I'm a long-time runner (34 years) who was diagnosed with DDD and a central right-sided herniated disc (L5) which was pressing on the right S1 nerve. I had episodes of hip and leg pain prior to my appointment in 2013, so my ortho decided to get an MRI.
The results were scary to me:
Disc dehydration and disc disease of the L5-S1; Bone Marrow Signal Intensity shows a fairly homogeneous low signal intensity; mild softening of the vertebral endplates of the T11-T12, T12-L1, L1-L2 levels. Mild hypertrophic Facet Disease of L4-5.
Between 2013 and now, I've been doing a regimen of morning and night exercises (hamstring stretches, knee-to- chest, bridges, cat curls, cobras, planks, and safe cruches) to keep my back limber and strengthen my core. For the most part, this has been pretty successful since I only have had maybe 1-2 episodes of major back pain per year.
My weight is where it should be, I don't drink or smoke, and I eat well most of the time. My guilty pleasure is running. I know! It pounds my joints and vertebrae; however, I never feel pain while running. I run 6 miles about 3 times per week and occasionally swim and do light weights at the gym.
I recently had an appointment with a great orthopedist at the Hughston Clinic after a recent bout of pain, and he took an X-Ray. Thankfully nothing had changed since the last image was done in 2013. He encouraged me to keep doing what I'm doing and to listen to my body. He said that some people manage without further degenerative changes, while others may need fusions.
I frequently wonder if my days of running are numbered and if I'm doing long-term harm to my spine. I hope not, as I want to remain an active runner! I'm not fast: I average about an 8:25 mile, and I use a short stride ( no heel striking). I also try not to sit longer than 20-30 minutes while at work, and I take walks at lunch. Any advice for this neurotic guy?
Thanks so much!