Exercise good for the spine

April 24, 2017, Deakin University
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

A world-first study has shown that specific physical activity benefits the discs in our spines and may help to prevent and manage spinal pain.

"Running strengthens the intervertebral disc," recently published in Scientific Reports, challenges conventional wisdom in the field, according to lead researcher Associate Professor Daniel Belavy from Deakin University's Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN).

Until now, discs have been considered a "slow tissue," thought to take much longer to respond to exercise than muscle.

The study's findings represent the first evidence in humans that exercise can benefit the (IVD) metabolism and that specific exercise protocols may improve IVD material properties in the spine.

"Prior research in the last decade had shown that the IVD components are replaced extremely slowly, leading researchers to think it would take longer than the average human lifespan to have an impact on the disc with interventions like exercise or medication," Assoc Prof Belavy said.

"However, in this study we have been able to show that regular , such as jogging, can actually strengthen the IVD.

"These findings gives us hope that we may be able to prescribe physical activity, or advise the community on physical activity guidelines, to 'strengthen' the discs in the spine."

Assoc Prof Belavy said this was particularly important to consider in the younger teenage age bracket, and also when people are in their 20s and 30s, with a view to reducing or preventing back problems throughout the lifespan.

Spinal pain represents one of the greatest costs to developed societies in disability and lost productivity, according to 2016 figures from the Global Burden of Disease Report.

As IVD degeneration and herniation are important contributing factors to spinal pain, the evidence provided by the study that the IVD can be strengthened through exercise may have significant public health implications.

Assoc Prof Belavy said walking exercise may also give the same results as running exercise on the discs.

"Our findings showed no difference between joggers and long-distance runners and, in fact, indicated that walking might be enough.

"It's also important to reduce the amount of time spent in static postures, such as sitting or even standing still.

"Even going for a walk during a break at work, or choosing to take the stairs rather than the elevator is good for the discs, as well as for overall back health."

Explore further: Exercise produces positive effects on the intervertebral discs

More information: Daniel L. Belavý et al. Running exercise strengthens the intervertebral disc, Scientific Reports (2017). DOI: 10.1038/srep45975

Related Stories

Exercise produces positive effects on the intervertebral discs

June 28, 2011
Physical exercise has a positive effect on the formation of cells in the intervertebral discs. This is shown by a study from the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, presented at the annual meeting of the International ...

New tools for back pain prevention

June 4, 2014
European researchers and clinicians are working hand in hand to unveil the mechanisms leading to back pain, likely the most widespread chronic pathology among humans. Until recently, it was assumed that disc degeneration ...

How much exercise do you need, and what kind?

April 24, 2015
If you've ever wondered about the benefits of exercise and why we should all try to get our fair share of it, here are some tips:

Exercise not shown to reduce women's risk of developing multiple sclerosis

September 28, 2016
A large, new study shows no evidence that exercise may reduce a woman's risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS). The research is published in the September 28, 2016, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the ...

Recommended for you

Students more likely to eat school breakfast when given extra time, new study finds

August 18, 2018
Primary school students are more likely to eat a nutritional breakfast when given 10 extra minutes to do so, according to a new study by researchers at Virginia Tech and Georgia Southern University.

Like shark attack and the lottery, unconscious bias influences cancer screening

August 17, 2018
What do shark attack, the lottery and ovarian cancer screening having in common? It turns out our judgments about these things are all influenced by unconscious bias.

Moderate carbohydrate intake may be best for health

August 17, 2018
Eating carbohydrates in moderation seems to be optimal for health and longevity, suggests new research published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

Phantom odors: One American in 15 smells odors that aren't there, study finds

August 16, 2018
Imagine the foul smell of an ash tray or burning hair. Now imagine if these kinds of smells were present in your life, but without a source. A new study finds that 1 in 15 Americans (or 6.5 percent) over the age of 40 experiences ...

US drug overdose deaths surge amid fentanyl scourge

August 16, 2018
US drug overdose deaths surged to nearly 72,000 last year, as addicts increasingly turn to extremely powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl as the supply of prescription painkillers has tightened.

Parental life span predicts daughters living to 90 without chronic disease or disability

August 15, 2018
Researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine report that women whose mothers lived to at least age 90 were more likely to also live to 90, free of serious diseases and disabilities.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.