Looking after your Lumbar Intervertebral Discs

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Injury to a disc can be quite painful and limit your ability to do everyday activities. Discs are most vulnerable when your spine is flexed and rotated, that is, when you bend forward and twist. When you sit your spine will also be in a flexed position so it is important to remember that sitting is like bending. These positions increase the pressure that your disc has to manage, which can lead to tears in the outer fibres of the disc and possible herniation.

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There are many ways to prevent injuring your back. Obviously keeping a good posture at all times is essential. This means keeping your spine in a neutral position and to avoid sustained positions (greater than 5-10 minutes), that don’t allow your spine to be in neutral. In the lumbar spine this position is referred to as a lordosis, or an inward curvature. It is important that your lumbar spine is maintained in a correct amount of lordosis, as too little or too much can lead to increased pressure in your discs. To maintain this position when lifting objects you must bend your knees and keep close to the object you are lifting.

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The core stabilising muscles include the deep abdominals, back muscles and buttock muscles. These support our neutral spine position and need to be strong with good endurance to hold our desired position for long periods. Flexibility at the hip joints is also very important so we are able to move adequately at the hips and not early or excessively at the lumbar spine.

The following are exercises to maintain flexibility around the hips and strength of our core to help minimise risk of back injury. Aim to do these exercises at least five days per week.

Stretches

Hold 30 seconds, repeat 3 times.
Gluteal stretch

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 Hip flexor stretch

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Hamstring stretch

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Control exercises

4 point kneel
Repeat 10 times, slowly.

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Cross-extension

Repeat 20 times. Build up to 50 times.

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Sit to Stand

Repeat 10 times, slowly.

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