I am 35 and had been suffering with a herniated L4/L5 for ten years before it ruptured and I lost all feeling in left leg last fall. The surgery fixed the problem and I was home from the hospital the same day. To prevent a relapse I found a fantastic PT who taught me the core strengthening exercises that I had ignored as a runner. We worked on stability, balancing on one foot, tva strengthening, and good old planks. Even now I can tell a difference if I miss a day or two of these exercises. My suggestions would be to maybe lay off the running for a bit and make sure your core is as strong as you can make it. Elliptical for cardio worked fine for me. Best of luck.
As you can tell, everyone has a story or advice on this problem. Re: highly marketed traction devices, they are simply repackaged and well marketed versions of something thats been around for years called "lumbar traction". It is nothing new. Best advice for return to running: find a physical therapist who specializes in treating runners, follow the advice, be conservative in increasing mileage and don't expect everything to come back quickly. It takes time.
A friend of mine sent me the link to this message board, because she knows that after almost seven months of excruciating pain (from an 8mm herniation at L5-S1), I am finally getting better. I tried steroids, Hellerwork (similar to Rolphing), physical therapy (made it worse for me), and acupuncture. None of these methods of therapy worked for me. During the worst two/three months the pain was so intense I could not stand or sit for more that a minute or two. With much skepticism I went to a chiro who was using the DRX 9000 machine. WOW. Within the first week and a half I could walk, now six weeks into it, I'm feeling great - at about 95%. I spend 30 minutes in the machine four times a week, he does minor adjustments on me and have a brief routine of daily stretches. I'm swimming to keep things flexible and doing pretty much everything I used to do before the blow. Good luck to you all, I feel your pain.
As long as we're discussing disc problems, I have Cervical Degenerative Disc Disease, not really a disease but worn discs C5-C6 & C6-C7 which is also pinching a nerve running to my right shoulder down to my fingers. I've stopped running since this has developed over 2 mos. ago and am taking anti-inflammatories with limited results. I've just begun a strengthening program. Any other suggestions so I can get back to running?
Yes.....There is hope..........I am a retired CSM with the Army Reserve and I injured my back (sciatic nerve down to the foot, etc, excruciating pain) in Desert Storm when I was 45 years old......I have since been to Iraq for a year (2003-2004) with the Army Reserve and am now running in monthly half-marathons...Actually the running helps me with my back problem more than any exercise I do....I don't know why, it just does....... I never had to have surgery....I just did some back stretches, started walking and then jogging and here I am......Sitting is the worse for me and if I don't do some physical exercise nearly every day, then my back does hurt.....So, I'm out jogging or at the gym lifting, stretching, etc.... Anyway, hang in there and good luck....
I had a lower back problem when I was bodybuilding. I went to a physical therapist and started a stretching program. I am still running marathons and did my last one a week after my 70th birthday.
I have never personally experienced any of your problems, but my job is to monitor the nerve roots and spinal cord during spine procedures. I can tell you from experience that if you let your symptoms go for long, they will become much greater and you will end up with stenosis. As far as the lower back, if you are opting for surgery (which is always the last resort) then you MUST find a surgeon who will do the procedureMINIMALLY INVASIVE! This is a way to do the surgery without cutting up your back and through all the muscles. Recovery is a LOT faster and I am sure you would be able to resume running a lot sooner. I know that with a traditional interbody fusion (where they replace your worn disc space and fuse the back with screws) the recovery time is up to 1 yr. Hope this helps. Oh-for the guy with the cervical problems, the same goes for you. The longer you leave the problem, the more nerve damage there will be.
First, kudos to all trying to find the best way to keep healthy...the first feelings when someone says "stop running" for most of us are probably panic and fear. I have several disc problems as well, but have pain primarily from bone spurs at L5 and S1. I'm unsure how this different type of pressure on the nerves changes the issues, if at all, but wanted to share (and see if others may be dealing with spurs as well).
I have had 2 steroid injections (first=no effect, second = pain free). Currently 6 months after the second shot and 2 marathons later, the pain is definitely coming back. On harder workout days, longer or harder, it's worse. Doc says it will only get worse and, ultimately, only surgery is an option for IMPROVED rather than sustained or poorer functioning.
Has anyone followed up on the research cp. the surgical approaches that suggest no difference in pain at 5 years out with those who had no surgery? I need to find a way to work around this and feel pressure to jump under the knife, but if there's no research behind it I don't care how badly it hurts...count me out!
I'd like to address several of the other posts, as I am a physical therapist and treat many runners. It is very likely that your herniated disc is due to many other issues. If your hips are too stiff and your body requires a certain amount of flexibility, it will find the extra movement somewhere else, like your lumbar spine. All the abdominal crunches, back extensions and core work in the world will be unsuccessful unless you address the problem and not just the symptom! I see it all the time: the area of the symptoms is very unlikely the cause of the problem. Also, I would probably agree with the one post that said to lose some of your weight. But how do you do that without hurting yourself at the same time? You'll have to find what works best for you. Swimming, although with a reputation for back therapy, is probably one of the worst back exercises you can do. It's hard to stabilize your body while trying to stay afloat at the same time.
I used to use pelvic traction myself, with the theory that it would create a "negative pressure" and sort of suck the disc back into place. Let me tell you, it doesn't work. I would just hope that the person would get off the table and out of the clinic without excruciating pain. Chiropractors will only treat the symptoms, and this 9000 machine is a gimmick. Reasearch shows that at least 30% of the adult population has a bulging disc at any one time, and that, without any treatment at all, symptoms will resolve in 30-40 days in most cases. With all that being said, find a good physical therapist who treats runners. Yes, there are inexperienced ones out there, too, but call around. As a last resort, and I mean last, consider more invasive treatment. Things are never the same after surgery.
