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4 Ways to Prevent Re-herniating a Disc

If you’ve herniated a disc in your back before, you know what the pain feels like and how long the recovery process lasts. You also know that it’s something you want to avoid experiencing ever again.

Although you can’t totally avoid re-injuring your back, Dr. Steven Barrer, senior neurosurgeon and director of Neurosciences, said careful body mechanics and posture along with a back-sparing routine can help you reduce the risk of re-herniating a disc.

Here are the careful body mechanics you should practice to avoid re-herniating a disc.

1. Lift the right way

“There is a right way and wrong way to lift,” Dr. Barrer said. “Don’t lift with your knees locked. Keep your back straight and use your knees to lift, not your back.”

If possible, avoid lifting heavy objects on your own, he advised.

2. Don’t sleep on your stomach

Plain and simple: sleeping on your stomach is bad for your back, according to Dr. Barrer.

“Sleeping on one's stomach puts significant stress on the back and is bad for most people,” he said. “Some people, however, are very comfortable on their stomachs and for them, it's ok.”

Sleeping flat on your back can also put your back in a bad position.

“Lie on your back with a pillow under your knees and with your head on a pillow,” he said, adding that doing this puts your spine in a more neutral position.

If you can’t sleep on your back, try sleeping on your side.

“Lie on your side in a fetal-like position. This takes pressure off of your back,” Dr. Barrer said.

3. Be mindful about how you’re sitting and standing

Just like there’s a right way to lift and sleep, there’s a right way to sit when it comes to preventing re-herniation.

“You should sit with your back straight, not slouched or bent over,” Dr. Barrer said, noting that adding a pillow behind your low back can provide you with lumbar support while seated.

Standing for a long period can also put pressure on your back.

“Don’t stand for a long period of time. But if you have to, put one foot up on something and alternate feet,” he said.

4. You may want to skip jogging for exercise

“Jogging is terrible for disc herniation,” Dr. Barrer stated. “Your foot isn't a large surface. Every time you land on the foot, you have your entire body weight putting pressure on that one foot – that pressure gets transmitted up your leg and into your back.”

Although there are athletic shoes out there that claim to have shock absorbers, Dr. Barrer said they’re not enough to relieve the shock that radiates up your legs to your back while jogging.

“Walking is better than running – you’re not landing on one foot with the same force as if you were running,” he explained. “But if you love to jog, jog on softer surfaces. A softer surface dissipates some of the pressure that you would experience running on concrete.”

However, the bottom line is more about what feels right for you.

“For any posture or activity, if it doesn’t hurt, it’s ok, especially if it makes you feel better,” Dr. Barrer said.

For a referral to an Abington - Jefferson Health physician, please call 215-481-MEDI (6334) or search our online directory.

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