Learning How to Cope with Degenerative Disc Disease and What Not to Do: Exercise Can Be Hurtful

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Being diagnosed with a disease can be quite hard at first; it takes a toll on not only the body, but the mind too.

Suddenly lifestyle changes need to be made and more effort needs to be put into staying healthy.

Keeping symptoms at their minimum is a hassle, and some people may go to the internet for quick fixes.

If you have degenerative disc disease, you may be told to exercise: BE CAREFUL. Some exercises are bad to do when you have this condition, as they increase damage done to the spine, so be aware of them and ensure you stay away.

In this article you will find out what exercises you should and should not do to keep yourself feeling okay.

First, I will explain what the condition is and what exactly a degenerative disc is, in case you are unsure.

Learning more about the condition could definitely help ease anxiety and any fear that you may have.

Also, it is a plus being able to learn what the symptoms are and how to help ease the pain.

What Exactly Is a Degenerative Disc?

If you are unsure of the definition of degenerative, or want clarification, then I will provide that.

Degenerative (adjective) refers to the deterioration and loss of use in organs and tissues.

This deterioration continues at varied paces and can be, though not always, irreversible.

The disc mentioned in the title refers to one of the many spinal discs we have in our bodies.

What Is Degenerative Disc Disease?

With that in mind, it can be assumed that degenerative disc disease refers to a disease that involves a spinal disc rapidly deteriorating and causing ongoing pain.

That is mostly true. See, degenerative disc disease is not always considered a disease, and can sound a lot scarier than it is.

The disc can deteriorate at a consistent, not rapid, speed, and the pain caused by it can actually get better throughout the years.

The symptoms do not speed up and do not get worse, as the word degenerative in the name may make you think, and can improve over time.

The deteriorating of the spinal discs actually occurs naturally as you age. Not every person will have symptoms and their discs can deteriorate at a slower rate than others.

Having degenerative disc disease just refers to the symptoms that some may face as their discs deteriorate faster and more noticeably.

You can actually find tables and graphs that show the possible deterioration patterns of discs during degenerative disc disease.

Images and videos can also be found providing information on the symptoms and physical aspects of the disease.

Diagnosing The Disease

As mentioned earlier, the spinal discs we have naturally start to break down. It is nearly impossible to stop, but that does not mean that every person will be diagnosed with degenerative disc disease.

The reason why is that not every person will have their discs deteriorate at a fast pace, nor will everyone feel the pain and other symptoms that go with the disease.

If you do have increased back pain that has been going on for a fairly long time, then it would make sense to ask the doctor to ensure that everything is okay.

Believing you have the condition based on the sole fact of having back pain would be silly.

Back pain comes and goes depending on so many factors, such as exercising or sitting in an uncomfortable position.

Having back pain does not automatically mean you have the condition. That is why getting a doctor to look at it would be the smart decision.

Sadly, not all doctors or health practitioners believe in the same diagnosis for degenerative disc disease.

It is a condition that is hard to give a definition to due to the closeness of its symptoms to other issues.

Some doctors may diagnose you while others may not, depending on what they feel is correct based on what they studied.

So, getting second opinions could either confuse you or help you better understand your back pain


  • Consistent pain in your neck as well as lower back. The pain varies based on the person and could be severe or moderate. Exercising and other aspects could also irritate the condition and cause increased back pain.
  • Chronic episodes of SEVERE pain.
  • Inability to move or sit a certain way; spinal pain caused by certain movements or actions. If bending your spine, sitting down, or slouching cause the back pain you already have to become worse than it could be due to the disc being damaged.

How to Cope with Degenerative Disc Disease

Exercises to AVOID and Why

Any Sort of Contact Sport

Sports involve physical exertion and often times involve exercising. This can of course be dangerous due to the weakness of the spinal discs.

Muscle tissue and deterioration can make it easier to break, so contact sports should be avoided at all costs until your doctor agrees you can play.

Some contact sports include football, rugby, and sometimes soccer and basketball. Hitting other players and being pushed down could hurt your back.

I would also avoid volleyball as it involves being in a position that causes stress on your spine. The movements can be worse for the spinal disc that is damaged.

exercises to avoid with degenerative disc disease

Sit-Ups and Crunches

This one may seem obvious, since it involves putting pressure on your core and, effectively, your spinal cord.

Sit-ups and crunches involve laying on the ground and using your core to pull your torso up. This puts stress on your spine, as it is bent and pulled.


Golfing may seem out of place on this list at first, but just think about it. Golfing involves incredulous amounts of standing, slouching, and walking.

It may be a slow sport, but spending so much time slouched over the club could seriously hurt your spinal cord.

The putting would have your spinal discs, including the one that are deteriorating, to rub against one another.

The muscle tissue could be damaged from the condition which would increase damage to the disc.

Weight Lifting and Exercises Associated with It

Weight lifting, like the others on this list, involve bending your spine repeatedly.

As mentioned, your muscle tissue could be damaged from the degenerative disc disease, so any increased rubbing could damage the disc and possibly break it.

Bench pressing could also fall under this category, as it causes the same sort of stress to the lower back.

Exercises That Can HELP

Exercises that stretch the legs and back can help, since they do not put too much stress on the spine while still giving your body the well needed stretching.

Stretching and exercising increases the blood flow and increase muscle mass, which can help slow the deterioration of the discs by helping protect them.

Exercises That Can HELP with degenerative disc disease


Lunges involve stretching your calves and thighs by stepping forward on one leg.

Keeping the back straight is important to the exercise so you do not have to worry about hurting it or bending it.

Ensure that you stretch before you begin lunging, as it could pull your muscles and that is one less thing you want to have to worry about. The extra pain would not be fun.

Hamstring Exercises

The hamstring, part of the leg, is another body part that can be focused on to exercise while protecting the spinal cord.

Laying on your back and stretching your leg up as straight as you can go is an easy one to do.

Looking for other hamstring exercises on the internet could help, as there are a lot out there.

Any exercises that involve you twisting your spine, and hips as they affect your spine, should also be avoided.

Twisting your spine and hips could, as mentioned many times above, cause increased damage or breaking to the affected spinal disc or discs.

Try not to over stretch your spine by twisting during stretching or exercises.

To Sum It All Up

As this article was long and provided some intensive information about Degenerative Disc Disease, I will shortly sum up the important points.

I would still recommend looking for more information if you are newly diagnosed though, since it is better to know as much as possible so you can help your body.

Firstly, diagnosis cannot be done by yourself and seeing a doctor is very important. The condition is still being researched, so it can be hard to get a concise diagnosis, but it is still better.

Secondly, some exercises and stretches are more damaging to the body, so be careful what you do.

Twisting, bending, and overworking your back can cause an increase in damage since the disc and muscle tissue surrounding it are already weakened. Contact sports should also be avoided.

Thirdly, some exercises CAN help, and it is recommended to still keep your body moving.

Increasing blood flow, as well as certain hormones, can help protect and heal the damaged tissues. STAY ACTIVE.