Does running aggravate herniated discs?

Answered by Randy McIntyre

Running can indeed aggravate herniated discs. A herniated disc occurs when the soft inner core of a spinal disc pushes through the outer layer. This condition is commonly caused by wear and tear on the spine, aging, or injury. When an athlete engages in repetitive running, the impact and jarring motion can put additional stress on the spine, potentially worsening the condition of a herniated disc.

The repetitive pounding and jolting motion of running can cause the herniated disc to become further compressed or irritated. This can lead to increased pain and discomfort in the affected area. As the condition progresses, symptoms may extend beyond localized pain and include sciatica, which is characterized by radiating pain, numbness, or weakness that travels down the leg.

If an athlete experiences any of these symptoms while running, it is crucial to seek immediate treatment from a spine specialist. Ignoring the symptoms or continuing to run through the pain can lead to further damage and potentially long-term complications.

It is important to note that not all athletes who have a herniated disc will experience symptoms or have their condition aggravated by running. Each individual’s situation is unique, and factors such as the severity of the herniation, overall spinal health, and individual biomechanics can all play a role in determining how running affects the condition.

To mitigate the risk of aggravating a herniated disc while running, athletes can take certain precautions. Firstly, it is essential to maintain good overall spinal health through regular exercise, stretching, and strengthening exercises that target the core and back muscles. This can help provide support to the spine and reduce the risk of injury.

Additionally, choosing appropriate footwear with adequate cushioning and shock absorption can help minimize the impact on the spine while running. Gradually increasing mileage and intensity, as well as incorporating rest days into training schedules, can also help prevent overuse and reduce the risk of aggravating a herniated disc.

Running can aggravate herniated discs due to the repetitive impact and jarring motion it imposes on the spine. Athletes should be aware of the potential risks and seek prompt medical attention if they experience symptoms such as pain, numbness, or weakness in the legs. Taking precautions such as maintaining good spinal health, using proper footwear, and gradually increasing training intensity can help mitigate the risk of aggravating a herniated disc while running.