5 Best Exercises for Lumbar Disc Prolapse

Disc prolapse, also known as a herniated disc, is a medical condition characterised by the displacement and protrusion of the discs between the vertebrae of the spine. This can cause severe pain, numbness, and a range of other mild to severe symptoms.

We would say that disc herniations and prolapses are the most common problem we see at Surrey Physio. The strange thing is, 20 years ago when I first started clinic, disc prolapses were not nearly as prevalent. I have several theories as to why discs seem to prolapse more commonly and I’ll discuss these later in the article.

The discs consist of a tough exterior (annulus) encasing a jelly-like substance (nucleus). This material acts as a cushion, permitting the spine to bend and twist while offering support and stability. A herniated disc is the result of a damaged disc that bulges outward or even ruptures and separates.

There are numerous causes of herniated discs, including age-related wear and tear, trauma or injury, and even genetic predisposition. Extreme lower back pain that radiates down the leg is the most typical symptom of a herniated disc. In certain instances, pain may be accompanied by numbness or tingling in the affected area.

I believe that discs are far more prevalent today than they were 20 years ago because of our sedentary lifestyle, and very high levels of forward bending. Our bodies are not as strong as they were, on average, in my Grandparent’s generation. Our generations exercise less, eat less nutritious food, and sit far more. I believe these factors are what contributes to discs degenerating and prolapsing.

Disc prolapse is typically diagnosed with an MRI scan. MRI scans are almost impossible to get through your GP surgery on the NHS, but they are more straightforward to simply pay privately and the cost is typically around £300.00. We do not perform MRI scans at Surrey Physio, but we do refer patients for MRI. Treatment varies based on the severity of the herniation. In almost all cases, physio and osteopathy significantly helps. In more severe cases, surgical repair of the disc may be required and the most common technique is a micro-discectomy. This should only be considered when all-else fails.

Let’s look at our top five exercises for Disc Prolapse / Disc Herniation:

1. Chair Rotation


2. Lumbar Decompression Exercise


3. Gentle Back Extension


4. Ice to the Lower Back


5. Lumbar Rotation


And lastly, although this has mixed research about it, we recommend you minimise forward bending. That includes leaning over a sink to clean your teeth, making the bed and loading the dishwasher. Reducing bending does seem to lead to improvements with reduced nerve pain (sciatica).


Disc prolapse is a very serious, painful and debilitating condition that requires prompt treatment. If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, please get in touch with us ASAP.

If you are a therapist and like the exercises and information in this document, please go to www.rehabmypatient.com and sign up to this amazing exercise prescription software. If you are a patient and need some advice, treatment or a consultation, please go to www.surreyphysio.co.uk/bookonline. We provide virtual and face-to-face appointments with our expert team.

If you want to buy any equipment seen on these articles, please go to www.rehabme.com/shop.

For more advice on carpal tunnel syndrome, check out this page: https://www.rehabmypatient.com/lumbar-spine/disc-herniation