A herniated disc affects 1 in 50 people.

It usually appears between the ages of 30 and 50. Depending on the severity of the hernia and the debilitating effects for the patient, the condition often requires surgery.

  • Yoga is well known for relieving back pain, and the agony brought on by sciatica, but what about for people with a herniated disc?
  • Can yoga exercises help sufferers of a herniated disc or even prevent it?

Yoga is not the obvious option, but in many cases it has a range of benefits for patients, even those with arthritis.

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What is A Herniated Disc?

A herniated disc, or slipped disk, occurs when one of the intervertebral disks are damaged. These discs located between the vertebrae give the spine its flexibility. They also served as a shock absorber.

They are composed of a fibrous and solid structure, which contains the gelatinous nucleus. When the structure of the disc is damaged or less resistant, the nucleus escapes from its center and deforms the structure of the disc: this is a herniated disc.

As long as the hernia does not compress any nerve, it can go completely unnoticed. If not, the patient will experience severe pain and difficulty in performing simple movements such as bending, sitting, or simply standing straight.

Herniated discs are usually located in the lower back or at the top, causing lumbar or cervical pain.

In the vast majority of cases, the herniated disc is treated by complete rest and anti-pain or anti-inflammatory medication. In rare cases, if the pain persists and greatly inconveniences the patient, surgery may be considered.

Otherwise, back pain and yoga can actually go hand in hand!

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Relieving a Herniated Disc Through Yoga

Focus on your mental health as well as physical well-being with yoga.
A positive mind set will help you get out of bed and overcome your pain. Source: Visual hunt

Yoga classes can help people with herniated discs, but it's a practice that needs to be highly regulated and always subject to medical advice. Do not start doing yoga poses alone to relieve your pain, you could end up hurting yourself even more.

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Yoga When Pain Strikes

At first, when the pain hits, absolute rest is essential. Moving will not improve the situation and will have no effect on the pain. This step is crucial to full recovery.

Nevertheless, some aspects of yoga can provide significant moral support, when you're stuck in bed unable to move.

  • Breathing exercises: To overcome and reduce the feeling of pain, it is useful to learn how to lengthen exhalation and practice deep and abdominal breathing. These techniques, allowing patient to relax, will ease the pain,
  • Nîdra Yoga: this practice is based on relaxation. Also called sleep yoga, Nîdra yoga relaxes your body, mind and enables you  control your emotions better. It is specifically based on visualisation and breathing techniques. It's a great tool for managing any stress caused by the pain.

Yoga, the Secret to Rehabilitation

Once an attack has passed, the pain has subsided and the lesions have been repaired, yoga can help with rehabilitation as well as preventing a possible relapse.

As always you should consult your doctor in advance, but regular yoga has helped lots of people recover more easily from herniated disc problems.

Yoga will allow you to:

  • Strengthen the lower back muscles that support the spine,
  • Improve the flexibility of your back,
  • Find a normal mobility,
  • Stretch and relax the back muscles.

At the beginning, take it slow by practising the more passive poses, then, in later session, you can try poses involving extension, toning and relaxation.

After long-term immobilisation, poses should be performed lying down. It is important to ensure that yoga therapy remains pain free at all times. It is imperative that you enlist the help of a specifically trained yoga teacher who can teach you asanas adapted to your condition and give you all the right tips to spare your back.

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Some Yoga Poses to Prevent a Herniated Disc

Find a qualified yoga instructor online to learn the right exercises for you.
The grasshopper posse is great for working the back muscles. Source: yogathletica

A healthy lifestyle and good back posture on a daily basis are crucial or preventing a herniated disc. Among the recommended yoga poses to help the back, you can do regular practice of:

  • Salabhasana, the grasshopper pose to loosen the head and neck,
  • Dhanurasana, the bow pose to stretch the upper body,
  • Tiryaka Tadasana, the swaying palm tree pose to align the spine,
  • Kati Chakrasana, the standing spinal twist pose to relax the back and nervous system.

Before suffering from back pain, strengthen your muscles with yoga and discover a new philosophy of life!

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A French/Spanish to English translator, Sarah is currently enjoying travelling around Europe with her work.