How to Run With a Bulging Disc


A bulging disc in your back, otherwise known as a herniated disc, is a protruding portion of the intervertebral disc that cushions the vertebrae through motion and activity. If you have a bulging disc, you may be experiencing pain, numbing and weakness in one or more of your extremities depending on where in the spine the bulge is located. Running is considered a high-impact sport and is generally not recommended while allowing a herniated disc to heal. With a cautious approach, however, you may still go out for a run.

Things You'll Need

  • NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)
  • Ice
  • Medicated heating cream
  • Running shoes that fit well
  • Discuss your condition with your doctor and get clearance to run. While most herniated discs will heal within a six-week period, you don't want to create more damage that will require more invasive treatment later.

  • Take a NSAID half an hour prior to running to help reduce pain and swelling.

  • Wear shoes that fit you properly and that are not worn. You will need adequate cushioning to absorb the shock from running so that your back doesn't take as much of a beating.

  • Find a location that has either grass or a soft track foundation to run on. Avoid concrete and asphalt as these increase the shock transferred to your spine.

  • Warm up and stretch prior to your run. This means taking time to slowly warm your muscles up with a brisk walk and then stretching to loosen up all your major muscle groups. Avoid touching your toes while standing as this will increase strain on your back. Sit and do your back stretches to get a more effective and safe stretch. Use a medicated sports cream on the location of the bulging disc to help warm the muscles up.

  • Limit your distance. Go for half the distance you would normally run and evaluate your pain and stiffness over the course of a few days following the run. You may feel great while running thanks to endorphins, but you need to ease back into your normal distances.

  • Stretch and cool down slowly. This is as important as warming up.

  • Apply ice for twenty minutes after you cool down. Repeat this several times a day to reduce swelling.

  • Wait a few days to see how your run affected your back. If your pain worsened from the run, you may want to try a less-impacting activity until your back heals.

Tips & Warnings

  • Running with a mildly herniated disc may lead to a more serious injury that could lead to surgery or nerve damage. When in doubt, err on the side of caution and take a break from running while your back heals. In the long run this will be easier than taking a six-month break.

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