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5 Core Exercises for Disc Herniation Rehab!

Updated: Oct 6, 2023

Looking for effective disc herniation exercises to properly address your core, disc herniation, and low back pain? Relief is here in the form of 5 different highly effective core rehab exercises for disc herniation! How many times have you been told your core is weak and that is the reason for your low back pain or disc herniation? Probably too many times to count! Now although a "weak core" is not exactly the cause for your low back pain, there are many core movements we can do that will improve the function of your core, low back, lumbar discs, and overall movement! So whether you have sciatic pain when bending forward, disc herniation pain or any other low back-related injury you can guarantee these movements will make a huge impact on your recovery when implemented the right way and consistently!

disc bulge pinching a nerve

Why These Exercises?

There are many core exercises that can actually make low back issues or disc herniation problems worse. In all of the exercises we will be discussing today, not 1 involves common disc herniation triggering movements that I see with my online clients and therefore these variations should be comfortable for most of you trying. Most core exercises that may further irritate an already sensitive lumbar disc herniation are sit-ups, crunches, bicycles, leg lifts, or leg raises. What all of these have in common is loaded flexion. Now, this does not mean that loaded flexion is "bad", but just that most sensitive lumbar disc herniation symptoms don't like them and may perpetuate the condition.

stop doing crunches for back pain

The "Missing Link" In Disc Rehab!!!

Additionally, all of these exercises discussed today are "anti-rotation" focused. That is because they are derived from the "Pallof Press" which is not commonly performed amongst most core strengthening exercises but is often a missing link in a proper low back rehab program for disc herniations and sciatica! Why you ask? Because most sensitive discs are also quite irritated by rotational forces like golfing, tennis, throwing, baseball etc. The torsional effects on a sensitive disc is usually not tolerated! What "anti-rotation" exercises do is help stabilize rotational forces put upon the disc so that the lower back can handle rotation again, and even control the deceleration aspect of it better. This step is often missed, but is often essential to fully recovering from a painful disc herniation to be able to perform at 100% pain-free!

golf can hurt your back

Let's get into it!

Exercise 1: Pallof Walkout

This first exercise shown in the video above packs a punch. The reason why is incorporating the lateral walkout with a slight squat is causing the hips and legs to work with the core. We always want to integrate core function with other practical movement patterns. The frontal plane involved lateral movements and these movements are not commonly performed throughout one's daily life and therefore is important to incorporate in a proper low back rehab program. With this version you will not only work the core, but you will feel your hips burning too because your hips and gluteal muscles will be working to control the steps you are taking outwards and to control the steps you are taking inwards. This combined with the core resistance makes for a great movement.

córę exercise demonstration

Exercise 2: Pallof March

This is the 2nd exercise shown in the video above and its focus is QL and hip strength while working the core. The alternating stance of the support leg as shown in the marching fashion teaches the body to transfer forces from 1 side to another quickly and promotes positive adaptive changes. We need to prepare our body for quick movements and quick changes in load and this exercise does a great job at that!

core exercise demonstration

Exercise 3: Single Leg Pallof

This is the 3rd exercise shown in the video above. Now instead of marching in sequence, we will be holding 1 leg up at a time for a longer duration. This incorporates single leg balance which is another helpful component of athleticism and low back pain rehab as well as fall prevention. This will also target the inside leg's glute and outside leg's adductors when on the respective support leg. Holding this position helps you get used to single-leg rotational stability with this variation.

pallof press core exercise

Exercise 4: Split Stance Pallof Press

This is the 4th exercise shown in the video above and has the benefits of a split stance position which are highly utilized in athletics events. Being able to stabilize and move proficiently in a split stance position will carry over to many other movements and activities that require running or cutting of any kind! Perform this with the inside leg (leg closest to the resistance anchor) forward so that the glute/hip can really get a lot of work in with this movement.

core exercise for back pain

Exercise 5: Kneeling Pallof Press

This is the 5th exercise shown in the video above. This is different from the split stance pallof press because the base of support is reduced. In this variation, you are not supported by both legs, but rather by 1 since the rear leg will most likely not be doing much and the forces are going through the knee to the low back instead of from the foot to the low back. This removes some of the leverage you may have had with the fully extended legs and therefore you may not be able to use as much resistance because of that.

pallof press exercise for back pain

How Important are Core Exercises for Disc Herniation and Sciatica Relief?

Typically when I am going through a proper online assessment with a client that has disc herniation and/or sciatica pain we find significant relief with specific movements that don’t involve the core. It is crucial to identify the specific movements that are going to address the root of the issue before focusing on the strength of other areas. Is core strength and overall strength important for lower back issues? Absolutely! Is it the solution to a majority of disc herniations or sciatica though? Absolutely not! This is obvious by the hundreds of individuals around the world that contact me for help with their lower back pain that have been trying core exercises for years. I can guarantee their core is not the ONLY issue!!! You need a proper assessment!

If Core Strength Isn't the Solution, What Is?

Well although the most common disc issues are an L5/S1 and L4/L5 disc herniation which essentially all of my online clients have, it is still important to recognize that what we do to succeed can vary from person to person but in my experience with online clients around the world there is a similar pattern among many individuals with disc herniations or sciatica that is commonly missed. The majority of my clients have had low back issues for years and have tried Chiro, PT, medication, injections, orthopedists - you name it! It seems like they all were missing some key components..... First I would recommend my FREE Low Back Webinar that discusses multiple factors that contribute to lower back pain!

Then if you still feel like you are

  • unsure

  • confused

  • wasting time

  • missing out on your life at 100%

  • wasting thousands $$$ on interventions that aren't producing results

  • working with someone you feel does NOT care about YOUR GOALS

  • worried about this leading to drugs or surgery

Then it's time to take action! No time to waste!

Ready to ATTACK Low Back Pain or Sciatica?

Are you sick of guessing your way through this low back pain?

Want to prevent drugs or surgery?


Thanks for reading! -Dr. Grant Elliott

Dr. Grant Elliott

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