If a degenerated disc impinges on a nerve root in the low back it can cause a form of sciatica.
Additionally, degenerative disc disease commonly causes the disc to shorten in height, leading to the nerve passageways becoming smaller (spinal stenosis) and pinching the nerve roots as they exit the spine.
Sciatica Exercises for Degenerative Disc Disease
Sciatica from degenerative disc disease is commonly treated using exercises from a dynamic lumbar stabilization program, which sometimes includes exercises from the McKenzie Method.
Exercises from these programs include finding the most comfortable position for the lumbar spine and pelvis and training the body to maintain this position during daily activities. Doing so can:
- Improve the proprioception (sense of movement) of the lumbar spine
- Strengthen the low back muscles to reduce excess motion at a spinal segment
This can, in turn, reduce the amount of irritation at the vertebral segment, relieving pain and protecting the area from further damage.
Lumbar Stabilization Exercises for Sciatica
Dynamic dynamic lumbar stabilization exercises often require 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.
In This Article:
- Sciatica Exercises for Sciatica Pain Relief
- Sciatica Causes and Exercises
- Exercise for Sciatica from a Herniated Disc
- Exercise for Sciatica from Spinal Stenosis
- Exercise for Sciatica from Degenerative Disc Disease
- Exercise for Sciatica from Isthmic Spondylolisthesis
- Stretches and Exercise for Sciatic Pain from Piriformis Syndrome
- Sacroiliac (SI) Joint Exercises for Sciatic Pain
- Sciatica Causes and Treatments Video
- Slideshow: 9 Exercises for Sciatica Pain Relief
Degenerative Disc Disease Exercises While Lying on the Back
Examples of dynamic lumbar stabilizing exercises done while on the back include:
- Hook-lying march. 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. Aim to march for 30 seconds, for 2 to 3 repetitions, with 30-second breaks in between repetitions.
- Hook-lying march combination. While raising a leg doing the hook-lying march, simultaneously raise and lower the opposite arm over the head.
- Bridge. Start by lying on the back with the knees bent and arms at the side, then slowly raise the buttocks from the floor. Hold bridge for 8 to 10 seconds, then slowly lower to starting position. As strength builds, aim to complete 2 sets of 10 bridges.
These exercises should all be performed with a rigid trunk, without letting the spine bend or sag.
Degenerative Disc Disease Exercises While Lying on the Stomach
Degen. Disc Disease Info:
The following strengthening exercises target the lower back muscles, and should be performed with a rigid trunk without letting the lower back curl downward toward the floor:
- Prone leg lifts. Lying flat with both hands under the shoulders, raise one leg behind with the knee slightly bent and no arch in the back or neck. Hold for 4 to 6 seconds, then slowly lower to starting position. As strength builds, aim to complete 2 sets of 10 leg raises.
- Prone arm and leg lifts. Lying face down, with elbows straight and arms stretched above the head, raise one arm and the opposite leg 2 to 3 inches off the floor. Hold for 4 to 6 seconds, then slowly lower to starting position and repeat with the opposite arm and leg. As strength builds, aim to complete 2 sets of lifts.
Similar stabilizing exercises can be done in the 4-point position, kneeling on hands and knees, while maintaining a stable trunk and avoiding any twisting or sagging:
- 4-point leg lifts. Raise one leg behind with the knee slightly bent. Do not arch in the back or neck. Hold for 4 to 6 seconds, then slowly lower to starting position. As strength builds, aim to complete 2 sets of 10 leg raises.
- Bird dog exercise. For a slightly more advanced exercise, raise one leg with the knee slightly bent and also raise the opposite arm. Do not arch in the back or neck. Hold for 4 to 6 seconds, then slowly lower to starting position. As strength builds, aim to complete 2 sets of 10 leg raises.
While doing these 4-point strengthening exercises, raise the arms and legs only as high as can be controlled and is comfortable. If pain is felt at any time, do not continue with the exercise.