Bulging Disc - should I stop marathon training?

I've been suffering from lower back pain on & off for several years.  About 12 months ago I started getting pain in my left buttock and it gradually got worse.  I went to see a physio privately whilst waiting for an NHS referral.  He told me I wasn't activating my glutes and that my back was compensating,.  He gave me some exercises and I saw him once a week and gave up running for 3 months, as I'd been advised to do non impact stuff.  Initially the physio helped, but the buttock pain didn't go away completely. A recent back scan showed I have a slightly bulging disc L5/S1 left centrolateral disc protrusion with indentation and possibly compression of left S1 and indentation of L5 nerve routes.  NHS pysio (who I'm very impressed with) has given me McKenzie exercises and advised against marathon training, as this could make it worse.

Has anyone had a similar prolem?  Any advice would be much appreciated as running is everything to me, and I left the physio in tears!

Thanks image



  • So an NHS physio say no......

    What answer do you want from here ?
  • You don't want to take risks with your back.
  • RicFRicF ✭✭✭

    Should you stop marathon training on account of a chronic back problem, exacerbated by running?



  • Poor Physio. There's no need to be abusive towards them.
  • RicFRicF ✭✭✭

    Well spotted RJ

  • I have just recently recovered from decompression/discectomy surgery for a L5/S1 disc issue, I was lead to believe that this is a more common issue than is realised but doesn't always show symptoms, if the discomfort in minimal then I would also recommend trying some Pilate's, admittedly you look a bit of a Jessy in the gym but I found it strengthened my core quite quickly and enabled me to get back to running post op. It is often quoted that surgery is the last resort and not favoured but living with butt pain or leg pain as in my case for more than a year I would always take the hit and opt for it, 10-15 weeks out and training can resume slowly? can't beat advice from a decent physio though there opinion and that of a spinal doctors rarely coincide with one another image

  • Thanks Neil.  I go to a pilates class, which has helped.  I'm just experiencing stiff and achey lower back and the occasional pain in buttock - just a short, momentary pain.  I'm considering taking each day as it comes with the running.  I guess I can't argue with a physio though!  My GP was very unhelpful - she just said I didn't have to stop running, but may find it aggravates back sometimes, so just to listen to body.  I guess you only get one back image

  • True enough Bird image  I also saw a oesteopath for a while which was quite helpful if not a bit strange, all that crcking just turned my stomach!!

  • ...it all depends on how you run. If you lean back for slouch forward it'll make you worse. If you haven't got the ability to stand taller and run then it'll make you worse.

    McKensie type stuff will not get you running any better....

    You can run, as long as you've got the ability to move better and load your joints and discs more appropirately.

  • Thanks Neil & Six Physio for advice.

    I ran 13.5 m on Sunday and my lower back started aching very badly and I was in a lot of pain throughout the night.  Ibuprofen did the trick, and I'm now ok, but I think it gave me the wake-up call I needed - there's no way I'll manage a marathon, pounding tarmac for over 4 hours. (Annoyingly I ran 14m the previous week and was ok),

    Physio has booked me on a 6 week back care course, which will focus heavily on core work, relaxation, and looking at my "slings" so that I'm given appropriate exercises.  She said she'll then get me doing lots of core and transverse abdominal strengthening.  I'm to continue with McKensie stuff for the actual disc bulge.  She said to try and stick to treadmill running and to stop going to running club at the moment and just do stuff by myself.  Worse case scenario, if I'm still getting nerve root pain, she'll refer me to a consultant.  I guess discsectomy would be the last resort.

  • I had that problem many, many years ago.I continued running through some pain and snapped the disk off and it just disolved in my back. Problem solved.

  • I'm a bit late on board with this one, sorry! I have the same issue, a small (but diffuse) L5/S1 bulge and a smaller one at the next level, L4/5. I also have pain on my left side, due to the nature of the bulge. This was actually caused by physio "cracking" my back when I went to him with a more minor and intermittant issue, although I have partial desication meaning it might have happened in time if I'd done something stupid anyway. My advice would be to quit the running (I have), along with rowing, weights and any forward back motion (flexion). Keep with the McKenzies..there are lots of other things you can do too. This issue is (or can) be too serious to just ignore..so please be very careful.

  • I have a cracked lower disc which sometimes bulges if I do something stupid (like bending over and pulling something towards me).  When the swelling has completely gone down (with the help of my Chiro and pain killers etc) then I find that running helps to realign my back.  I feel much less aches and pains if I run regularly.  A week without running makes my back ache (worse if i sit for too long).  So for me I find that running is good for my back but that's just me so I'm not trying to give medical advice. image

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