The other day, a student was diagnosed with a ruptured lumbar disc. Her doctor recommended therapy. Here are some additional ideas of things to do under the guidance of your doctor and/or therapist.
While pain exists:
1. Lay down when you can. Take some time to lay on the floor with the door closed and lights out. Ideally, lay on the floor (firm surface) with the calves resting on a chair. This gives the low back a nice break from working all the time.
2. Yoga practice doesn't mean just asana. Even though asana might be out of the question, breathing and meditation are still very helpful. This is Raja Yoga instead of Hatha. You can use a meditation CD and for some basic breathing start with soft Ujjayi breathing. That's the one where you tone the throat and a quiet sound is produced. Listen to the inhales and exhales. Do this for a couple of minutes. Then find a 1:1 ratio of length of inhale and length of exhale. Keep the same subtle sound the whole time. Do this for a couple of minutes. Finally, every 3 or 4 breaths start to lengthen both inhale and exhale by 1 count. Do this as long as you like while you still feel and hear a steady calm breath. This will help to ease the mind and thus the body. As you relieve some stress, the body will have an easier time healing.
3. Check with your therapist, but using alternating cold then heat can be helpful as well. In the case of using heat, make sure your therapist or doctor says it's okay. Cold is a safer bet at first. Cold reduced pain and swelling. Heat increases blood flow, but can increase swelling as well.
4. While in pain, stretching is not advised. Keep the low back as immobile as possible.
When pain subsides:
1. When the pain subsides, that is the time to start moving again. Start slowly in order to prevent a relapse. This will be a great lesson in patience! Begin with gently stretches such as supine knees to chest -- alternating and then together.
2. Also, building strength in the back and abs. For the back asanas such as locust (salambhasana) are very helpful.
3. For abs target the deeper stabilizing muscles--the transverse abdominus (TA) and the obliques. A nice one to start with for the TA is to get on all 4's (hands and knees). Curl your toes under and lift your knees off the ground just a few inches. Focus on engaging around the entire waist line as you lean slightly forward. Be careful of the wrists here. For the obliques, lay on your back with bent knees, and draw the belly down to the back causing it flatten. One leg at a time lift a foot off the floor and bring the lower leg parallel with the ground. Switch sides. Then do both at once. Keep the back flattened the whole time. After that feels good for a few days, then you can venture into the bicycle--both legs off the ground with one leg straight forward and one bent.
4. Also, work with posture--your therapist or Yoga teacher can help you with this.
The good news is that 85% of folks with ruptured discs recovery without invasive treatments (according to Mayo Clinic).
Today is the first day of the rest of your life!