Discogenic Low Back Pain - What Can YOU Do?

Yoga Therapy for Spinal Discs

Yoga - One way to treat your discs well.
Yoga - One way to treat your discs well.

What does yoga have to do with the health of your discs?  A lot - possibly.

As more studies looking at the effect of a yoga practice on spine health are published, a picture of the benefits and limitations of this natural therapy begins to emerge.  

For example, a 2013 review published in Clinical Journal of Pain found enough evidence for the use of yoga as part of the treatment mix for chronic low back pain to recommend it as an adjunct therapy.

Yoga Therapy and Your Discs

Again, not all the information is in, but as far as discs go, another study (published in 2015 in the Journal of Back Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation) found yoga therapy to be safe and beneficial for patients dealing with sciatica that is accompanied by disc extrusions and bulges.  

It's possible that a yoga practice may help you prevent or manage discogenic pain.  What is discogenic pain, you ask?  Slide on to find out, and to learn about some of the other things you can do to keep it in check.


Cramer H1, Lauche R, Haller H, Dobos G. A systematic review and meta-analysis of yoga for low back pain. Clin J Pain. 2013 May;29(5):450-60. doi: 10.1097/AJP.0b013e31825e1492.

Monro R1, Bhardwaj AK2, Gupta RK2, Telles S2, Allen B3, Little P3. Disc extrusions and bulges in nonspecific low back pain and sciatica: Exploratory randomised controlled trial comparing yoga therapy and normal medical treatment. J Back Musculoskelet Rehabil. 2015 Jan 1;28(2):383-92. doi: 10.3233/BMR-140531.

Discogenic Low Back Pain - Quickie Overview

Annular tear and irritated spinal nerve root
Annular tear and irritated spinal nerve root.

Discogenic low back pain can occur as a result of tears in the annulus (outer covering of the disc, which is made of tough fibers) and/or with changes in the nucleus pulposus (soft inner substance of the disc responsible for its shock absorbing function.)

Because they have not been fully proven by medical research, many of the go to conventional treatments for low back pain, such as surgery and steroid injections are often reserved for the most difficult cases of discogenic pain.

But what if you have discogenic pain?  What are you supposed to do to get rid of the pain?  Slide on for a few of the most promising strategies for managing this type of low back pain.


Simon, J., et. al. Discogenic Low Back Phy Med Rehab Clinics. 2014.

Quit Smoking for Healthier Discs

Quit smoking for healthier discs.
Quit smoking for healthier discs. Wavebreakmedia

Studies show, and experts agree,  that smoking likely plays a role in low back pain, disc degeneration and pain perception.

A 2010 review of studies conducted by Finnish researchers found that people who smoke are 1.16 times more likely to have had low back pain in the last month, and 1.26 more likely to have had it in the last year.  

And in his book Spine: Core Knowledge in Orthopedics, Dr Anthony Vaccaro, professor and chairman of the department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia notes that smoking increases the rate of degeneration of discs.

I know it's tough, but do consider quitting.  About.com's Smoking Cessation site may have some encouragement and resources for you. And to learn more the connection between smoking and spine, check out "How Smoking Affects your Back."


Vaccaro, A. Spine: Core Knowledge in Orthopaedics. Elsevier Mosby.205. Philadelphia.

Vestergaard P, Mosekilde L. Fracture risk associated with smoking: a meta-analysis. J Intern Med. 2003 Dec;254(6):572-83. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14641798

Lift with your legs and butt - not your spine.

Use good lifting techniques - it may save your discs!
Use good lifting techniques - it may save your discs!. iofoto

If you're like most people, you can't fully escape the need to do some lifting as you go about your daily, monthly and/or yearly routine.  I'm talking about things like moving boxes, children, groceries and more.  

Do yourself a favor:  Learn how take the load in your legs and hips --- and not in your back.  

The idea here is to bend at the hips, knees and ankles when lowering your body, and straighten these joints while rising up.  Many people curve their spines over and reach down with their hands in order to grab hold of the object to be lifted.  But this is dangerous to your discs.  

Here's an illustrated step by step guide that will show you - in less than a minute - how to lift things correctly:  Back Safe Lifting Techniques

Lower your BMI

Lowering your BMI may protect your discs.
Lowering your BMI may protect your discs. julynx

Similar to smoking, keeping extra body weight may be hazardous to your spine.  It's only common sense that being obese or overweight may increase pressure on spinal structures, including your discs.  Researchers found that people with a BMI (body mass index) of 25 or greater tend to have a higher risk for back pain.  

Related:  Obesity and Back Pain

By the way, a large belly and/or being pregnant make make you even more prone to this effect.  This is because it pulls the pelvis forward, which in turn accentuates the low back arch and tightens the nearby muscles.

So another thing you can do to protect or manage your discogenic back pain is to get your BMI down.  In case you didn't know, BMI is a height to weight ratio commony used to determine if you're underweight, overweight, obese or at a normal, healthy weight.


Christina Björck-van Dijken, RPT, MSc1,2, Anncristine Fjellman-Wiklund, RPT, PhD2 and Christer Hildingsson, MD, PhD1. LOW BACK PAIN, LIFESTYLE FACTORS AND PHYSICAL ACTIVITY: A POPULATION-BASED STUDY. J Rehabil Med 2008. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19242625

Back Exercise for Discogenic Pain

Bridge - an exercise commonly used for low back pain management.
Bridge - an exercise commonly used for low back pain management. kizzi2

 As I mentioned earlier in this slideshow, yoga may possibly help you manage or prevent your discogenic pain.  Research has also looked at tai chi for low back pain and found moderate, albeit low quality, evidence that it helps people to cope with low back pain.  (Tai chi is an ancient form of moving meditation.)

And there's good 'ole back exercise, the staple of most, if not all, spinal rehabilitation.  Simon and associates, in their review of studies called Discogenic Low Back Pain, recommend a home exercise program geared toward chronic low back pain management.  Here's one to get you started:  Basic Back Exercise Program.


Simon, J., et. al. Discogenic Low Back Phy Med Rehab Clinics. 2014.

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