Thoracic Herniated Disc Exercises

Thoracic herniated disc exercises are an interesting topic for many reasons. First off, herniated discs in the thoracic region are rare to begin with and are almost always asymptomatic when they do occur.

Second, exercise therapy seldom does anything to resolve truly problematic disc pain concerns, although it can work extremely well for the epidemic incidence of misdiagnosed herniated discs.

Finally, the thoracic spine does not need to flex as much, or as often, as other spinal areas. The thoracic region is also so well balanced and protected, with large and stable vertebrae and the added infrastructure provided by the ribs, that it is difficult for any care provider to speculate that the muscles here are inadequate to support the spine, which is always a common explanation for the benefits of exercise therapy.

This discussion takes a detailed look at the use of exercise to treat upper and middle thoracic herniations in the vertebral column.

Thoracic Herniated Disc Exercises / Facts

Thoracic Herniated Disc Exercises

Regardless of the seemingly illogical nature of using exercise therapy for disc pain, it is still prescribed far more than almost any other conservative option.

Physical therapy has fostered great misconceptions in the back pain arena, stating that the verified benefits of herniated disc exercises prove it to be the most enlightened treatment technique.

However, how exercise works is not all too clear to even the best trained medical propagandist. Most therapists will detail how strong muscles will help support and protect the spine, but these tales are nothing more than fantasy.

There is no proof of any such nonsense in the medical literature, and yet, exercise therapy does work so well in so many cases. Why?

Exercise will not reverse intervertebral degeneration or cure a prolapse annulus fibrosus. Exercise will not repair a damaged nucleus pulposus or take pressure off any compromised neurological tissue.

This being said, many patients do receive considerable, albeit usually temporary relief when using targeted physical therapy for thoracic disc pathologies. Let’s explore some logical explanations for this occurrence.

Thoracic Herniated Disc Exercises / Truths

One theorized reason why exercise and stretches work well for providing almost universal short-term benefits from herniated disc pain, and virtually all forms of chronic back pain, is not anything related to the efficacy of the therapy itself.


The reason it works is simply because most back pain is grossly misdiagnosed as coming from a structural spinal irregularity, when all along the symptoms are sourced by soft tissue concerns, such as a regional ischemic syndrome.

When you consider this possibility, now the reason why exercise works so well is obvious. Pain exists in the muscles and exercise helps to target these structures with positive benefits.

Ischemia is an oxygen deprivation condition and active exercise and stretching are well documented to increase region circulation and therefore oxygenation of the involved tissues.

Although the effect is temporary in every case, exercises will relieve ischemia. Now the explanation makes more sense. Too bad more therapists have the right goal in mind, but the wrong reason for doing it.

For patients with verified structural disc pain and nerve impingement or spinal stenosis issues related to intervertebral pathology, exercise often escalates the symptoms, helping to reinforce the validity of the diagnosis.

Thoracic Herniated Disc Exercises / Summation

I am an outspoken lifelong advocate of exercise. As a professional martial arts instructor and certified trainer, I have been active in many forms of regular exercise my entire life. I credit exercise with many of my successes in life and highly recommend it to all.

However, I do not recommend it as a universal cure for back or neck pain, since the effects are almost always temporary. Dr. Mitchel Yass has some interesting thoughts on the use of exercise and physical therapy in back pain patients. As he is a physical therapist, his views are certainly useful for further research, as are those expressed by some noted back pain physicians, such as Dr. John Sarno, MD.

You can read more about these teachings on The Cure Back Pain Network. Just search their names in the right column for all their resources.

Thoracic Herniated Disc Exercises to Herniated Disc

11/19/12 Revised 8/9/13

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