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Can I Return to Running Following a Herniated Disc?


10.21 - Will-I-Ever-Be-Able-to-Run-Again-After-a-Herniated-Disc

Running is a form of exercise that can be a bit strenuous on a healing spine with a disc affected by protruding material. For this reason, it is not uncommon for herniated disc patients to be advised to be cautious with running. As for whether you will be able to run again after having a herniated disc, the short answer is generally “yes,” although you should take some precautions. This article discusses the factors that determine if and when you may be able to run after a herniated disc.

Modifying Activities Based on Symptoms

Whether or not running is painful for you depends on the extent, nature, and degree of your symptoms. If your symptoms are fairly mild and you do not mind some minor discomfort, you may be able to safely run on surfaces that are not excessively stressful. However, if running results in excessive
lower back pain or radiating nerve sensations, you may need to switch to light jogging or forego running altogether.

How Does Running Affect Herniated Disc Pain?

Running can be painful if you have a herniated disc (also commonly known as a "
slipped disc" or “ruptured disc”). The main reason for this is due to the force of hitting pavement, concrete, or grass with your feet, which can place a lot of extra stress on the affected spinal disc. This can happen as pressure from rapid foot and ankle movements eases its way up via bones, joints, muscles, and various soft tissues and nerves. You may then experience any of the following issues:

• Flare-ups after you run
• Lingering pain that keeps you awake at night
• Discomfort that affects your speed and presents possible safety risks (e.g., tripping or falling if you lose your concentration)
• Worsening discomfort that affects your ability to work and enjoy other daily activities and routines

Altering Your Routine

One option for running with a herniated disc is to change how you run by sticking to smoother surfaces. You may also benefit from more supportive running shoes. You can also run for shorter distances or take more frequent breaks.

Exploring Treatment Options

Another way to get back to running when you have a herniated disc is to work with your doctor and a physical therapist. Doing so gives you a chance to get an accurate diagnosis to determine the extent of the damage to the spinal disc. Next, consider the common treatments available for herniated discs today, with options including:

• Therapeutic exercises
• Steroid injections
• Medication to control pain and inflammation
• Applications of heat and ice after you run to minimize your discomfort

One other possibility is to discuss surgery with your doctor. By correcting the issues with the spinal disc, you will be more likely to be able to return to a fairly normal running routine. However, you will still need to be cautious about how you run. The most common option regarding surgery for a herniated disc is a microdiscectomy, which is a minimally invasive procedure that decreases your downtime and boosts your odds of being able to run again.

If your symptoms are severe and long-lasting, surgery may be discussed and potentially recommended to provide relief. For example, if your herniated disc is not responding to conservative treatment, a discectomy may be the best option. Although this is generally a very successful procedure, patients with a large hole in the outer ring of the disc have a significantly higher risk of reherniation following surgery. Often, the surgeon will not know the size of the hole until beginning surgery, and having a large hole in the outer ring of the disc more than doubles the risk of needing another operation. A new treatment, Barricaid, is a bone-anchored device that closes this hole, and 95 percent of Barricaid patients did not undergo a reoperation due to reherniation in a 2-year study timeframe. This treatment is done immediately following the discectomy—during the same operation—and does not require any additional incisions or time in the hospital. 

If you have any questions about the Barricaid treatment, ask your doctor or contact us at 844-288-7474.

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