Peter Hibberd, M.D., is a doctor whose advice is based on more than 28 years of hospital outpatient and inpatient experience. He is an experienced emergency medicine physician, surgeon, and consultant. Dr. Hibberd is certified by the American Board of Emergency Medicine. He is also a fellow and active member of the American Academy of Family Physicians, an active member of the American College of Emergency Physicians, and a member and fellow of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine. Dr. Hibberd has earned numerous national and international professional certifications, memberships, and awards.

What Exercises Strengthen The Back?

Thursday, 08 July 2010 02:32 PM

Question: I am a 69 year old male in good physical condition. I have been diagnosed by MRI to have a herniated disk. I have virtually no pain accept some stiffness in the morning, and some mild weakness and numbness in my left leg and foot. I feel I am getting better as each day passes. I would like to know if you advise any exercises that would strengthen my back. My primary care doctor advised stretching and exercising. The surgeon advised no exercising or stretching. I don't know who to believe.

Dr. Hibberd's Answer:

Your situation is very common, and as usual you have received conflicting advice regarding exercise simply because there are divergent opinions by experts in this area. Limited stretches and mild exercises probably have little effect on your recovery except in maintaining functional fitness. Many surgeons restrict exercise to avoid the theoretical risk of migration of the dissolving disc fragments, but this concern is not necessarily applicable to all cases of prolapsed disc.
While much evidence may support your primary care doctor's advice, I recommend you follow the advice of your selected surgeon unless you decide on an alternate surgical opinion. Your surgeon will let you know when they feel safe for you to exercise, so follow their advice if you wish them to remain as your consultant. There is nothing much worse than wasting your time or the consultant's time when you do not plan to follow their recommendations. Once cleared for exercises, abdominal wall exercises are the exercises of choice for lower back degenerative disc and back pain conditions.

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