy page.
Can’t wait to start learning and growing? Book a consult with me! I’m excited to meet you.
1American College of Physicians issues guideline for treating nonradicular low back pain. ACP. (2017, February 14). Retrieved October 25, 2022, from https://www.acponline.org/acp-newsroom/american-college-of-physicians-issues-guideline-for-treating-nonradicular-low-back-pain
2Yildirim, P., & Gultekin, A. (2022). The effect of a stretch and strength-based yoga exercise program on patients with neuropathic pain due to lumbar disc herniation. Spine, Publish Ahead of Print. https://doi.org/10.1097/brs.0000000000004316
3Anheyer, D., Haller, H., Lauche, R., Dobos, G., & Cramer, H. (2021). Yoga for treating low back pain: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Pain, 163(4). https://doi.org/10.1097/j.pain.0000000000002416
4Yoga and physical therapy as treatment for chronic lower back pain also improves sleep. Boston Medical Center. (2019, November 19). Retrieved October 25, 2022, from https://www.bmc.org/news/press-releases/2019/11/19/yoga-and-physical-therapy-treatment-chronic-lower-back-pain-also#:~:text=BOSTON%2D%20Yoga%20and%20physical%20therapy,Boston%20Medical%20Center%20(BMC)