A solution to back pain?
It is a long-held belief that one of the downsides of running is a weakened spine, which can lead to back pain. However, this age-old notion may be turned on its head, as researchers from Deakin University in Australia found running may actually strengthen the spine.
For the study, researchers recruited 79 participants aged 25 to 35 who fell into one of three groups: joggers who ran 12-25 miles per week, runners who ran more than 30 miles per week, and those who did not jog or run at all. The participants were fitted with devices designed to track physical activity, also known as accelerometers, which they wore for one week, and their spines were scanned with MRI technology before and after this one-week study period.
The researchers found that the runners and joggers had healthier spines than the sedentary group. In fact, a deeper analysis of the participants’ physical activity showed that even a brisk walk or slow jog may be enough to improve spine health.
While Dr. Jerrel Boyer, a neurosurgeon at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago, says the study should be interpreted carefully, the results are not surprising, given the impact that weight has on spine health.
“Obesity correlates both with increased lower back pain and spine disc degeneration when looked at through MRI,” Dr. Boyer says. “The important take-home message is that physical activity generally has a positive effect on spine health. However, the benefit of exercise is not limited to jogging. Any exercise that results in weight loss is likely to be beneficial.”
In addition to jogging, Dr. Boyer recommends exercises that strengthen the muscles of the lumbar spine and core, like yoga and Pilates.
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About the Author
Jaimie Oh, health enews contributor, is the manager of public affairs and marketing at Illinois Masonic in Chicago. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia and has nearly a decade of experience working in publishing, strategic communications and marketing. Outside of work, Jaimie trains for marathons with the goal of running 50 races before she turns 50 years old.