Excerpted from The End of Back Pain: Access Your Core to Heal Your Body by Patrick Roth, M.D.
Walking has been prescribed by doctors as a treatment for obesity, depression, and sleep disturbances, generally as an alternative to medication. In patients who have back pain, the advice is often expanded to include the cautionary disclaimer: “Walk, don’t run. The pounding is no good for back pain.”
While I agree that walking is therapeutic for many ailments, I believe that running offers even more benefits than walking. I make it a habit to scrutinize the MRI’s of runners who visit my office. Over the years, I’ve been impressed at the condition of their discs: They’re remarkably well preserved. This is no accident. There are studies that compare the spines of female gymnasts and female non-gymnasts of the same age and weight. The spines of the gymnasts appear younger and less degenerated than those of their non-gymnast counterparts.
For the most part, running is protective of back health. The only patients I discourage from running are those with severe degenerative disc disease and/or a history of consistent back pain when trying to run.
Learn more about a specialized exercise program to relieve, control, and even prevent chronic pain in The End of Back Pain.