Mend Physical Therapy Blog and Injury Information

Running Strengthens The Spine’s Intervertebral Disc

April 29, 2017

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Low back pain continues to be a common source of pain, loss of function, and in some cases disability.  A portion of this weight on our society and medical system is the over emphasis on imaging findings including disc injury or degenerative disc disease as the source of a patient’s symptoms.  Unfortunately, there is an under emphasis and lack of education to patients on the fact many individuals with similar or worse findings have no symptoms.   Without this education, many patients with low back pain will stop exercising due to a fear of re-injury or an exacerbation of their condition.  Essentially, avoiding the most most important part of their recovery, specific tailored exercise prescribed by a Physical Therapist for their individual symptoms.  

A recent research article added to the support of exercise and the ability of the body to adapt to the imposed demands of activity.  Belavy and colleagues compared lumbar spine MRIs between runners and their sedentary peers (Scientific Reports. 2017).  The authors reported long distance runners and joggers showed better lumbar disc hydration, strength, and size compared to non sport participants.  The authors hypothesized that the loading imparted by running improved the healing and anabolic response of the spinal tissues, including the disc.  Importantly, they found no statistically significant differences between runners and joggers indicating long duration exercise may not be necessary for a benefit.  

To learn more about the beneficial effects of exercise on your spine and current symptoms speak to a local Physical Therapist.