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Runner With

Started by frodo13067 on 04/02/2016 4:34pm

Hello All!

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!

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3 Responses


I can sympathize. I have Degenerative Disks at L2-S1 and my initial consulting surgeon has recommended a two level fusion from L4-S1. I also run 3-4 time weekly about 3 miles each time at about a 8:30-9:00 min mile clip. I find that the running helps with the initial stiffness I feel in the morning, and sincerely hope that I don't have to give it up anytime soon. On the off days, I usually do something lower impact (elliptical or walking), but don't get the pain/stiffness relief as much from those activities. I also stretch and do planks/push-ups to increase my core strength - about 10 minutes every morning before the run.

I am a 45 yr od male. I have had three previous surgeries at the L5-S1 and L4-L5 levels - all microdiskectomies and each provided 5-10 years of relief. I can tell you I am not too thrilled at the prospect of another back surgery, though I am resigned to not live in pain if there is something that can be done to relieve it. In particular, I am worried about the fusion vs the diskectomy, but I am too young and between work and kids have too much going on right now to let something like DDD slow me too much! Many on these forums have had success and are doing fine after surgery. I expect I will be able to have the fusion this summer and recover (and be back on the track) by mid-winter or early spring at the latest.


Hi Eric,
I've also been very athletic and for the last ten months have been restricted in what I do due to degenerative disc disease as well as foriminal stenosis at L4-L5. I feel no pain standing or sitting but when I walk, cycle, swim, run etc (really any pedal motion) I have a burning sensation in my right leg with numbness - I'll push through this and keep going until my leg fails, stop for 20 seconds and resume again. I can no longer do many of the activies I love and I certainly can't participate in races or events. It sounds like you've been through several surgeries. I'm schedule d for my first ALIF on Monday. My question is were you in great pain sitting and or standing prior to your first surgery? Have you continued to have procedures in order to do the things you want to do? My grant concern right now is that I should not be doing surgery until I'm in great pain all the time - I'm very concerned about increased long term pain as a result of surgery. I realize the recovery period if long but hoping that I can get back to the things I love to do in 12-18 months. Thanks for any advice you can share.


Hi, Eric--we know this post is a few years old, but we came across a resource that applies quite well to the situation you are in: ( Running and Degenerative Disc Disease ). Fortunately, it looks like your running days don't have to end because of your diagnosis.

Of course, staying in touch with your doctor if you experience any new pain or other symptoms is essential. We hope this information reassures you to keep up with your active lifestyle!