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Running is generally good for the spine. But what if we have chronic back pain or have a diagnosed discopathy? Will running put additional stress on the lumbar spine? We asked Mateusz Janik, an orthopedic traumatologist from the Carolina Medical Center in Warsaw, about it.

Does running help with back pain? Or maybe, on the contrary, it hurts the spine? It all depends on the severity of our ailments and the technique of running. In general, running has a positive effect on the paraspinal muscles, but there are situations where caution should be exercised.

We asked Mateusz Janik, a traumatologist and orthopedist from the Carolina Medical Center, who specializes in knee and ankle surgery, injuries and injuries in athletes, about the impact of running on the spine, including in runners, cyclists, athletes and dancers.

Is running he althy for the spine? Is it not weighing it down?

Mateusz Janik:Whether running strains the spine more or less depends on the advancement of the running technique. In novice amateur runners, running involves bouncing repeatedly, which puts a burden on the spine. Repeated up and down movements not only affect the feet, knees, and hips, but most of all the lumbar spine.

Experienced runners feel less stress because their running technique is more ergonomic - torso movements in the up and down axis are kept to a minimum and the back is kept straight against the pelvis. While running, their body even flows slightly forward. This posture is very beneficial for the lumbar region. However, to master this technique, you need endurance and flexibility of all muscles, not only the back.

So, does running harm more beginner runners?

MJ:You can't say that running is inherently harmful. If someone has been diagnosed with a discopathy or spondylolisthesis (consisting in the displacement of the vertebrae in relation to each other), before starting an adventure with running, he should consult an orthopedic doctor or neurosurgeon, because he is at high risk of deterioration of pathological changes and deterioration of the lumbar spine. In the case of such people, running canonly increase the perceived ailments. So if someone decides to practice this sport, he must be aware of his condition and the risks he is taking.

The situation is different for he althy people, or rather people not suffering from spine diseases. In their case, running will stimulate the paraspinal muscles, strengthening them.

What if someone experiences chronic back pain. Is running a good sport for such a person?

MJ:It mostly depends on the cause. If the pains result from muscle weakness, e.g. due to a sedentary lifestyle, working at a computer, then running will strengthen the muscles of the spine. Importantly, this discipline is not only about running workouts, but also requires additional strengthening, stretching and regeneration exercises. So anyone who is serious about running and having a he althy spine must spend time doing extra exercise as well. Any kind of stretching activity is a good idea, but done after, rather than before, training. It is very beneficial to exercise the so-called a plank that engages the muscles of the abdomen, back, arms and legs at the same time.

If you don't want running to hurt your back, strengthen your core muscles regularly.

People diagnosed with diseases of the spine will certainly be dissuaded from the idea of ​​running by their doctor. However, it is always the patient's decision what type of sports activity he / she is doing. An alternative for such people are disciplines that require work with the torso, such as pilates, yoga, appropriate exercises in the gym, even martial arts, i.e. all those that contribute to the stabilization of the muscles of the spine. Such activity starts the so-called deep muscles that we do not consciously control, which make our posture correct.


It should be emphasized that in order for the running to be he althy for the spine, it is necessary to perform additional exercises and stretching. Runners who downplay this element of post-workout exertion often suffer from muscle contracture, which causes lower back discomfort. Meanwhile, stretching means regeneration and is a relaxation element. Exercising the muscles of the buttocks and pelvis affects posture and stabilizes the lumbar region, causing a lengthening of the stride and ultimately leading to the fact that the runner simply performs better.

Can people with discopathy run?

MJ:Again, it should be emphasized that the risk is borne by the patient himself. Anyone diagnosed with discopathy must be aware that runningmay aggravate the perceived ailments, which, unfortunately, often end with surgery. There are cases of people who are very involved in running, but with such advanced diseases that by definition exclude this sport. However, running is extremely addictive, which is why many runners find it very difficult to come to terms with the fact that they must stop or give up training altogether. In such a situation, the doctor always feels a dilemma, because on the one hand, we have to think about the he alth and current condition of the patient, and on the other hand, we must remember that by ceasing physical activity, we can lead to many other dangerous diseases.

How to run to avoid back problems?

MJ:The surface on which we run is very important. In the context of spine ailments, the worst results are cement substrates - slabs, concrete, because they practically do not absorb the energy released during movement, therefore it is necessary to use shoes with good cushioning. The he althiest and most effective way to reduce pain in the lumbar spine is trail running and therefore low cushioning trail running shoes. However, this requires more attention, stronger work of the legs and torso, as it forces the body to maintain balance on unstable ground.

What to do if you get back pain after or during a run?

This is very individual depending on the starting condition of the runner and the cause of the pain. Assuming, however, that we are dealing with a he althy person (undiagnosed in terms of spine diseases), we should slow down and go to walk. If the pain persists, stop training, try to stretch, check if the symptoms subside. If you still feel pain after returning home and resting, consider seeing your doctor.

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