What am I allowed to do, when I have a herniated disc?

Are you in doubt about what you are allowed to do, when you have a herniated disc? Have you been forbidden to do certain things? Read on to learn more about do’s and don’t with a herniated disc.


We treat a lot of patients suffering from herniated discs, and most of these people are interested in knowing exactly what they are allowed to do, and whether there are activities that might worsen their injury. To be honest, you are pretty much allowed to do whatever you want. There are some rules though. Many patients have been forbidden to this and that, but most of these limitations are not really justified and nor very helpful. As a rule of thumb you can continue to do any movement or activity, as long as any pain provocation caused thereby have subsided within 20-30 minutes. Read on to to learn more.


If you are one of the people who have been forbidden to do this and that, because you are suffering from a herniated disc, take a look at these two side effects of prohibitions:

  1. You may be anxious to move around, using your body for normal activities. If your physician, physical therapist, or other healthcare professional have told you to stay away from certain activities, movements or positions, because they would harm you. Some patients we meet, are already a bit anxious, because they are in pain, and we see no reason for making them even more nervous, by imposing that they must be careful or the condition could get much worse. When you have a herniated disc, the spinal nerves become quite sensitive. As a result, even harmless movements will feel uncomfortable and painful. In other words, pain will increase long before you do anything harmful to yourself. The pain will stop you long before you do anything that will harm your body. Have faith in that.
  2. You will avoid activities without good reason. Movement and physical activity is fundamentally good for the healing process. Sometimes doctors, physical therapists, and other health care professionals, are too cautious about, how active they will allow their patients to be. If you are too cautious with your physical activity level, it will take longer before you can get back to your normal active life. You will waste time being frustrated about all the things you can not do. However, if you are too active, pain will increase, and that is a sign that should tell you to back off a bit.


Have you been lying in bed for a some time, because of pain, or are there certain activities you have stopped doing, because of a herniated disc? If that is the case, you should return to normal activities gradually, step by step.

If, for example, you have stopped vaccum cleaning your house, start by vaccuming half of the house, and then take a break. Divide tasks and activities into small portions, to begin with. If you have stopped running or swimming, you should use the same principle. Start by running or swimming shorter distances, and over some weeks, you increase the distances gradually.


People who have injured their backs, are often told to “listen to the pain!”, but what does that mean exactly? When you return to an activity, you have not engaged in for some time, it is quite normal that it when you return to that activity. Is that acceptable?

Yes!, you are allowed to feel more pain, when you return to an activity you have not done for some time. What you should pain attention to, is how long time it takes for the pain to wear off, after you are done vaccuming, running, swimming, or whatever it is you have done. When we help our patients get back to their normal lives, we allow them to continue activities, if the pain will wear off within 20-30 minutes after an activity. If your activity increases pain for more than 20-30 minutes, we would suggest you reduce that activity a bit – make your runs shorter, swim a shorter distance next time, or turn off the vacuum cleaner a bit earlier next time.


There is only one thing you should not do – and that is to do nothing! The first week of pain, caused by a herniated disc, may be so painful that is impossible for you to take care of your usual activities. In this first short period, you may need to lie down and rest, most of the day. Hereafter, it will be beneficial to get out of bed and start moving around again. Take care of as many house keeping activities as you can, go for short walks, start working in your garden again. Remember to start with a little bit of activity, and short rests in between. After a few days, you will gradually be able to become more active. Make sure you take the pain medication prescribed by your doctor. The pain medication will make it easier to return to your normal activities.


If you need more help to get back to your normal activities, the Pocket Spine App is able to suggest relevant exercises, to reduce the pain and to get your back moving again. Download the app for free, from Google Play or iOS App Store,