Sorry for the long post but I'm at my wit's end!
I am a 44-year old, female who has been running moderate mileage for 22 years. Have run two marathons and three half marathons. I've never been injured until now (lucky!) Last May, I had an MRI to diagnose back problems which manifested as sciatica and a literal "pain in the ***", all on my left side. Turns out I have a slight herniation at S1/L5 (pretty common in runners). However, my symptoms have been more severe than I'd imagine a minor herniation would cause. Sitting at my desk is worse than running, and when I do run, the tightness and aching affect my left leg and lower back and glute. I lost half a summer of marathon training b/c of this problem and couldn't finish the 2007 Chicago Marathon (heat problems notwithstanding). Well, last summer, I had two steroid injections which didn't help, went through several rounds of PT and did tons of core, stability and stretching exercises. Fast-forward another year and I'm no better! I had a second MRI last Thursday and the results were the same: minor herniation, mild disk degeneration.
The report says: "Non-specific straightening of the lumbar spine, possibly reltated to muscular spasm; early degenerative disc disease at L5/S1." It goes on to state, "The intervertebral disc is mildly degenerated. There is a tiny, central posterior, focal disc herniation superimposed upon minimal posterior disc protrusion. Disc material very minimally contacts both traversing S1 nerve roots, slightly worse on the right. There is also minimal bilateral facet arthropathy."
Interestingly enough, the herniation is pressing on my sciatic nerve but worse on the RIGHT side. All of my symptoms are on my left! Very weird.
I've been looking into a minimally-invasive procedure called DISC Nucleoplasty: http://www.spineuniverse.com/displayarticle.php/article2133.html
However, my spine doctor at Northwestern Memorial Hospitals Rehabilitation Institute thinks that my herniation isn't severe enough to warrent this procedure. So, I am posting this story to the Med Tent in the hope that someone here might have some suggestions. Maybe one of you has had the same problem and can shed some light on why my MRI shows more protrusion of the disc on my right but all of my symptoms are on my left. If you've had DISC Nucleoplasty, I'd like to hear about your results. Thanks in advance!
In my experience low back pain has a great deal more to do with sitting than running. Take a look at the short article that I attached. If you spend a lot of time driving, take a look at your car seat. In older car seats the side closest to the door becomes compressed and the seat pain is no longer level, so the left side of your back (your painful side) is not getting supported.
Damien Howell MS, PT, OCS
Two weeks before the 07 Marine Corps....and my 4th......Marathon, I reached down to pick up some clothes off the floor and wound up with massive back and leg pain. An MRI yielded a diagnosis much like your's: mild degeneration and bulging.
At 52 at the time, I was in the best distance running fitness of my life, though I'd neglected much of any other kinds of training.
For the next 14 weeks, I experienced substantial and wandering knee, thigh, hip pain on my right side along with back pain. The thigh was also given to numbness and random twitching that would go on for weeks. I could not run.
Each successive day and week did not forcast the previous one. On some, I'd get better, then I'd get much worse, though the overall trend was for the better.
After 14 weeks, the issues had declined enough for me to start "jogging".......slow running. I started at 25% of my previous mileage in the 40 mpw range. My ramp up was 25%, 50%, 75%, and 100%. After 8 weeks of running I began adding my tempo and interval work, all starting from scratch.
Its now pushing 5 months after the injury. I'm slightly faster than I was before it. I'm running 21 miles every other Sunday and will soon ramp that to every Sunday. I can still feel minimal discomfort in my thigh, hip, or back on occasion; the thigh occasionally twitches.
One difference: I am now aggressively training my core musles: abs, spinal erectors, obliques, transverse abdominis. This is coupled with pullups, push ups, military press, good mornings, and lunges. I pay extra care to my standing and sitting posture now.
I've always stretched.
I find that the more exercise I get, the better my back feels. It is generally known that sitting is very hard on one's back.
This new approach is working extremely well for me.