In general, lower back pain due to a muscle strain or soft tissue injury will resolve within two to three week. A spine specialist may be able to evaluate patients if the pain persists for longer. They would then have a time frame.
A herniated disc is when the disc has begun to rupture or bulge and puts pressure on a nerve. This condition can become worse if you continue running or repetitively exercise. Sciatica is a painful condition that causes pain in the legs and can lead to tingling and numbness. These symptoms include numbness in the legs, weakness, or pain in the foot. A spine specialist should be consulted immediately if an athlete experiences these symptoms. An MRI is often required to evaluate the health and condition of the lumbar discs. A herniation will be diagnosed and the patient advised to stop running or jogging if possible. To relieve symptoms, physical therapy and Cortisone injections might be helpful. It may be beneficial to change the type of workout to one that is less impactful or has a lower impact.
These are some examples of low-impact aerobic exercises that can be done to relieve lower back pain:
- Trainer for the elliptical
- Stationary biking or cycling
- Walking on a treadmill or exercise walking
- Pool therapy or water therapy for pain relief
Surgery may be an option for progressive sciatica (leg discomfort) in cases where the disc is severely impinginging on a nerve. A microdiscectomy is a type of surgery that involves the removal of a small amount from the nerve. This surgery is very successful in relieving leg pain and allowing you to return to your sport.
Most patients who undergo a microdiscectomy to relieve nerve root irritation are able to return to their pre-injury performance levels, provided they have not suffered nerve damage. If neurological symptoms like progressive leg weakness or numbness develop, it is crucial to get an evaluation as soon as possible.
Foot drop is a condition that can be very dangerous. When a person begins to feel weakness in their legs, or lose the ability to lift their feet at the ankle, this is called foot drop. This condition can become very debilitating over the long-term. Surgery may be necessary to prevent or minimize nerve damage.
Spondylolisthesis and Degenerative Disc Disease
Running can also exacerbate symptoms of both degenerative disc disease and spondylolisthesis, which can occur in conjunction. Degenerative disc disease is when the disc’s shock absorbing and cushioning capacity is reduced. Spondylolisthesis refers to a slippage of one vertebra onto another, which is a form of spinal instability.
Repetitive stress from running/jogging can lead to degenerative disc or spondylolisthesis conditions. These conditions can become more severe over time. These conditions are more common in older athletes between 40-60 years of age.
If a person experiences sciatica or lower back pain after running, they should consider changing to a less impact exercise program and having a spine evaluation. symptoms of degenerative disc disease and/or spondylolisthesis can be alleviated by core strengthening and proper exercises, and perhaps wearing an athletic brace. Sometimes, the condition can progress and require more extensive intervention such as back surgery. These decisions are often symptom-driven and often based upon neurological status.
Running can also cause inflammation of conditions such as arthritis and spinal stenosis, which are arthritic conditions that affect the lower back.
Worst Case Scenario
Your chiropractor may be able to help you with sciatica and low back pain. However, in some cases the damage to your discs or other injuries is too severe to allow you to run again, or to compete in marathons or 10Ks. A herniated disc in the neck can have long-term effects. Talk to your chiropractor to learn more.
There are still other types of running and exercise that you might be able to do. You may still be able to walk/run, or to run for shorter distances like a 5K. Or you might discover that swimming is your passion, or that you want to ride the Tour de France’s winning bike. You don’t have to be able to run. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t do any other type of exercise.
What causes low back pain?
Low back pain can be caused by many things, including kidney stones, degenerative arthritis, muscle imbalances and subluxations. Tumors and infection of the spine are possible, but these are rare. Back pain can be caused by strains, sprains and subluxations. Sciatica can also cause pain. However, sciatica usually feels like lower back pain and lower leg pain.
A herniated disc can sometimes cause sciatica. Most people feel the pain only on one side. However, it is possible to feel the pain radiating down both your legs. Running is good for sciatica, you might wonder. Running will only worsen your sciatica unless you see your chiropractor about the cause.
Comprehensive chiropractic care is crucial in allowing your spine and muscles to heal as best as possible. This will allow you to stay as pain-free as possible.
The chiropractor may recommend the following depending on your particular situation:
- DRS System (an axial- and spinal decompression device).
- Low-level Lasers
- Chiropractic Massage
Prioritize Your Goals
You may have a 10K or marathon in your future if you love running. If your chiropractor tells you that you aren’t ready, don’t be discouraged. It doesn’t mean you won’t run another marathon, but it does not mean that you will. It is better to put your energy into healing, improving your flexibility and strength so that you can run those marathons in future.
How can I run with herniated discs?
It can be difficult to manage back problems like herniated discs. You can do it, but it is best to discuss your situation with your doctor. They will be able to help you create a safe and effective plan. After you feel pain-free and your doctor gives you permission to run again, I recommend a complete overhaul of your running habits. With your doctor’s approval, you can create a plan that takes into account how your body reacts to high-impact activities.
Be strong and flexible. To combat joint problems and back pain, the number one thing you can do is to include total-body strength training three times per week along with daily flexibility work. Strengthening your muscles and joints will help reduce wear and tear and make it easier to exercise in the future. Strength doesn’t require you to lift a lot of weight. This Runner’s Strength program is easy to do from anywhere.
Low-impact training is a good option. When you are training for a race, it is easy to be focused on running. Cross-training, which involves running and not running, can help you improve your fitness, reduce stress, increase your risk of injury, and make it easier to run at higher intensity with less risk. Cross-training activities include swimming, cycling, climbing stairs, and using the elliptical. Alternating easy or moderate runs with cardio-boosting intervals on your bike or elliptical can be a good idea.
Avoid the beaten track. Running puts vertical stress on your spine and is high-impact. Avoiding hard surfaces such as paved streets or cambered streets can also help to run pain-free. Every step on trails is unique, which means that your body will experience wear and tear in a different way. This can help reduce the pain from repetitive road running. The softer surface also means less stress for your body.
Walk and run. You can reduce the impact on your joints by running for three to four minutes and walking for one to two minutes. This will allow you to do longer runs with less pain. You’ll be amazed at how fast intervals can take you. Refocus your goals. You have a 10K in your calendar. But right now you must prioritize your recovery. You should first work on your strength and flexibility to become pain-free. You can then add low-impact activities to test if your body is able to tolerate them without pain. Next, add run-walking to the mix.
This can be done in short intervals of 10- to 15 minutes. For example, you could run for 10 minutes and then walk for one minute. Then, move on to elliptical use for 20 minutes. You can gradually increase your running time and decrease cross-training. Once that is possible, you can start to feel painless. You shouldn’t attempt to run a race until your body can run/walk for 30-40 minutes without pain. Your body will be able to take on the challenge without any risk of injury.
A program that targets weak points can often propel you in a new direction. Running may be more fun than running. You might also find that running-walking can make you run faster. Swimming or cycling may be your passion. You need to make a plan that will allow you to continue living an active lifestyle for many years.