Half of your friends, family, and co-workers are telling you to do less. If it hurts to sit, then you should sit less. If it hurts to stand or walk, then you should stand or walk less. Just do less and less, less and less often which reminds me of the old joke, “Doc, it hurts when I laugh. Stop laughing of course. Common sense, really. The other half of your friends, family, and co-workers are telling you to do more. No pain, no gain. If you do not use it, you lose it. Push through the pain and other platitudes. So, if you're at all good at math, you'll realize at once that exactly half these people are wrong, but which half?
As it so happens, both halves are right half the time which means that they're also wrong about half the time. Exercising a herniated or protruding disc is a little bit like driving faster with a flat tire. It's a bumpy ride and it tears up the tire. Does not it make more sense to pull off the road and stop? Yes, it is rather confusing considering that you've all had it hammered into you how important exercise is supposed to be. I've seen patients who have been prescribed a back brace or neck collar, and have been taken out of work, and have stopped doing all the fun things, all of which is of course designed to limit joint motion and tie muscle strain, who have also been prescribed physical therapy and home exercises. Are not these polar opposites? Is not rest the opposite of exercise?
Brushing and Flossing Will not Help
Understanding that spinal exercises in the world of physical medicine are a lot like brushing and flossing in the dental world. If you have a toothache can you buy a new tooth brush and double down on flossing to make the pain go away? No, you can not, because brushing and flossing will not help you with the underlying cavity that is causing the pain. You know this to be true so why is it that you hear so much about the importance of brushing and flossing if we all agree that it will not stop a tooth from aching? Obviously because brushing and flossing helps prevent tooth decay, it does not fix it – it helps prevent it.
Back and neck exercises will not fix a disc problem either for the same reason and if done too soon or too rigorously can actually make matters worse. So why is it that you hear so much about the importance of spinal exercises for back pain and neck pain? Because it helps prevent next time. You see, a flat tire will not ever change itself but sometimes a disc can heal itself without intervention, then exercise can help prevent a recurrence. Rest it to start by doing less and as the bulge or protrusion subsides gradually exercise more with the goal of preventing next time.
If the bulge or protrusion does not heal on its own, get help. True, like having a flat tire you could either drive anyway and cause further damage or not drive at all, but that's no way to live and just postpones the inevitable. I suppose it's also true that you could live with a toothache, but not for long enough I'm afraid. What could have been handled with a simple filling eventually requires a root canal, then crowns or bridges, and later false teeth. No one voluntarily gets false teeth just like no one voluntarily gets spinal surgery, but too soon you run out of choices.
Does not it make more sense to deal with the disc that is causing the pain and then do the necessary exercises to prevent next time? When a damaged disc simply will not heal by itself find out about spinal decompression before you run out of choices. Modern medical science finally has an answer for those who suffer with chronic neck pain or lower back pain.