Couch to 5K
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Running with a bad back?

Well, about 4 or 5 years ago I herniated a disk in my lower back. For the last two or three years it's been fine, with just some stiffness and slight pain first thing in the morning or if I'm inactive for a long while.

At the time I did it I was told not to run or do anything that could jar it. I've got to W7 of the programme and started off on a treadmill because it's softer to run on, but have recently started running outside. And this morning I woke up in reasonably bad pain. Oddly enough, I think the pain might be more to do with going swimming (outside, in cold water!) yesterday rather than the running, since I didn't run yesterday, but I'm a bit worried. I didn't run today but walked the route instead, since walking really does help.

I know, I should probably see my doctor for a definitive answer, but has anyone else here run with a dodgy disk, and did it help or make things worse?

6 Replies

Definitely see the doctor. I suffer with lower back pain, off and on, and running can bring the pain on quite seriously. However, I have strengthened my core, and do loads more back exercises than I used to, so it's not so much of a problem. But a herniated disk is something much more serious and not worth taking the risk, so get some professional advice.

I'm presuming that you have had you gait analysed and have the correct footwear, because that can make a big difference. You're right to keep active and do exercise to keep everything mobile, but just check out what's best for you, and how to go about it.


Thanks. Yes, I had my gait analyzed at the London Marathon Shop in London and came out with a very comfy pair of trainers, and as far as I can tell there's no problems with them or my technique, it's just the jarring from the running. And I should do more core stuff (I used to do Pilates but found it v boring!) and exercises.


Have you seen a chiropractor? I had a long (25 yr+) history of chronic lower back pain, initiated by sneezing with a bent back. "Slipped" a disk and never right again. After numerous repeat episodes where it eventually righted itself, finally it didn't and I was walking with a stick, painfully. Long story short, I went to a chiropractor who diagnosed a twisted spine (not surprising after 25 yrs) and over-tight hamstrings which were pulling my pelvis out of alignment. Manipulation and exercises straightened my spine & realigned my pelvis (still do the exercises every day, 6yrs on from first appt) and I now go only for maintenance every 4 months. And I'm regularly running 10K+, after being reduced to walking with a stick. A herniated disk may be too serious for a chiropractor, but it may be worth considering.


Thanks, I might try it at some point. Generally when it's painful it's so tender that I can't stand the thought of anyone touching or manipulating my back. When a physio did once I fainted! But perhaps if I went the first time when it wasn't so painful that might help.


Poor old you I too have a long history of back surgery resulting in a triple fusion I'm surprised you even thought of swimming its so bad for you I surgeon went mad when I mentioned swimming it strains both the lumbar and thoracic spine. I was told by my surgeon and physio to ONLY run on a treadmill on an almost flat gradient knocking it up only when your deep into the run but not for long. Yes I'm temped to hit the big outside world but having done it once I suffered big time ! Whilst I'm ranting on if you consider a bike ride it should only be a bike you sit up on not one that bends the spine so your options are dreadmill plates yoga and be back aware GOOD LUCK x


Thanks - you poor thing with the back surgery, that sounds painful! Mine's nowhere near that bad, but I guess I'm trying to stop it getting any worse. I have no sense of balance whatsoever and, embarrassingly fail at riding bikes, so that's out.

I had no idea swimming was bad for the back, in fact I think I was probably told to go swimming at some point, but now you mention it, that makes sense. Especially as I tend to do breaststroke, which seems to involve jolting the back with every kick.

My back feels fine today after a long walk and some stretching yesterday, so I might cautiously try running outside again today, and if it makes it bad again, will stick to the treadmill at least for a while longer. And will mention it to my doctor to see what she says.


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