Franklin, NC Geriatrics and Sports Rehab Franklin, NC Geriatrics and Sports Rehab Franklin, NC Geriatrics and Sports Rehab

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Q: I'm over 50 with a bad back and my doctor says to give up running altogether. One of the key things that help keep me motivated in maintaining fitness is anticipation of summer and completing two or three short-distance triathlons which include a 5k run. I use an elliptical trainer throughout the year but am concerned that I can't use that exclusively to train and will eventually have to do some sort of training runs in preparation. I wonder if a couple of 30 minute slow jogs a couple of weeks before the event or maybe just one long on a week would get me ready and minimize further injury. Any suggestions about how to minimize exacerbating back problems and still complete the run?

I will answer your question in general terms as I do not know your medical history, have not examined you and do not have information regarding any diagnostic studies that were done. Given that preface, here are a few comments that may be beneficial to someone that has a back problem that enjoys running as a part of their fitness routine.

1. Find an experienced physical therapist in private practice that specializes in back injury rehabilitation, especially in the athletically active individual. Back rehabilitation should include appropriate exercises (flexibility, strength, and endurance), body mechanics training and nutritional information including weight loss to an ideal body weight (IBW).
2. Use only quality shoes that are extra-cushioned for training.
3. Train only on flat surfaces without side slope.
4. Use a treadmill for the majority of training. Treadmills have a great degree of "give" than most surfaces (i.e. road, dirt tracks, etc.). Landice and Cybex make excellent treadmills. Be prepared to pay about $2,000, but the treadmill with be worth the investment. The concept of specificity of exercises is important. In short, specificity of exercise means training by a method that is similar to the event that you will be completing in. The treadmill would meet that criterion.
5. Cross training may also be beneficial. Training runs on flat surfaces with highly cushioned shoes or better yet, on the treadmill 3 days per week alternating with the elliptical trainer or other exercises the other other days is suggested.
6. Finally, as one gets older, the lack of flexibility and back mobility seem to be the primary culprits that lead to a significant amount of back pain and thus functional limitation. Therefore, flexibility training (with special focus on hamstrings, quadriceps, heed cords, etc.) as prescribed by an experienced physical therapist specializing in back injuries should be most helpful when done pre and post-exercise/training.

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