L5-S1 Herniated disc cause, symptoms, and treatment with 3 exercises

A herniated disc is a painful form of lower back pain that radiates throughout your leg and foot. The most common herniated disk level is L5-S1.

It’s also known as a slipped disc or a bulging disc.

Fortunately, in most cases, a hernia heals on its own within 3 months. Surgery is therefore rarely necessary. Only if the pain has not decreased after 3 months, surgery can be performed to remove the herniated disc. However, this is not preferred, because it can lead to more back problems in the future.

In this article, I will tell you how you can resolve your hernia complaints yourself using 3 exercises. I’ll also explain which exercises and activities to avoid.

The purpose of the exercises is to reduce the radiation in your leg, allowing the hernia to heal itself.

Read on to find out what you can do yourself.

L5-S1 Herniated disc cause
L5-S1 Herniated disc symptoms
L5-S1 Herniated disc treatment with 3 exercises
L5-S1 Herniated disc exercises and activities to avoid

L5-S1 Herniated disc cause, symptoms, and treatment with 3 exercises

L5-S1 Herniated disc cause

Your lower back consists of 5 lumbar vertebrae with intervertebral discs in between. An intervertebral disc consists of a hard cartilage ring, with a gel-like substance inside.

A nerve leaves the spinal canal at each vertebra.

The function of the intervertebral disc is on the one hand to protect the vertebrae by absorbing shocks to the back and on the other hand to improve the mobility of the lower back.

Overload or old age can lead to the weakening of the intervertebral disc. The more your lower back is strained, the thinner the intervertebral disc becomes. This is because it can hold less and less water. Recurrent low back pain is also a risk factor for the development of a herniated disc. This also increases the load on the intervertebral disc. This increases the chance that the outer ring will tear.

Because the outer ring tears, the gel is pushed out. This can cause the gel to press against the nerve, causing nerve pain in the leg.

The L5-S1 herniated disc is the most common because the biggest load on your lower back is here.

Herniated disc

L5-S1 Herniated disc symptoms

A herniated disc causes several recognizable symptoms. An MRI scan can provide additional clarity. However, a herniated disc does not always cause complaints. The danger of an MRI is therefore that abnormalities are found that do not cause complaints.

That is why you can only say with certainty that the herniated disc is a problem if it is visible on the MRI and you have the symptoms.

The following symptoms may indicate an L5-S1 herniated disc:

  • More leg pain (whole leg and toes) than back pain
  • Pain when bending forward
  • More pain when sitting and standing, less when lying down
  • Shooting pain when coughing, sneezing and straining
  • Less strength in the leg

Because a herniated disc mainly affects the nerve, the pain from a herniated disc in the lower back is mainly felt in the innervation area of the affected nerve. In the case of the lower back, this is the L5-S1 nerve. This nerve supplies the calf and foot area, so the pain is mainly experienced in this region.

When you bend forward, you put the most pressure on the intervertebral disc. This pushes the gel out even more and puts more pressure on the inflamed nerve. This also applies to sitting and standing. The more pressure on the herniated disc, the more pain and radiation. A herniated disc does not necessarily cause back pain.

Due to the inflammation of the nerve, it controls your muscles less well, which can cause you to experience a loss of strength. This can result in foot drop while walking. With every step, your foot hits the ground, as it were, because you have less control over it.

By reducing the symptoms as much as possible through exercises, you give your body the chance to repair the herniated disc.

L5-S1 Herniated disc cause, symptoms, and treatment with 3 exercises

L5-S1 Herniated disc treatment with 3 exercises

The most important thing in the recovery of a L5-S1 lower back herniated disc is to take the pressure off the hernia. Less pressure means less radiation in your leg. You can achieve this in several ways.

First of all, you should avoid sitting, standing, or bending over too much. These are activities that increase pressure on the herniated disc, preventing it from recovering properly. When lying down and walking, the pressure on the hernia is relatively low.

By alternating walking and lying down you ensure that the pressure on the hernia is minimal. This allows your body to repair the cartilage ring and stops the inflammatory response. Walking ensures that the intervertebral disc is put under sufficient pressure to receive nutrients for recovery. Because cartilage has poor blood circulation, it is supplied with nutrients through pressure changes. The combination is therefore essential for a good recovery.

In addition, good sleep, healthy eating, and not smoking are important to optimize recovery. You can also wear a back brace to further reduce pressure on the nerve. On the one hand, the back brace ensures that you cannot bend your back as well and on the other hand, the pressure on the intervertebral disc is reduced by the support of the brace.

You can also use a cold pack to reduce inflammation and pain in your back.

