Low Back Pain and Running!

Lower back pain is said to affect up to 80% of the population at some point in their lives. In other words, it’s very common in the general population and it’s very common at Custom Performance!

When our staff looks at your lower back pain, we look at not only your history and mechanism of injury, but if the condition is acute (new, severe onset) or chronic (ongoing, nagging symptoms).

Our advice on running or altering activity hinges on whether your back pain is acute or chronic. Often when a spine and its discs are newly injured, we will advise our client to take time to heal appropriately. However, if their back pain is a chronic disc issue, we often recommend movement AS therapy.

Some researchers in Australia just backed up our case by studying the effects of running on intervertebral discs! They studied subjects ages 25-35 years (to try to decrease the effects of aging) and recruited only people with a minimum of 5 years history at their current physical

activity level: either no sport (referents), 20–40 km per week running (joggers), or 50+ km per week running (long-distance runners). They performed MRIs on the lumbar discs, including a “time recovery” T2, which indicated the health of the disc.

Their main finding was that long-distance runners and joggers showed thirteen times better hydration and glycosaminoglycan levels than the non-athletic individuals! They hypothesized the healthier discs were from constant loading (running) at low levels over time.

The weaknesses of this study were the limited age range, and the inference of disc health from MRI. However, we feel as though this study is timely and extremely relevant! So if chronic back pain is your problem, going for a run might be your best medicine!  

Sci Rep. 2017 Apr 19;7:45975. doi: 10.1038/srep45975. Running exercise strengthens the intervertebral disc. Belavý DL1, Quittner MJ1, Ridgers N1, Ling Y2, Connell D2,3, Rantalainen T1.


Wendy Winn, PT, OCS