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  • arboc50
    Post count: 7

    I had an L5-S1 microdiscectomy 1.5 years ago. I also have a slightly degenerative L4-L5 disc. I feel very good today and have no sciatica at all. I lift weights (very careful with mechanics) walk a decent amount and jog a very, very limited amount (maybe one mile, 2 times a week). I used to run a lot: 3 to 4 times a week and 3-5 miles each time. I can tell since my surgery that longer runs “don’t agree” with my low back. I also have friends with low back pain that run a lot. My question is what are the longer term effects of running and the resulting pounding on the concrete on the low back (particularly the discs)? In the long run is it wise to avoid a lot of running if you have degenerative discs as I do? A physician friend of mine said our bodies are meant for impact. I think he doesn’t understand the mechanics of the low back in those with degenerative discs. Your opinion is greatly appreciated. Thank you for this forum.

    Donald Corenman, MD, DC
    Post count: 8468

    Running can be problematic for the lower back but this is a discussion of percentages. Every step that is taken means three to four times body weight impact stress on the disc with each foot fall. Some discs can take this impact without distress and unfortunately some cannot. It really depends upon genetics.

    The only real way to know if it affects you is to continue to run and look at the spine over time. If the discs continue to degenerate, then you are under the genetic disadvantage column. This is obviously unhelpful if the degenerative changes affected by impact increase as it is too late to reverse these changes.

    There are some patients who develop significant degenerative changes with running but still have no symptoms. Some of these individuals will eventually develop lower back pain but I have some patients in my practice with severe degenerative changes and continue to run without symptoms. Do I tell them to stop running?

    This is the dilemma. I know that some patients will eventually regret the continued impact but not all. I think the answer is education. If these individuals know the potential for future problems but do OK now, they can make an educated decision as to their future.

    None the less, I do try to convert runners into cyclists as the future is much better for their lower back (although descents can be problematic for the more adventurous-crashes)

    Dr. Corenman.

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