Running With Disc Herniations
Are you running after being diagnosed with a disc herniation?
Is your disc herniation preventing you from running as much or as far as you like?
Do you want to run again even with your diagnosis of a disc herniation?
Great news from recent research that came out in April 2017 indicates that running exercises actually strengthens the invertebral disc.  A group of researchers took a group of men and women who run on a regular basis and a group of people who were sedentary, not doing much exercise. What they found was that the discs were actually larger in size and had more water content in runners when compared to the sedentary group.
The water content in a disc is important as it helps determine the general health of the disc. After the water content in your disc goes down the disc degenerates and after a certain point has less ability to do its job of protecting your nerves and spinal cord.
More interesting was that runners that were doing 20-40 km per week had an even greater protection of the nucleus of the disc. Surprisingly, runners doing more than 50 km per week had even a greater protective effect of the nucleus.
Disc pressure increases when you stand vs lying down. When you run there is an up and down motion which increases this pressure from the weight of your torso above.
This profound finding means that like a muscle gets bigger in response to doing push-ups, your disc gets bigger and healthier in response to the up and down motion of your weight from running. The more you run the bigger the disc gets.
Running And Your Disc Herniation
The runners that I treat typically run no more than 60 km. I find that even ultramarathoners don’t typically run more than 80 km. Even with the protective effects of running on your discs, many runners have desk jobs.
These sitting jobs result in most of you slouching. The problem is a bigger, healthier disc will give you more sudden disc herniation as if you were younger, whereas if you are older the disc tends to come out slowly over many days or even weeks.
Much is known about what is damaging to discs, like sitting for long periods, lifting while bent forward and toe touches. We didn’t know what makes a disc healthier until now. The great news is that while running seems to make a difference other forms of exercise will likely make an impact on the health of your invertebral disc.
Hope that helps your running and your disc.
1. Daniel L. Belavý, Matthew J. Quittner, Nicola Ridgers, Yuan Ling, David Connell & Timo Rantalainen, Running exercise strengthens the intervertebral disc Scientific Reports 7, Article number: 45975 (2017)
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