Can I run with a bad back?
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!
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.
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