Good luck, and have those stiff hips evaluated. Oh, for the post with cervical radiculopathy, have someone look at the stiffness in your thoracic spine. I'll put money on the fact that your upper back is really tight.
Hi, my husband was diagnosed with ruptured discs about a year and a half ago due to a work-related injury. We are very confused about whether or not to have surgery. On one hand, the neurosurgeon is telling him to avoid surgery at any cost, because apparently the majority of people who go through with it end up with the same problems later just on different discs. But he is unable to qualify for individual insurance coverage because of the injury: the insurance companies are saying that he won't EVER qualify for coverage unless he has the surgery and then goes for at least 5 years with no problems. We're very weary of the surgery because from what we've been told, the chances of full recovery are so slim (which may be why the insurance companies make you wait 5 years...they must know that full recovery happens so seldom?)
I have the bulging L5-S1 disk as does a significant fraction of the population over 40..
According to the Mayo Clinic,
"most adults - as many as eight or nine in 10 - experience low-back pain at some point. A herniated disk, however, doesn't always cause this pain. Disk herniation is often the result of a gradual, aging-related, degenerative process. These changes are part of the aging process and often occur without pain. Because of the natural course of disk degeneration, one-third of all adults age 20 and older show signs of disk abnormality. But only a small number of these people experience discomfort. The portion of the disk that herniates tends to shrink over time, and many cases show partial or complete shrinkage after six months to a year. About 90 percent of herniated lumbar disks get better without surgery."
I found all this was quite reassuring during my episode of severe back pain two years ago.. I could swim and bike without pain, in fact both of these actually helped the pain. Only running caused severe problems. My PT gave me a large range of exercises, and recommended both Pilates and yoga as maintenance in the long term. I had about four months off running, with weekly PT sessions and massage. I now have only mild pain, very little as long as I keep up with the core exercises and stretching.
Last year the back pain morphed into sciatica, which I'm still battling through. That too is responding slowly to a different set of core exercises and stretching. What really sucks is my limited training time now has to include a couple hours a week of core. I don't enjoy core exercises.
It's still the case that only running causes problems - no pain or issues at all when biking or swimming. I suspect this is just the basic overuse syndrome - whatever you did most of is what causes the problem. Ex-runners have problems from running, ex-bikers have problems from the bike..
Surgery is a last resort, and not always successful. My father-in-law had the surgery six months ago, but now is in as much pain as before.
i was diagnosed with herniated disk (lower, dont remember the #) 4 years ago with symptoms of sciatica. i stopped the Yoga practice of bending from the waist and touching the floor. Instead, i concentrated on lying on my stomach and bending upwards from my waist up with my arms (this is also a Yoga move). i did this every 2-3 hours every day for a few minutes. after a few weeks, the pain has vanished and i have ran a marathon and 2 halves and play tennis every week. i am 58. good luck!
There are alot of variables in treatment of herniated discs but unless there is neurologic compromise non-surgical treatment is utilized. Physical therapy program is always essential to stabilize the back, increase flexibility and centralize the pain. Traction is often (but not always) helpful. IDD, VAX-D, ILT, etc are similar traction modalities. Even inversion tables can be helpful on occassion. Epidural injections, meds including NSAIDS, neurologics (such as Lyrica) are effective. Most of the folks I treat return to their sport of choice and without recurrence. Treatment with a physiatry pain management doctor with sports experience is important. Pay attention to your P.T. as well.
I have also been a patient with a herniated disc myself, L12 extruded and fragmented and ahve been running pain free for years, (some residual leg nubness.)
I had been running 30+ miles/week until 4/25/06 when i herniated the L5/S1 disc. Because of the incapacitating pain, i had to stop running and all exercise and tried to manage the disc conservatively (oral steroids, rest and about 20 advil pills per day) for a month but the symptoms persisted and i developed muscle weakness. I then saw a neurosurgeon and begged for surgery. This was done on 5/31/06. I spent the night in the hospital and returned to work the very next day! The incision is only about an inch long. It's amazing. The pain resolved immediately and my leg has regained almost all of its strength. I have now returned to the gym and spend an hour on the elliptical every other day. My surgeon told me not to run for another 4 weeks but i feel ready. (That said, i will follow his advice because i don't ever want to go through that knid of pain again.)
An orthopedic surgeon i know did mention to me that at 5 years there is no difference in patients that have had the surgery vs. those that haven't. (this is a famous study for orthopedists.) i told him i'm not very worried about 5 years from now, i'm more worried about 2 months from now. in other words, i don't want to spend the next 3 yrs trying to recover from a herniated disc.
I feel great and am glad i had the surgery. For the right patient, it's almost miraculous and shouldn't be overly feared.
NFL football players are able to bounce back from a herniated disc and resume their level of pounding. The answer to your question is yes but you must make sure you are aware of your back 100% of the time and know that any forward bending/lifting activity can re-aggravate your disc injury and set you back to where you were. Another healthy habit to get into is sitting with proper posture ALL THE TIME and doing standing back extension exercises with regularity throughout the day especially if you are sitting alot. I work as a PT and see this problem a lot. It can be very tricky to heal because there are all the extreme good and bad days which may lull you into lifting that 50 lbs bag of dog food from the bottom shelf with poor mechanics. The disc itself is a viscoelastic structure and will move according to the pressures you apply to it, hence back extensions (squeezes the disc to move away from nerve roots/spinal cord). Let me know if you have any questions. firstname.lastname@example.org
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