Can I still run with degenerative disc disease?


I have recently had a xray of my back which confirmed that I have chronic degenerative disc disease in my lumbar region (L4/5 discs).  In May last year I started running, building up from 1 minute run/ 3 minutes walk to 50 minutes run which I was delighted about.  My back pain has been with me for years and a MRI scan in 1999 showed that I had torn discs, but it has got a lot worse since having my children (who are 3 and 4).  In October 08 I went to see an orthopaedic surgeon at the local hospital and he gave me about 10 minutes of his time and told me running was bad for my back and I should swim!  I tried to be positve about it and went swimming a few times (which actually hurt my neck too!) but nothing comes close to running. 

I don't have the time, money or inclination to join a gym, I just want to go out for half an hour 3-4 times a week.  Having not run for 2 months now I feel that the psychological effects of not running are worse than the stiff back I had when I did run!!    I am starting body control pilates this week which I hope will strengthen my core but I am thinking of seeing a sports physio.  Basically I want a professional to tell me its OK to run!!    Does anybody know of a good sports physio in the manchester/cheshire area that they can recommend? 

 Thank you



  • People with degenerative disease in their backs are forever being given this (dreadful) advice- if you can run without worsening your symptoms- JUST DO IT!!! (I am a surgeon, I do operate on spines, but I also believe that running, or any other form of excercise you can manage, except perhaps heavy weightlifting, will only help in the long run). It's definitly worth working on some core stability stuff too- masses on info internet for excercises you can do at home.
  • Yep agree.. it just needs to be managed well. Pilates will be a good addition. You don't need a gym to do core stuff once you know some basic exercises, plank, quadruped etc.

    As long as running doesn't increase your back pain, go for it. Build mileage up slowly and run on a variety of surfaces if possible so you're not always on road.

    Strange the swimming recommendation - often the spine's in an extended position so this can exacerbate spinal problems. Breastroke swimmers often get neck pain due to this position and overloading the anterior shoulder (pulls structures forward).

    A sports physio is a good idea as they can assess if structures are tight / out of alignment in the back and treat accordingly. Plus they should be able to give you specific strengthening / stretching exercises if needed.

  • Hi and thank you so much for your replies.  In fact I have seen a sports physio since my note on the forum and feel so so much more positive now.  I started pilates last week and it was wonderful.  The physio too said that the advice I was given was not the best and recommended I build up my hamstrings and glutes (by gentle swimming and specific pilates exercises) and then start my running plan from scratch on the football pitch opposite my house.  I just need to be patient and work hard!  My other problem is that I have had back pain for so long that I move in a funny way expecting the pain.  I need to try to change how I get up and move and think more positively about it - stop thinking I am 90, not 34!!!

    Thank you again!


  • I am 53 and have only been running for 12 years ! I love running! But I also have degenerative disc disease and a synovial cyst ! I’ve been told not to run ! Swim or bike ! I’ve had 2 epidural steroid injections ! 1rst lasted 4 days 2nd lasted 2 weeks ! Dr advised 3rd injection and I am so irritated because they are not cheap ! And is this 3rd one going to work ! I am still running! I run 5 1/2 miles 1 week after and no pain at all but the next week pain all come back .
  • Depends how u feel
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