I'm looking for running methods or styles that will not cause too much compression to discs. I walk about 2.5 miles; 4-7 days a week; depending on office workload; have taken part in some 5K's this year and mostly walked. They are alot of fun, but I'm alittle competitive and am trying to run more each race. Have two herniated discs; never had surgury; but the more I run the more I compress my spine; and I'm pretty sore afterwards....Any ideas??
First and most importantly: I don't have serious back problems. So the following is not from personal experience in terms of back issues. I do have experience with different running forms.
I would think a modified form might help some with your issues, but my gut tells me there are other things that are critical - most notably - a really strong core and hips. Given the severity of your back issues I presume you've been in PT and doing things to keep your back and core strong, correct?
As far as form is concerned I think an aspect that doesn't get a whole lot of attention is bending the knees. I believe I've heard it reported that either Ken Bob Saxton (the king of barefooting) or another barefoot "teacher" says "Bend your knees - then bend them some more." It's one really critical component to a soft landing. And while I've recommended barefooting to lots of people to help them dial in their form, and I've never recommended it specifically to aid back problems, my gut also tells me it might help show you what a soft landing can feel like. Some say the goal is to run light and run silently. Attempting to do that when barefoot really helps get a mental feel for what light, soft form feels like. And I mean true barefoot - not "barefoot shoes".
It might be interesting to give that a try and see what it does for your back pain. I'm not saying doing full time barefoot is necessary - but just to get a feel.
P.S.: If you try it keep two things in mind: 1) Experiment on concrete sidewalk. It's the best surface to learn on. Yes - it's hard. But dealing with that hardness forces you to deal with it and learn how to accommodate it. 2) Go very very slowly - both actual running speed as well as ramp up of distance. Initial runs should be 1/4 mi.
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Well, through having an injury recently (plantar Fasciitis) which has gravitated north to my achilles, I have had to question everything that I had learnt about running technique. In fact when you think of it, there is usually no guidance on running, you just start doing it and hope for the best. From my research I have changed to the SOFT technique above which is the same guidance provided in Pose, Natural, and Chi running. It has made the world of difference, where running 10K feels like my old 5K as far as effort. Just give it a go!
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There is a growing body of evidence regarding the "rate of impact loading" related to running. How fast you impact the ground will have an influence on your fragile low back as well as other injuries. I would suggest a browser search on "rate of impact loading and running" you will find blog by Jay Dicharry PT which provides a good explanation of impact forces. Research by Brian Heiderscheit PT has shown that a conscious effort to increase your cadence when running by 5% or 10% will result in a shorter step length for a give speed (velocity). This change in cadence and step length results in decrease of vertical oscillation of center of mass, which results in slower rate of impact loading, which is a good thing for a fragile back. In simple terms if you are not already doing so, run with a shorter stride. Another method to slow the rate of impact loading by milliseconds is run with shoes that have more cushion.
Damien Howell PT, DPT, OCS
Thanks for the info; I do tend to take long strides so that's a good place to start..
Taking up on the cushioning that Damien mentioned, I once bought a pair of Z-coil shoes to recover from my own injuries. While I only needed them for a few months, having a shoe with over an inch of spring-loaded travel took a heck of a lot of impact off my running. Sure, the shoes are heavy, almost a pound a piece, but the people who seem to benefit from them the most are those with disk problems like yours. Good luck!