While degenerative disc disease most often causes low back pain, if a degenerated disc impinges on a nerve root in the low back it can also cause a form of sciatica. For more information about degenerative disc disease, please see our Spine surgeons.
The form of exercise typically recommended for treating disc degeneration and the sciatica that results is a dynamic lumbar stabilization program. Alleviating sciatic pain caused by degenerative disc disease includes finding the most comfortable position for the lumbar spine and pelvis and training the body to maintain this position during activities. In doing this correctly, one can improve the proprioception (sense of movement) of the lumbar spine and reduce the excess motion at the spinal segments. This will in turn reduce the amount of irritation at these segments, relieving pain and protecting the area from further damage.
These dynamic lumbar stabilization exercises often require speciﬁc hands-on instruction because they offer much less benefit if done incorrectly, and they tend to be much more difficult than they appear. This type of exercise program is progressive, starting with the easier exercises and advancing to the more difficult exercises once the lower level program is mastered. The most important aspect of using these sciatica exercises is sensing and controlling motion in the spine. Once learned, the body can eventually take over and do this without the level of concentration it takes early on.
Examples of the dynamic lumbar stabilizing exercises done while on the back include:
While lying on the back on the ﬂoor, with knees bent and arms at sides, tighten the stomach muscles and slowly raise alternate legs 3 to 4 inches from the floor.
Hook-lying march combination:
Same exercise as described above, but includes raising and lowering the opposite arm over the head.Bridging Start by lying on the back with the knees bent, then slowly raise the buttocks from These exercises should all be performed with a rigid trunk.
Tightening the lower stomach muscles and buttocks to flatten the back. It can be used to find the most comfortable position for the low back.
This same pelvic position (tightening the lower stomach muscles to flatten the lower back) is maintained while performing stabilizing exercises from the prone position (lying flat on the stomach)
- Raise one leg behind with the knee slightly bent and no arch in the back or neck.
- Lying face down, with elbows straight and arms stretched above the head, raise one arm and the opposite leg 2 to 3 inches of the floor.
Similar stabilizing exercises can be done in the 4-point position (kneeling on hands and knees), raising the arms and legs only as high as can be controlled, maintaining a stable trunk and avoiding any twisting or sagging.
Raise one leg behind with the knee slightly bent and no arch in the back or neck.
- For a slightly more advanced exercise, raise one leg with the knee slightly bent and no arch in the back or neck and also raise the opposite arm.
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The information in the booklet is not intended as a substitute for medical advice but is to be used as an aid in understanding ailment. Always consult your doctor about your medical condition.