Berlin (dpa) - People with degenerated intervertebral discs can
still exercise their back, according to a German group that promotes
and disseminates research aimed at preventing back pain.
Georg Stingel, managing director of Aktion Gesunder Ruecken
(Healthy Back Campaign), told the German Press Agency
"first, however, a doctor should by all means determine whether the
degeneration is only minor."
Intervertebral discs are the cushions of cartilage between the
bones of the spine.
Stingel said a doctor should also tell the patient which exercises
are not recommended. This is especially important, he noted, when the
discs have worn away almost completely or the patient has been
diagnosed with a herniated - or "slipped" - disc. In such a case ill-
advised exercise could cause the discs to bulge so much that they put
pressure on spinal nerve fibres.
"That," Stingel remarked, "can result in massive complications."
But he added that slightly herniated discs were generally not
remedied surgically nowadays, but often treated first with physical
Some degeneration of the intervertebral discs is a normal part of
ageing, Stingel said, pointing out that elderly people could usually
exercise without any problems but should do so only under the
supervision of qualified trainers.
He said the best exercises were those that stretched and
strengthened the muscles of the abdomen, buttocks and back. "The
pelvic floor muscles should be exercised, too" - by men as well as
women - Stingel added, since together these muscle groups stabilize
"The more firmly you hold your spine, the better your posture and
the easier it is to prevent back pain and injury," he explained.
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