Stretching Exercises to Relieve Pain Associated with Degenerative Disk Disease

Stretching Exercises to Relieve Pain Associated with Degenerative Disk Disease

The vertebrae in your spine are separated by spinal disks that work like cushions to absorb the impact of daily living. As you get older, like everything else in your body, these disks can begin to wear down. For some people, it only causes mild discomfort, but for others, it can be a serious problem. 

Spinal disks have a tough exterior with a soft, malleable interior that is mostly made of water. Over the years, the disks may lose their shape and flatten, causing the vertebrae to painfully rub against each other. This wearing down of spinal disks is known as degenerative disk disease or DDD. 

While DDD can be painful, the symptoms can be relieved through gentle at-home exercises and regular treatment with a chiropractor. Continue reading to learn some stretches and exercises that help with degenerative disk disease.

What is Degenerative Disk Disease?

Your spine consists of 33 vertebrae separated by a rubbery piece of cartilage known as an intervertebral disk. It can be described as a jelly donut, and when you’re young (under 30 years of age), the disk is made mostly of “jelly.” As you age, you lose some of the jelly, resulting in thinner, less flexible disks and less space between vertebrae. In some cases bone spurs form, making the spine stiff.

This natural aging process, known as degenerative disk disease, is often painless, however, sometimes the vertebral joints will rub together, causing pain and inflammation. DDD may be limited to one disk or span across several down the spine. 

Key factors leading to the development of painful DDD include smoking, obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, or heavy physical work. 

What Are the Symptoms of DDD?

Someone with DDD may experience mild to intense pain in the neck and back. Where the pain is felt is directly related to the location of the DDD in the spine. For instance, a degenerative disk in the first vertebrae of the neck may result in pain in the neck, shoulder, or arm, while problems in the lower back could cause pain in the back, buttocks, or legs. 

The pain may feel the worst when you first wake up or after long periods of immobility, and it may spike while sitting, bending, or reaching. If DDD puts pressure on the nerve root, it may result in numbness, tingling, and weakness in the arms and legs. In severe cases, DDD can be debilitating, affecting everyday life. 

Can Stretching Help Degenerative Disc?

Stretching and exercises offer numerous benefits for degenerative disk disease, particularly if it is affecting your lower back. For instance:

  • It strengthens your spine, including bones, muscles, and joints
  • It promotes disk nutrition
  • It makes you feel better

Your chiropractor may recommend several different stretches or exercises to help reduce back pain that is a result of DDD. The following are examples of some of the stretching exercises you may be asked to do as part of your regular fitness routine.

Pelvic Tilt

The pelvic tilt exercise not only strengthens your lower abdominal muscles, but it also adds flexibility to your lower back.

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Exhale and tighten your abdominal muscles while pushing your back into the floor and slightly lifting your pelvis.
  3. Hold for 5 seconds.
  4. Repeat 10 times.

Watch here to ensure that you are doing the exercise correctly:

Knee to Chest

This exercise reduces pressure on your lumbar spinal nerves and alleviates back pain. 

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Hold your right knee with your hands and pull your knee toward your chest. Hold it as close to your chest as you can for 10 seconds then release.
  3. Repeat the exercise with your left knee, holding it for 10 seconds.
  4. Repeat with each leg for 5 times.
  5. After completing both legs individually, perform the exercise by holding both knees to your chests, holding for 10 seconds and repeating 5 times.

View this exercise being performed here:

Lower Trunk Rotation

The lower trunk rotation stretch can increase your spine’s mobility and flexibility.

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Gently rotate your knees to one side as low as you can and hold for 5 seconds.
  3. Contract your abdominal muscles and rotate your knees to the other side, holding for 5 seconds.
  4. Repeat up to 10 times on both sides.

To see this exercise performed, go here:

Does Degenerative Disk Disease Get Better with Exercise? 

Degenerative disk disease does not need to be a permanent disability in your life. Performing stretching exercises regularly can help improve your symptoms and bring mobility and pain-free flexibility back to your day-to-day activities. 

Visit your chiropractor to learn more about what can be done for DDD, including spinal alignments and other manipulations and treatments that will restore your ability to function without pain. Chiropractors can provide more detailed stretches or exercises that will help with your specific condition. For instance, these exercises are mainly for DDD that is situated in the lower back, which is more common. If your DDD is located in the upper spine and neck, you may need different exercises that focus on that area.

To learn more about degenerative disk disease and the proper exercises for dealing with the pain, schedule a chiropractic appointment online or call us today.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for in-person advice or care from a medical professional.