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  • Writer's pictureLuke Nelson

Is running good for your back?

Updated: Nov 28, 2020

It's World Spinal Health Day, & what better time to answer this question! A 2011 study by Dimitriades revealed that 1 hour of running decreases the height of the lumbar discs by 1mm. So does this mean that running leads to increased wear & tear of the spine?

A study released this year by Mitchell et al provided us answers to this question! They compared a group of middle-aged runners to age-matched controls & found that:

  • Runners possessed 20% larger disc height compared to non-runners

  • Runners possessed lower Pfirrmann grades (a measure of disc degeneration)

  • These changes were dose-dependent: meaning the more years run & greater distance performed. the greater disc improvement!

The authors conclude that middle-aged long-term endurance runners exhibit less age-related decline in their lumbar discs compared to non-runners. Now we could delve into a discussion on the lack of relationship between pain & imaging findings, but this is for another day.

So to conclude these findings, if you want a healthy spine, the answer is to lace up the runners & hit the pavement! ;)

But does it have to be running you may ask? NO it certainly doesn't, exercise in many different forms has been shown in multiple studies to be associated with less back pain, so if you prefer the weights room, or cycling or yoga then whatever it is get out there, #GetSpineActive and #BackOnTrack

If you need help with your back pain, please don't hesitate to contact us!

  • Belavý, D. L., et al. (2017). "Running exercise strengthens the intervertebral disc." Sci Rep 7: 45975.

  • Dimitriadis, A. T., et al. (2011). "Intervertebral disc changes after 1 h of running: a study on athletes." J Int Med Res 39(2): 569-579.

  • Mitchell, U. H., et al. (2020). "Long-term running in middle-aged men and intervertebral disc health, a cross-sectional pilot study." PLoS One 15(2): e0229457.


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