Running exercise strengthens the intervertebral disc
The authors of this cross-sectional study have found that chronic running is associated with increased intervertebral disc (IVD) hydration (over 20km/ wk.) and height (over 50km/ wk.). These effects were seen at multiple vertebral levels and were independent of gender, spinal muscle size or total level of activity.
While there is substantial information regarding what activities are more likely damage the human IVD, current knowledge of potential positive effects is largely based on animal and model data. These suggest that anabolic adaptations are possible in the human IVD, but to date no evidence was present regarding what loading patterns may cause these adaptations.
79 subjects took part in the study, divided into no-sport, 20-40km/week and 50km+/week runners. MRI images from the T11-12 to L5-S1 levels were obtained to determine IVD height and T2-time as a measure of hydration. 3D accelerometry data were also obtained to calculate activity level and loading patterns.
Runners were found to have more hydrated IVDs. This effect was found in all vertebral levels and was stronger in the nucleus. Runners from the 50+km/ wk. group also showed increased IVD height of the L3-4 to the L5-S1 levels. Mean amplitude deviations in acceleration in the 0.44-0.59g range had the strongest association with increased IVD hydration. This was found to correspond to running at 2m/ s. These results show anabolic adaptations in IVDs are feasible and provide novel evidence regarding which loading patterns can induce them.
> From: Belavy et al., Sci Rep 7 (2017) 45975. All rights reserved to The Author(s). Click here for the online summary.