Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD) Stretches & Exercises – Ask Doctor Jo


Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD) can be an acute or chronic issue. It’s basically when the intervertebral discs of the spine start to degenerate. See Doctor Jo’s blog post about this at:

Degenerative Disc Disease can happen from a trauma either big or small over time, and it is often associated with aging. These stretches and exercises should help.

The first stretch is called the pelvic tilt. You will roll back onto your back with your knees bent. You want to imagine pushing your belly button into the ground, or push your back flat onto the ground like you are squishing something. You can put your hand under the curve of your back, and try to push your back into your hand. Make sure you are breathing and not holding your breath while doing these exercises.

Next you will do a bridge. Push your bottom up off the ground, but try to do this slowly, and do one segment of your back at a time curling upward. Then slowly go down the same way, one segment at a time.

Now you will do some stretches. For the hamstring stretch, you can use a strap, belt, dog leash, or towel. You want your knee to be straight with this stretch, so only go as high as you can before the knee bends. Pull it up in the air towards your head, and if you pull your toes towards you as well, you will get more of a stretch. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds, and do it three times.

Then you will do a piriformis/glut stretch. Cross the leg that is hurting over into a figure 4 position. Pull the good leg up towards your chest by grabbing underneath the knee. You can use a belt or leash to help pull the leg up if your hips are not very flexible.

Next you will stretch your quad in a kneeling position. Place the knee of the quad you want to stretch on the ground, and take the opposite leg and bend it in front of you at a ninety-degree angle. You might want to place a pillow under your knee to protect it. You will be in a lunge position with the knee of your injured side on the ground. Then grab the ankle of the side you want to stretch and pull it up towards your buttocks. Hold for 30 seconds, and do it 3 times.

The hip flexor stretch will be in the same position. Place the knee of the hip flexor you want to stretch on the ground, and take the opposite leg and bend it in front of you at a ninety-degree angle. You might want to place a pillow under your knee to protect it. You will be in a lunge position with the knee of your injured side on the ground. Now drive the knee of the uninjured side forward away from your body. Hold for 30 seconds, and do this 3 times.

Now you are going to get onto all fours or in the quadruped position. Try to keep your hands directly underneath your shoulders, and try to keep your back in a straight line, no arching up or down. Kick one leg straight out behind you. Do ten on each side.

For the last set of stretches, you will still be in quadruped. The cat/cow or cat/dog stretch is performed by tucking your chin in and arching your back. Then drop your back down and lift your head looking forward. You can hold this for 10-15 seconds and alternate back and forth for about a minute.

Related Videos:

Upper Back Pain Exercises & Stretches:

Back Pain Relief Stretches & Exercises:


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Doctor Jo is a Doctor of Physical Therapy.


Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD) Stretches & Exercises:

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  1. Buy a printable worksheet with the DDD Stretches & Exercises in this video here:
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    If you want me to reply, make sure you hit the 🔴 SUBSCRIBE 🔴 button above first (if you haven’t already) because I always respond to my subscribers!

  2. Not sure if you can still see this, but I have arthritis in both my hands so doing most of these are impossible for me to do. Any thoughts as I cant use hands for strength?

  3. Great video. I have DDD and was trying to find exercises that wouldn't worsen the problem. Can't wait to try them.

  4. I have had surgery to remove a broken piece of disc compacting on the nerve running from L5 (resulting in nerve damage and sciatica) and told I have DDD… I have "limited flexibility" now and find yoga and such daunting (I'm only 44 and feel like a 75 year old!!) I have just had a bought of pain lasting two week which has me worried I would need more surgery (which the neurosurgeon did warn me about)…. HOWEVER – after (desperately) trying these exercises to help relieve the pain (I would try almost ANYTHING at this stage!!), I am so excited – some relief!! thank you thank you thank you so much for posting this – I can't believe how much it has helped already. Such easy simple exercises and they work. X

  5. Hiii DR. joe I just found your channel I have degenerate disease in my middle of my back in one disk so glad I found you just don’t know what exercises I can do now ? Can I still do my. dead lifts and weights still ? So confused I was told not to do cat stretch with this degenerative disc in my back?

  6. Doctor Jo – I am 60 years old and was diagnosed recently with acute degenerative disc disease. My health care provider seems to want to have me take Nortryptline and go to physical therapy as the extent of my treatment. Getting them to tell me what my issue was took a year of me pushing until I saw a specialist who immediately put me back to PT as "the solution" – I've since found I have more options like this kind of exercise you are showing here in this video and also dietary and losing weight to help with maximizing care to my discs and I wondered if there is anything else that can help. I've been less than impressed with the health care system emphasizing drugs and spot treatments over giving me a long-term plan I can do myself and make ME part of the solution rather than guiding me down a path like a cattle to pay for "treatments" and treat me like I am not a person. Any advice will be gratefully listened to and incorporated into my plan.

