Stretching Exercises for Bulging Discs

Updated July 18, 2019
Knee to chest stretch

Exercise can help manage the debilitating pain of bulging discs. Certain types of stretching exercises relieve pain and strengthen the muscles to prevent further injury. You can have a stronger, less painful back if you learn which exercises can help and how to do those exercises properly.

Exercise Safety With a Bulging Disc

Whatever the nature of your disc bulge, you must consult a health care professional before you begin a series of exercises to make sure that you can safely perform the exercises without incurring further injury. Your physical therapist or osteopath will be able to determine what you can best do to make your stretching the most effective and least potentially damaging. They can also recommend specific exercises for your current fitness level.

Basic Stretching Exercises to Treat Bulging Discs

Try these stretching exercises for a bulging disc to manage pain and strengthen the muscles in your back. With each of these exercises, be careful not to stretch beyond your comfort point and stop if it causes pain. Follow your doctor or physical therapist's recommendations for performing the exercises.

Pelvic Tilt

The pelvic tilt strengthens the lower back muscles and improves posture.

  1. Lie down on your back with your knees bent.
  2. Gently tighten the buttocks and abdominal muscles so that your back flattens to the floor completely.
  3. Tilt the pelvis upwards.
  4. Hold for a count of five.
  5. Return to your original position.
  6. Do five repetitions to start and work your way up to ten a day.

Knee to Chest Stretch

The knee to chest stretch helps strengthen abs and supportive back muscles.

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent.
  2. Using your abdominal muscles, raise one knee towards the chest as far as it can go without strain.
  3. Grip the knee with your hands, breathing evenly.
  4. Hold for a count of five.
  5. Lower the leg, again using the abs.
  6. Repeat with the other leg.
  7. Do five to ten repetitions, twice a day.

Shoulder Blade Stretch

The shoulder blade stretch involves squeezing the shoulder blades. It helps relieve tense muscles and can help alleviate pain. It is best to use an armless chair for this exercise.

  1. Start with a straight back, chin tucked in and arms relaxed at your sides.
  2. Pull your shoulder blades together slowly to feel the pull. Roll the shoulders back and downward. Loosen the squeeze if the movement causes pain.
  3. Hold for a count of five.
  4. Release and relax.
  5. Do five repetitions, twice a day.


The bridge will strengthen your back and neck.

  1. Lie on your back with bent knees and place your feet flat on the ground to begin.
  2. Tighten your abs and glutes. Keep your head and shoulders relaxed.
  3. Raise your hips off the floor until they are aligned in a straight line from the knees to the shoulders area.
  4. Hold the position for a count of five, taking deep breaths, and then relax.
  5. Start with five repetitions and then gradually work your way up to 20.

Advanced Stretches

You can use advanced stretches to further increase your mobility. The following are examples of additional stretches you can add to your routine once you feel comfortable and confident with the more basic stretches.

Lower Back Rotational Stretch

The lower back rotational stretch strengthens your back and quadriceps, while also working your abdominal muscles. As with any problems involving a weak back, strengthening the abdominal muscles is a key part of ongoing health and fitness.

  1. Lie down on your back with knees bent and feet planted flat on the floor.
  2. Keeping your back and shoulders on the ground, roll your bent knees to the left until they touch the floor or as close to the floor as you feel comfortable.
  3. Hold for five counts.
  4. Roll your knees to the right until they touch the floor.
  5. Hold for a count of five.
  6. Roll legs back to an upward position, knees bent, feet on the floor and rest.
  7. Do ten repetitions, alternating sides.

Back Extension

Back extensions are an important stretch to improve flexibility and posture.

  1. Lie on your stomach.
  2. Prop up your upper body with your elbows slowly. Keep the hips, legs and feet on the floor. Do not try to stretch beyond where you can breathe well and keep your hips in place.
  3. Hold for a count of five, breathing deeply, then release.
  4. Do ten repetitions.
  5. When you are ready, you can deepen this stretch by pushing up with your hands and straightening your arms.

You will want to perform this exercise as often as you can, because it goes a long way towards improving back health. This is a good exercise to perform first thing in the morning and again before you go to bed.

Tips for Safe Stretching

It can be easy to forget the basics when you're desperate to feel strong, but please remember to be gentle and not exceed your body's limits. You will get stronger and more flexible with time. However, if you push too hard, you risk serious injury that will take even more time to heal.

Your Breathing Is Important

Concentrate on your breathing! When a stretch is difficult, your instinct is to pant. Slow, deep breaths as used in yoga will help you center yourself and feel the stretch more fully.

Set Attainable Goals

Don't over-repeat. Work with your doctor to set reasonable goals for repetitions and hold times. When you feel strong enough, your doctor will help you reestablish a new stretching routine.

A Stronger Back Can Improve Symptoms

Once you get your doctor's approval to exercise with a bulging disc condition, always start slow and gradually build up your repetitions. This will help strengthen your back and manage your pain. You may find exercise to be one of the most effective weapons against back pain and further injury.

Trending on LoveToKnow
Stretching Exercises for Bulging Discs