Q: Dear Dr. Mao,
I suffer from a herniated disc and often have sciatica pain that accompanies it. Is there anything you can suggest in the way of stretching or exercise to help to alleviate this discomfort?
A: A herniated disk can be a serious problem; I would suggest you check with a physician to ensure that it is not critical. If you are overweight, lose weight, and this will often resolve the problem on its own. Unfortunately, stretching does not really help and may exacerbate the condition. I would suggest exercise in a low-gravity environment. The best is a pool; here you can conduct low-intensity stretching with low impact to the spine. Acupuncture can help with the sciatica and related symptoms.