In addition to these lifestyle recommendations, you can do several exercises to take the pressure off the hernia and strengthen your lower back.

L5-S1 Herniated disc cause, symptoms, and treatment with 3 exercises

L5-S1 herniated disc exercise 1: Reduce the radiating leg pain

The first thing you have to do is to try to reduce the radiating pain. You can do this by stretching your back backward as far as possible. It is called extending your back.

You can do this in two ways: While standing or while lying in a prone position. I’ll discuss the one in when you stand because that’s the easiest one for most people.

It will instantly relieve your leg pain.

Perform the exercise like this:

  • Place your index fingers on the painful spot in your back
  • Apply pressure in a forward direction
  • Now bend all the way backward
  • Make sure also to extend your neck for maximum result
  • Hold this position for 3 seconds
  • Repeat this ten times

You can also see how to perform the exercise in the video.

Make sure that you perform this exercise several times a day. It’s especially important to complete the activity every time you’ve to bend forward or lifted something.

When you’ve performed the exercise, you will notice that the radiation in your leg reduces and sometimes even totally disappears.

It is what you want to achieve.

When you feel the radiation coming back into your leg, it’s time to do the exercise again. You want to keep the radiation away so that the intervertebral disc has time to recover.

You can also use this back stretcher to reduce the pressure on your nerves. It does the same as the exercise but it easier to do for some people.

L5-S1 herniated disc exercise 1: Reduce the radiating leg pain

L5-S1 herniated disc exercise 2: Increase lower back stability

The second exercise is designed to reduce the pressure on your lower back and the affected disc. We will do that by training the little muscles around your back.

The increased stability will also reduce the pressure on the disc. The muscles will take over some of the weight, which helps the disc.

it’s also a great exercise against lower back pain.

You can perform this exercise in the following way:

  • Lay down on your back
  • Bend your knees
  • Cross your arms over your chest
  • Now lift your pelvis
  • Hold this position for 10 seconds
  • You can increase the difficulty by extending one leg and keep it slightly above the ground

You can also see how to perform the exercise in the video.

Try to perform this exercise 2 times a day. Also, try to increase the time you hold your pelvis up to 15 or 20 seconds.

L5-S1 herniated disc exercise 2: Increase lower back stability

L5-S1 herniated disc exercise 3: Lower back muscle training

The third exercise you should perform is designed to increase the strength of your big back muscles.

Because of the pain in your back, muscles tend to get weaker. Also, stronger back muscles will reduce the pressure on the disc.

You will notice that this exercise is pretty heavy. Therefore you’ll have to see if you can already perform this exercise or that you have to stick with just the other two first. When it causes more radiation in your leg, you should wait with this exercise.

Perform the exercise like this:

  • Lay down on the ground with your face facing the floor
  • Place your arms in front of you with your elbows bent
  • Now lift both your arms and your upper body
  • Keep your feet on the ground
  • Repeat this ten times

Try to increase the number of repetitions to 15 or even 20 and repeat it three times.

Perform this exercise 2 times a day.

As you might know, the recovery of your herniated disc can take several months.

It means that you have to be patient and continue the exercises as long as it takes.

Sometimes, however, you can not fully recover by only doing the exercises. That is why I will also go through the surgical procedure of a hernia.

I will also discuss the risks and recovery after.

L5-S1 herniated disc exercise 3: Lower back muscle training

L5-S1 herniated disc exercises and activities to avoid

Together with these exercises, that will help you to recover from your herniated disc without surgery; there are also a few exercises that you want to avoid.

These are exercises that push the inside of your disc even further out of the discus against your nerves, which increases the symptoms.

Usually, these exercises include bending forward or lifting heavy weights. These activities will increase the herniation.

Examples of exercises to avoid are:

  • Crunches
  • Deadlifts
  • Good morning
  • Squats
  • Shoulder press
  • Straight leg raise
  • Leg press
  • Twisting exercises

Avoid these exercises and instead perform the activities I’ve described earlier to cure your herniated disc.

Along with a few exercises that you should avoid, there are also some activities that you have to avoid due to the same reasons.

Unsurprisingly these activities include the same movements as the exercises above do. It means that you should avoid all activities that involve bending or twisting your back.

I would also recommend not lifting any heavy stuff as this will cause more compression in your lower back.

If that doesn’t help within six months, you might need surgery. But this is only a last resort.


As you can see, there are more options for herniated disc recovery than just surgery.

If you still have any questions, feel free to send me an e-mail.

If you find our information helpful and would like to support us, you can donate here through PayPal or leave a review on Google or Facebook.