“Pilates helps you access the deep muscles of the abdomen that support the spine, minimizing wear and tear on the discs,” says certified Pilates instructor Beth Glosten, MD, whose own herniated discs led her to the practice.
“A bulging disc occurs when the tissue that encases each disc weakens and allows the disc to press on a nerve root,” explains Dr. Glosten. “Strengthening the core with Pilates can prevent worsening of this problem and keep it from happening again.” Indeed, in one study, subjects who practiced Pilates three times a week for four weeks saw a 35 percent improvement in function and a 20 prevent decrease in pain.
To get the benefits, follow Janice Yorke’s lead and complete the following exercises developed by Dana Brown at Privé-Swiss Fitness four times per week. If you have a bulging disc or are new to Pilates, check with your doctor before starting the workout, and meet with a trainer to learn proper form before exercising on your own to avoid further injury.
Seated Spinal Twist
This engages the abdominal muscles to improve spinal alignment.
To Do: Sit tall with your legs together in front of you and your arms held out to the sides. Exhale and twist your torso to the left, keeping your legs still and butt on the floor. Pulse twice on the left, then return to center and repeat to the right. That’s one rep; do five.
Activate the erector spinae and multifidus muscles — the muscles that cover the lower back and encircle the spine — with this simple stretch.
To Do: Lie on your stomach with your hands under your shoulders. Inhale and press your hands into the mat to lift your head, neck and shoulders off the ground, keeping your elbows by your sides. Exhale and lower back down. Do five reps.
Target the hard-to-reach muscles below the navel to improve strength and alignment with this move.
To Do: Lie flat on your back. Lift your head, neck and shoulders off the ground and kick one leg straight up, grabbing your ankle or calf. Switch legs, keeping the lower leg a few inches off the ground. That’s one rep; do five.