Herniated disc

I have been suffering from a herniated disc (S1 L5 for the initiated) for ages. It is starting to improve and I am due to get it injected next week to speed recovery. Has anybody else had this?

Can I run again in the future?

Will it recur?

Any feedback would be great as the surgeon isn't a runner and doesn't understand the mania that drives us.


  • Hi Agnes,

    Looks like herniated discs are a rarity to runners. I have a question for you - i felt my back "GO" 7th Dec 2012. I suffered for a while before being recomended to a chiropractor who found i had misaligned vertabrae L4 / L5. Ive also had numerous visits to the Dr for painkillers and i had an MRI scan 4th Feb. Chiropractor straightened me up after 6 visits but sciatic pain is killing me. Dr has me on tramadol and Gebapestin and i have an appointemt to discuss MRI results 22nd Feb. Does this sound similar to your injury as you dont mention how long youve been injured for and what / where is the injection?. Herniated disc hasnt been diagnosed yet but from what ive read on the net im fairly sure its what i have. My last race was Dec 2nd and i havent ran since + my Dr doesnt seem to be to understand how important running is to me.

    Good luck with your recovery



  • A herniated disc is what we used to call a 'slipped disc' years ago. Technically speaking, discs can't 'slip' out of place as such. What's happened is that the disc has developed a bulge which usually impringes on the sciatic nerve with the consequential 'referred pain,' as they call it. This is pain that manifests itself down the back of the leg but actually originates at the sight of the nerve impringement. Usually with rest, physiotherapy and moderate mobility the pain subsides. Core abdominal strength is part of the key to preventing reoccurrence, but you should stop running altogether with any symptoms before you embark on any rehabilitation program. You must talk to a qualified physio about this, I can only tell you of my own personal experience. A word of caution from someone who's been there: if you develop any numbness or loss of muscle function seek medical advice straight away as in the worst case scenario the disc can prolapse , which means that it ruptures and the soft core bulges out damaging the sciatic nerve. This happened to me in 1990 and I ended up in surgery. The good news is that the surgery is usually very successful and fortunately I am still running today but it takes quite a long recovery. You have my sympathies, I know how hard and frustrating it is, but be smart and patient, I bless every day that I'm out there running the roads and fields all these years later. 

  • Thanks for that. I had a steroid injection into my disc last week and am hoping something will happen. The surgeon said it takes 10 days or so to work, so I will keep you posted.

  • ive was recommended for surgery on Friday. So im currently waiting for an appointment with the nuero surgeon

  • Any updates from you guys on this one?

  • Hi matt,

    i had surgery 13th May 2013. this was unsuccessful and 2nd op was 12th June. this was partially successful but sciatic nerve was damaged. Had a course of spinal injections which gave me 5 days of relative comfort. I was on some serious medication up until 1st Jan 2014.....good news is i now only get very mild sciatica. Had a steady run new years day 2014 which went well (2 mile) but the rest of the month i over did things and had to rest the whole of Feb. Ive ran a few 10 milers / half marathons and 1 marathon this year and im running Jedburgh ultra next week so i suppose im pretty much cured nowimage

  • Dudley, thats great to hear... I had my MicroD on 18th July 2014, so I am just over the 12 week point. I had it in my head that after the op I would just recover slowly but improve. I am now at the point that if I do very little apart from walking 6 miles a day that I can get the pain right down, I managed 3 days last week with hardly any pain. Then it will just flare up again, physio makes it flare, swimming does... then it takes a week to settle again.

    It's just the not knowing whats going on in my back that drives me mad, has it worked or not. Is the nerve pinched or is it swelling... having another MRI early November so will have to see how it goes.

    I just think if I knew how long the actual recovery takes, I might well have tried to let nature take it's course.

    Have you done much core work? Loving the fact your on to ultras, what have you been told then about the pounding on the discs longterm then, thats my worry people saying you will be unable to run again.

  • Couldn't / didn't do any core work. I also paid a small fortune for deep tissue massage...chiropractor....even acupuncture. I can totally relate with how your feeling. To be honest my advice is rest. I wish I had - i missed 17 months of running due to my injury but I've been told I could have been running a lot earlier if I'd listened to my Dr and wife. Good luck.
  • The frustration with me is the surgeon said I could swim and ride a bike. Swimming bothers it so haven't tried the bike, and then the physio is also keen to push me... so I just feel like it's not worked as I am not at the expected level, but am I just constantly aggravating it...

    It's more the aching when standing now that bugs me, I have a cough at the moment and I can just feel it every time I cough.

    Has yours been MRI'd since, with your symptoms lasting so long did you not doubt the success?

  • doubted the success after the 1st failed op really. My problem was being so bloody impatient. When i was told i could try a short slow run on news years day i did exactly that. However as it was a successful run i decided to play catch up and started training for a triathlon. Really hurt myself swimming and was told by Dr that the worst thing i could do was swim. Due to the twisting of the torso and kicking legs irritating nerve damage. One thing that did help (though painful) was deep tissue massage. As i was operated on twice through the same wound my last mri showed significant scar tissue around sciatic nerve root. I know it can be depressing - one thing thats helped me was during the whole process i kept a diary on how i was feeling / my pain level etc etc. I often have a quick look back and it honestly seems like a life time ago...im sure you,ll feel the same this time next year. (and it will take a long time to get fitness back..)



  • I was told swimming was good too, but then I was swimming 2miles with the Tri club on a Friday night with the prolapsed disc before the op so didn't understand how 50 lengths easy with pool boy was such and issue.

    Was your pain still all in the leg then afterwards? Seems like once you got back to it, you made progress quite quickly.

  • Right up until new year i had chronic pain radiating from my left buttock down to my calf. Over about 3 weeks (with deep tissue massage) pain got less & less. I also stopped taking medication (Tramadol) and opted for root ginger. Root ginger has natural anti inflammatory properties with no side effects and is a lot more "runner" friendly. Like most runners - once i got back out running i felt i had to play "catch up" and ive been running my socks off ever since. The funny thing is since ive come back into running im a lot faster and have more stamina than before operations? no idea why

  • Dudley, I had a heart operation after my first year of running, I came back with a new sense of purpose and I think when you thought you'd lost it all you just enjoy it all so much more. I was planning on trying to sub 3 the marathon this year, but instead have managed nothing... Just great to hear your back stronger, I am still worried by all the horror stories about running been so bad for your back. I have been tempted to try the Elliptigo to run without impact.

    Like I said before last week I had 3 good days, then got a cold and stomach bug and coughing and throwing up has flared it all up. I just keep thinking the nerve must be pinched to cause that pain, but then the surgeon did take a big chuck out so he was very confident.

    How old are you, I am 37... currently PB of 3:10 for the marathon. Also how do you find the bike, I was a big fan of mountain biking before as well.

  • heart op too??? christ youve had a tough time. Im 49 (touching 50) i only started running 4 yrs ago after stopping smoking and piling the weight on...up to 97.4 kg the day i did my 1st run. Which was run 60 seconds and walk 60 seconds ha ha i still remember how tough it was. I completed Kielder marathon 2 weeks ago and got around in 3:23:12. I di a lot of biking when my back was at its worst but i currently only bike on my cross training days.

    How long is it since your 1st discectomy? it was 17 months after my 1st op till i could run again. Even though the surgeon reckoned id be able to run 3 weeks after my 1st op??? i did the same as you and read all the horror stories about people not being able to run again and  worked out = dont read these stories....there are next to no stories of successful operations and i figured that these people just didnt write blogs unlike people who had encountered difficulties. i cant stress enough that rest and patience is the only real thing i think will help you








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