  7. What can be done for someone with DDD who experiences a lot of lower back pain when doing pelvic tilts and bridges? Everything hurts when I try to do these movements.

  8. i have a lot of trouble sleeping because of this, i wake up with back pain and consatntly toss and turn all night, are these exercises something that might help that? how often/long should i do them?

  9. I’ve been having a lot of back pain, and my doctor did some tests and diagnosed me with DDD.. I’m only 15. It’s hereditary, but my doctor was still surprised that I got it so young. 🙁

  10. So MRI said yes this No the rest of life ?? Im 77 Ha Ha But Yes Ill do it I suposed when I feel ok you can stop Is Wrong This 2 to 3 times a week ?? Thanks Doc Namaste

  11. Hi Dr, good morning. While doing these exercises, I feel lot of pain. It hurts me, should I keep doing exercise or I should stop? I have pain in my left side back, buttock and leg. My one disc is bulg and I am unable to stand up immediately after sitting. Please advise me. Thank you. God bless you Dr.

  12. Hello I am not sure if there are different levels or degrees of DDD, but mine is severe. I can not walk in a store for more than 7-8 mins before the pain is so intense I have to find a seat. Washing more than a few dishes, same thing. I have been taking muscle relaxers, and my doctor is talking about surgery as a option. I really dont want that to be a choice. But it does get pretty severe.

  13. Thank you for the video, it helped! Some of these are not possible for me yet as the pain is too much but I think this video is good for once pain is manageable 🙂

  14. Hi Dr Jo, I am 50 yrs old , Male, Found from MRI Report – Disc Degeneration and left paracentral disc extrusion L5/S1level causing compression of left S1 nerve root. Narrowing of left lateral recess.
    Disc bulges L3/4 and L4/5 levels indenting the thecal sac without any nerve root compression.
    What to do? please advise…

  15. You're nuts! I think we're related. I've dealt with all sorts of symptoms in my lower back for many years. I finally got to where I couldn't stand it any longer and saw a doctor about it. My MRI results came back this morning. I have the DDD in my neck and my lower back. My neck is mild but the nurse basically said my lower back was shot. She recommended shots, physical therapy and retiring, in that order. UGH!!! I do some of these exercises from a standing position but really struggle to do the glute stretch from any position. I've been doing it standing with the incline bench next to me as a support, but I'm not able to lower down low enough to get a good stretch. I've tried it laying down too but can't seem to get hold of my lower leg to pull it up. I'll keep working on it and I'm going to try some of these stretches from the lying position to see if I can get a deeper stretch out of them. Thanks for posting.

  16. What if there is way too much pain for exercises, and the person cant even walk upright. What would you suggest please ?

  17. Damn . This helped instantly after doing a few stretches . I've only just been diagnosed with ddd. But I notice results straight after . Thank you

  18. I am 42, male, have DDD which got detected about 12 years ago, which got detected by my second MRI. I also had lamenectomy about 19 years ago based on my first MRI which did not mention DDD.

    Was the DDD caused by the laminectomy operation ? ( which resolved the issue of spinal stenosis, but a chronic numbing mild back pain is still present most of the times )

    Is DDD reversible , if not completely, to some extent by proper diet, posture and exercise ? Have you seen any evidence in comparing consecutive MRIs of any patient?

    Thanks for the instructive videos. You are doing a good job.

  19. I got diagnosed today after 14months of pain and back swelling. I have the worst hamstrings they are so tight and i absolutely hate stretching them its so uncomfortable but iv got to start doing these stretches i will do whatever it takes to relieve my back pain. Thanks for your video it was very helpful and you are very good looking too ( just thought id throw that in there lol ). Seriously though, thanks.

  20. Sorry to bother you again Doc I am feeling like Scheuermann's kyphosis I have seen the symptoms….. does it causes nerve compression in the neck or vice versa….Can you tell me… Please….

  21. Does DDD & thoracic kyphosis can be detected in MRI scan….
    What should I go for CT scan or MRI scan….Which is more better….

  22. Can u please suggest me how to get rid of it through thoracic kyphosis exercises or stretch……
    Since I'm feeling suffocated…

  23. Sorry to bother you again but does degenerative disc disease causes thoracic kyphosis…..?
    Waiting for ur reply….

  24. Have done all of these. Not too much back pain. I just can’t get the sciatica to go away. Worst pain I’ve ever felt and nothing takes the pain away


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