Sunday, November 29, 2009

Protruding Disc - McKenzie Exercises - Healing Update

Almost 5 weeks ago, I posted about my protruding/bulging disc. See Health Note - Protruding Disc - McKenzie Exercises. Since that time, I've noticed every time I check search terms that bring people to my blog on a daily basis, they are looking for protruding disc or bulging disc and running, or looking for bulging disc and McKenzie Exercises. Due to the interest, I figured I should follow up with my progress.

Since starting the exercises, I noticed a bit of improvement each day with my right leg/buttock/calf. It kept getting just a little easier to get out of bed in the morning. I stopped taking Ibuprofen about 3 weeks ago since the pain became tolerable as it lessened. I am still not always sleeping very well, but it is improving. I sleep mostly on my back with the McKenzie night pillow that goes under my lower back. That works for awhile, but at some point, I get uncomfortable which is not necessarily painful. I just can't get comfortable in any position at times.

I started running again on Halloween (my birthday), only a week after I started the exercises. I had been walking and figured I could run slow and low impact and not do any further damage. My first run was 6 miles and I kept it on a flat course. Pace was about 13 min per mile which is about 5 min slower than my non injured easy pace. The next week I was in the 11 1/2 to 12 min range and ran the Cranberry Crawl 10K at 9:29 pace on Nov 7th. Probably a bit fast but it was a race so pushed a little. After that race, runs were in the 9:30 - 10:30 range for the next week. For past 2 weeks, I have moved into the 8 - 8:30 for my road miles with the exception of the Thanksgiving Day Pie run where I decided to push a bit and surprisingly managed a 6:46 pace for a 10K.

The main issue at first with running was a lot of stiffness in the right buttock, plus numbness in the right calf and some in the hamstring. The left foot would drag a bit. I could hear it scraping the trail each step for awhile. Each day I would run, I felt better the rest of the day. On days, I did not run, I was more stiff throughout the day. Some mornings, I was so stiff and uncomfortable ached to go run since I knew I would feel better after although it was slow getting started.

What I have been doing seems to have been working for me. At first, I avoided most hills, but in the last week or so, I have been running hilly courses. Yesterday and today I resumed trail running and the hills are fine. I do have to be careful on trails not to slip or fall or jump over anything yet. For awhile, I had to be careful on the downhill, but now that is about back to normal. I've continued to have some pain running, but it is becoming less. My most recent runs have felt pretty good. For awhile, it has been the case, the runs were painful with the stiffness for the first few miles and then got better. Now, I can start a run, and am feeling closer to normal. I am saying at this point, I feel about 70% recovered.

As for McKenzie exercises, I spend a lot of time lying on my stomach doing Exercise 3 - Extension in Lying. I can read in this position or use my laptop. At some point, the lower back starts to feel a bit stiff but when I get up, I feel really good. I have progressed to the last Exercise, #7 - Flexion in Standing where I am supposed to bend over and attempt to reach my toes. I have a long way to go with this one. It is still painful to try the one leg hamstring stretch exercise with the right leg. I've noticed though I am starting to feel a bit looser which is making running more enjoyable. Another measure of my progress, I kept noticing how much easier it was to get up off the floor after doing the exercises. I am also getting in and out of the car more like a normal person again. Socks, shoes, and pants are not longer an ordeal to get on as I struggled for awhile.

Whenever I am sitting at work or in the car, I am using the The McKenzie Original Super Roll, Lumbar Roll pillow. I ended up buying one for work and one for the car. I also have one of the small McKenzie Early Compliance Roll for at home, but would recommended the Super Roll over it. The Super Roll is more comfortable for me. I am now to the point where I can sit comfortably for awhile without these pillows on some chairs like our bar stools and kitchen chairs. I will continue to use in the car and at work forever to help prevent back problems in the future. McKenzie's book 7 Steps to a Pain-Free Life is very informational on why so many people end up with neck and back pain. I will continue to doing a few of these exercises even after I am healed to prevent this from happening again. The Lying in Extension will be easy to do since I can do other things while doing it.

At this point, I am hoping at the rate I am progressing that within 4 more weeks I will be completely pain free. I am planning to try weight lifting again this week. I am been very apprehensive about doing so since I have been avoiding lifting anything too heavy. Whenever I have tried it didn't feel good if it was over 45 lbs. I feel I am now at the point where I can start light and go from there. I bought a book on Bikram Yoga and may try that to improve my flexibility. I have a plan to continue running and if all goes well, I will train for a 100 mile in June. I don't start the extra long runs for a couple more months so have plenty of time to build up. Although, I am already back to 50 - 60 miles per week so I am thankful I am running that kind of mileage again even if not as fast.

For anyone that has found this blog searching for McKenzie for a back related issue, I would say try the McKenzie exercises and be patient. Make sure you are doing them the amount he says. I noticed on the days I did not get all the sets done as frequently, I was more stiff. If you are not a runner, I would recommend doing a lot of walking. If you are a runner, do not run if it is a lot of pain. You do not want to end up with a herniated disc. If you are at that point, you would need to consult with your doctor before trying to run. You will likely be in so much pain that you won't be able to run anyway.

I started slow after about 2 week break from running worked for me, but everyone is different. My disc was slightly protruding and if your injury is worse, you may take longer to heal. Do consult with your doctor, but also question your doctor. If you try running, be reasonable and be very careful. In some cases, I have learned people's doctors have told them to quit running or they can't run anymore after a bulging or protruding disc. I've also found other runners that were back to running fairly quickly as has been the case with me. My doctor told me not to run for awhile, but said I would be running again at some point.

Other runners with this problem are what motivated me to try running again. As I mentioned in my previous post a runner (George) had recommended McKenzie's exercises and book. George's web site where he talks his own injury and recovery is here - How I Recovered from Back/Leg Pain.


Toffee said...

Thanks for the interesting read! I actually stumbled upon your blog while searching for another person's blog - so now I am curious about McKenzie exercises! I also run somewhat long distance (just marathon distance); however this January my husband and I will be doing the Goofy challenge. Nice job at Boston in 2008! This April will be my first Boston (through running club waiver).

I hope that your back is feeling much better. I do ashtanga yoga and have found that it has really helped my flexibility.

take care,

Andy Emerson said...

I'm leaving a quick update! I am doing much better, but still not 100% pain free. I would say I am at least 90% recovered and running pretty well. I am still doing the exercises every day. I am going to give myself 4 more months to become completely pain free and then consult with my doctor if necessary. The amount of pain is so minimal I am not worried. Flexibility is nearly normal again. In fact, I may be more flexible than I was before the injury.

Janet said...

Thanks for this post. I came across while googling it. I have a very, very minor bulging disc on L4 and L5. Was put on meds that made me wacky and told to stop running. Got off meds. I do stretching and strengthening exercises but hadn't heard of McKenzie exercises until today. I'm glad to know there is relief through these. I was still running anyway, addicted. Glad to hear you're back at it.