Breeze-Courier | Taylorville, IL
weather sponsored by
Hickory Estates of Taylorville

Advanced Search
search sponsored by


home : columns : ask the doctors September 22, 2017

9/2/2017 10:01:00 AM
Recent study suggests running good for discs in the spine

DEAR DOCTOR: I just heard that instead of causing injuries, running may be good for your back. Is this true? If it is, I'm going to lace up my shoes and head back out to the trail!

DEAR READER: Running is one of those physical activities that, over the years, has accrued an almost mind-bending cache of contradictory advice. So it's no wonder that the results of a new study, which suggests that running can improve the health of the discs in your spine, have caught you by surprise.

Let's start with a look at the spinal column, which as we've said before is a marvel of engineering. With a minimum of moving parts, this gently s-shaped curve of bone, cartilage, collagen and protein gels supports the body and gives it structure. It allows multi-directional movement and protects the vital bundles of nerves that connect the brain to the rest of the body.

The vertebrae are the series of load-bearing bones that articulate the spine. These are connected to one another by gel-filled discs, which also act as shock absorbers. But the same interlocking structure that lends flexibility to the spine is also its most vulnerable feature.  

How the repetitive stress of running affects the various parts of the spine, particularly the discs, has long been a subject of debate. In the study published last spring, scientists from Australia set out to answer the question and learn whether intervertebral discs can be strengthened. To that end, they studied the spines of 79 men and women between the ages of 25 and 35. One-third of them were not runners. In fact, that group rarely exercised at all. Of the runners in the study, all had been training for at least five years, and regularly logged anywhere from 12 to 30 miles per week.

With the use of advanced imaging techniques, the researchers measured the size and resilience of each participant's spinal discs. The results were surprising. The runners in the study, whose regular exercise regimen placed repeated demands on the shock-absorbing qualities of the spine, had intervertebral discs that were larger and filled with more fluid than did the group who rarely exercised. That is, their discs were healthier than those of the non-running participants.

Even more intriguing was the fact that the size of the vertebrae of the joggers, who totaled 12 to 25 miles per week, and the long-distance runners, who ran as much as 70 miles per week, were virtually the same. That is, total mileage didn't matter. Longer runs didn't make the spine healthier, nor did they cause deterioration.

Those of us who aren't runners will be happy the scientists didn't stop there. By parsing their data even further, they discovered that the health effect on intervertebral discs begins at a pace of 4 mph, or a brisk walk.

Although a single study can't definitively answer whether running is good or bad for the back, the results here add a layer of fascinating and encouraging information for runners and walkers alike.

Anderson Jewelers

Article Comment Submission Form
Please feel free to submit your comments.

If you are looking for the SPEAK OUT submission form, you can find it by clicking here: Speak Out Form

Article comments are not posted immediately to the Web site. Each submission must be approved by the Web site editor, who may edit content for appropriateness. There may be a delay of 24-48 hours for any submission while the web site editor reviews and approves it.

NOTE: All information on this form is required. Your telephone number and email address will not be displayed or shared.
Submit an Article Comment
First Name:
Last Name:
Anti-SPAM Passcode Click here to see a new mix of characters.
This is an anti-SPAM device. It is not case sensitive.

Dr Paul The Dentist
Trinity Dodge Fixed

NewsWebPagesOpinionPeopleObituariesAg & BusinessSportsContact Us
Subscriptions | Username & Password Reminder | Change Password | Life

Breeze-Courier & Printing | 212 S Main St. Taylorville, IL 62568 | (217) 824-2233 |

© Copyright 2014 Breeze-Courier & Printing. All Rights Reserved.
Original content may not be reprinted or distributed without the written permission of Breeze-Courier & Printing.

Software © 1998-2017 1up! Software, All Rights Reserved