Degenerative disc disease (or degenerative disc disorder, since the condition is not literally a disease) is a type of osteoarthritis (more info on osteoarthritis stretches) of the spine which affects the intervertebral discs (small rubbery pieces of cartilage) located between the bones (or vertebral bodies) that consist the spine; these intervertebral discs make it possible for the spine perform motions like flexing, bending and twisting, functioning at the same time as shock absorbers. Therefore, as the disks become worn, the degenerative disk disease usually leads to pain sensed mainly in the back and neck. Hopefully, this pain can be significantly caressed with the help of some stretching exercises.
The most severe of the degenerative disc disease causes is the aging process; as the intervertebral discs are comprised of fiber and cartilage in their external part (annulus fibrosis) and fibers and mucoprotein gel in their core (nucleus pulposus), they progressively become thinner due to aging; this confines the volume of the discs and makes them less flexible, thusly ending in less space left between the bones of the spine; as a result, the spine becomes stiffer allowing for the hard partitions to scrub, bringing about inflammation and discomfort. Hence, it becomes evident that normal attrition caused to the human body due to maturation is the principle reason for this disorder; additionally, factors that can worsen the situation or contribute to its appearance are obesity, strenuous physical work, smoking (which causes the discs to degenerate faster) etc.
The most common symptoms of degenerative disc disease include:
- Persistent low back discomfort, which is often accentuated with sporadic outbursts of more intense pain and sometimes may expand to the hips
- Pain sensed in thighs when walking
- Similar soreness sensed when performing activities like lifting, bending or twisting
- Tingling or numbness in the legs and/or buttocks
- Recurring neck and/or shoulders pain
Degenerative Disc Disease Stretching Exercises
This list of stretches for degenerative disc disease focuses on fortifying the back and core muscles whereas alleviating the spine from the carried weight and increasing the blood flow to the discs, partially stimulating the restoration process. The photos below will help you better understand the specific stretches!
- One of the most effective exercises for the degenerative disc disease is the classic knee-to-chest, which is presented here.
- An active/static exercise: Lie on the floor with your stomach down, your elbows bent under your shoulders, your legs extended and your toes rumpled; now, slowly lift up on your elbows, keeping your core in a straight line – prone bridge (photo 1); hold that lifted position for 20-30 seconds and then slowly go back to the initial position; perform 4-5 sets.
- An excellent yoga stretch for strengthening the spine, the cobra pose; lie down on your stomach with your palms positioned beneath your shoulders and the tops of your feet flat on the ground; then, slowly lift up your head while engaging your abdominal muscles and pushing up with your arms so as to raise your chest and upper body off the ground, eventually straightening your arms while your legs and feet should remain in touch with the floor (photo 2); hold for 15-30 seconds; carry out 4-5 sets.
- A dynamic stretch: Lie on your stomach, with your hips and legs on the ground, your arms fully extended in front of your head and the palms touching the floor; now, raise up your left leg while simultaneously lifting your right arm, without moving your chest and tummy off the floor; hold for a couple of seconds and then lift the other pair of leg and arm; carry out 10 repetitions for each pair (or 20 in total), for 2-3 sets (photo 3).
- Another dynamic stretch: lie supine on the ground with your knees bent, your soles in touch with the floor and your arms resting by your sides; now, slightly raise up your left foot (approximately 3-5 inches off the floor) without extending your knees; stay there for a couple of seconds and gently allow your foot to touch the ground again; concurrently, lift your right to execute the same stretch; go on with this routine for 20 repetitions in total, for 2-3 sets.
- Another useful yoga stretch for degenerative disc disease is the cat pose, which is presented here.
- Stand upright and then bend slowly in order to touch your toes with your fingers without bending your knees (photo 4); hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds and then steadily return to the initial position, straightening your back progressively so as to align the spine as effectively as possible; if you can’t reach your toes, go as far as you can, but without triggering any pain! Do this stretch for 5-10 sets.
There are many other beneficial stretches for the degenerative disc disease, like some hamstring stretches (actually the last stretch described above is essentially beneficial for hamstrings; others require some basic equipment (like the special ball for dynamic side stretches). In any case, the full stretching program should be determined by an experienced physiotherapist. Don’t forget to utilize our general stretching guide and like in any other case, just take into consideration you can apply different forms of specific stretches.. for example you can apply dynamic version of the knee-to-chest static stretch or of the cobra pose! And obviously you can perform static versions of the dynamic stretches. Finally enriching your routine with isometric, active isolated or PNF variations of a few of the aforementioned stretches would probably be proved beneficial, though your physiotherapist will be able to decide which exactly will be your stretching routine!
Photos & Videos
To better understand the previously mentioned stretches we provide a few photos and a vid:
Other Degenerative Disc Disease Treatment Options
A number of other degenerative disc disease treatments include simple methods (like adopting proper posture when sitting or standing) or more advanced ones (like chiropractic manipulation or epidural steroid injections).
Degenerative disc disease can be a troublesome situation but fortunately, in the vast majority of cases, the condition is manageable, since the discomfort can be alleviated by a stretching and strengthening routine that will increase flexibility and mobility. But remember, it’s always your physician who should determine which specific stretching routine (or even a different treating method) would be the most beneficial for you!
Category: Stretches and Diseases