Bad back

Can I run with a bad back?

6 messages
12/06/2011 at 14:45
Hi all wondered if anyone can offer advice? I've been diagnosed with sciatica and a herniated disc and so have been told not to run by the gp. However I'm getting different info from others. Some say walking and running is fine and actually, when I do run, it does not actually hurt and I make sure I warm up and do lots of stretching after.Is there anyone who suffers with this or can offer advice? I'm missing my running and Im hoping to still do the great north in sept.
Thanks! Xxxx
12/06/2011 at 15:11
Go see an Osteopath. I had a bad back 5 yrs ago due to too much driving....GP told me that maybe i should consider easing back on the running...3 sessions with an Osteo and i was right as rain.

I now go 3-4 times a year just for a "Maintenance Session" and every time i go i bounce out like a spring lamb !

I've had flare ups when i've driven too much or lifted something without thinking but the Osteo has always sorted me out. Mine is also a runner so she knows what she's doing.

Good luck.
12/06/2011 at 16:41

Hi Jenny

Last October 6th I injured my back at work - ended up with a disc prolapse that ruptured and leaked fluid down my spinal cord. Ouch! Couldn't walk for a few days since it felt like I was being tasered every time I stood up. Physio said *maybe* to ice climbing by February and *no" to skiing this year. I had loads of acupuncture and physio, was hillwalking by November, ice climbing in December and skiiing in January. I started running in February to keep fit, and apart from sometimes feeling achey and needing to rest after long runs, I have no major problems. In fact the biggest problem I'm left with is the inability to stand still for long without pain.

Listen to your body - if it hurts, ease off or stop. If not, then there shouldn't be a problem. I work for the NHS and generally, the people with back pain that are active have far fewer problems than those who are sedentary - the body will self-repair to a certain extent, but only if it thinks it needs to!

18/06/2011 at 11:12
I am currently recovering from my second herniated disc - I did one in 2007 and 7 weeks ago had a very bad relapse (very large sequestered herniation of L5-S1) of the same disc.

First time round I was jogging lightly after 4 months and played cricket again after 6 (which was taking a fair amount of risk as the twisting of cricket or golf are very hard on the back).

This time my surgeon (who incidentally does not want to operate) has told me absolutely no running for at least 4-5 months and until my symptoms are fully resolved - I need to walk and swim at the moment. Even if you feel good running, there is still damage to the outer layers of the disc (or in my case a large hole). That heals very slowly (2-12 months), and when you run on that without having allowed time to heal and having conditioned your back and core properly, the repetitive compressive forces of running put you at risk of the herniation worsening, which could be pretty serious.

Based on what I have been told by multiple doctors and physios, running should be one of the LAST activities that you restart as you rehabilitate from a disc injury.

Walking however is generally considered good, as can be swimming (depending on the individual). If it is not making the pain worse it is often considered a good exercise for the condition. Some studies (refer to the work of Stuart McGill if you are interested) have also shown that brisk walking with a swinging of the arms takes stress off of the discs and is theraputic more so than slow walking.

One thing to note is that everyone and his/her dog has a magic solution to tell you about - acupuncture, osteo, yoga, pilates, chiro etc. The key thing to realise is that there are many variations of a herniated disc and the proper treatment depends on the location of the herniation, the angle of the herniation, nerve involvement, your physical condition and specific stresses that cause you pain. So you need to find out what works for you.

So my advice would be to listen to your body and don't rush things - it takes time.
19/06/2011 at 12:51

Hi Jenny,

As John suggests, you will get a lot of different advice and the bottom line is that there are many different factors which will influence the healing process for you as an individual. My experience after a herniated disc and 3 x cortisone injections has been that you can recover and run again. I had (2/3yrs ago) typical sciatica, leg weakness and usual associated aches and pains, and all of these do still flare up occassionally now and again depending on what I have been doing, still using painkillers as and when.

You will get to know what activities you can and can't do, and in my experience running is generally beneficial for recovery from this injury, but you do need to be honest and acknowledge when your body is telling you to have a rest.  For me it is the less obvious things like gardening, painting/decorating and sitting for too long that are most likely to cause it to flare up.

I believe the most important thing is to remain positive and have patience, there will always be another great north run if this year is not meant for you. You will get better, and you will adapt, don't force your recovery, run when you feel ok, don't when you are in pain, and you will find you will have more opportunities to run than not as time goes by. I think stretching (when you are not in pain) is hugely beneficial after a run so would encourage you to keep doing that.  I have completed about 12 marathons since having the cortisone etc, and there are still days when I dont run because of back pain. As John said above, listen to your body, it is an amazing piece of kit and you will get a lot from it, if treated with respect. A lot of people have a lot of opinions on this topic, most of these mascarading as fact, with no supporting evidence. Keep an open mind, be optimistic, have patience, but above all enjoy your running.

Good luck

19/06/2011 at 13:15
My husband has the same injury and was told by his physio to run as it strengthens the muscles around the herniated disc.

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