Study Gets to the Core of Back Pain in Runners

Study Gets to the Core of Back Pain in Runners

The onset of back pain among runners may stem from a general weakness in their deep core muscles, new research indicates.

Such deep muscles are located well below the more superficial muscles typified by the classic six-pack abs of fitness magazine fame, the researchers noted.

Using computer simulations, they found that runners with relatively weak deep core muscles end up relying more and more on their superficial muscles to keep on running. The result is a higher risk for back pain.

“We measured the dimensions of runners’ bodies and how they moved to create a computer model that’s specific to that person,” said study lead author Ajit Chaudhari. “That allows us to examine how every bone moves and how much pressure is put on each joint.”

Chaudhari is an associate professor of physical therapy and biomedical engineering at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center.

The investigators found that “when your deep core is weak, your body is able to compensate in a way that allows you to essentially run the same way,” Chaudhari said in a medical center news release, “but that increases the load on your spine in a way that may lead to low back pain.”

The study team said it’s not uncommon to find avid athletes who fail to put sufficient focus on their deep core strength, perhaps because superficial muscle maintenance tends to get a lot more public attention.

However, Chaudhari said, “working on a six-pack and trying to become a better runner is definitely not the same thing.

“If you look at great runners, they don’t typically have a six-pack, but their muscles are very fit,” he said. “Static exercises that force you to fire your core and hold your body in place are what’s really going to make you a better runner.”

The study was published online recently in the Journal of Biomechanics.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has information on low back pain.

SOURCE: Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, news release, Jan. 3, 2018

Even a One-Minute Run Might Help a Woman’s Bones

Even a One-Minute Run Might Help a Woman’s Bones

Just a minute or two of running every day could strengthen your bones, new research suggests.

British scientists found that women who engage in “brief bursts” of any high-intensity, weight-bearing physical activity had 4 percent better bone health than their less active peers.

“We don’t yet know whether it’s better to accumulate this small amount of exercise in bits throughout each day or all at once, and also whether a slightly longer bout of exercise on one or two days per week is just as good as one to two minutes a day,” said study author Victoria Stiles. She’s a senior lecturer in Sport and Health Sciences at the University of Exeter.

“But there’s a clear link between this kind of high-intensity, weight-bearing exercise and better bone health in women,” Stiles said in a university news release.

For the study, the researchers compared data on more than 2,500 women. The women wore monitors for one week to track their activity levels, and underwent ultrasounds of their heel bones to assess their bone health.

“We wanted to make every second count in our analysis, because short snippets of high-intensity activity are more beneficial to bone health than longer, continuous periods,” Stiles said. “We were careful not to ignore short bursts of activity throughout the day.”

Women who exercised intensely for more than two minutes each day had 6 percent better bone health. For younger women, this was the equivalent of a medium-paced run. For postmenopausal women, this meant a slow jog, the researchers said.

Since the findings are based on a particular group of women at a specific point in time, it’s unclear if the intense physical activity improved the women’s bone health or if women with stronger bones tend to do more of this type of exercise. So, the study did not prove that running causes bone health to improve.

“However, it seems likely that just one to two minutes of running a day is good for bone health,” Stiles said.

More information

The National Osteoporosis Foundation provides more information on women’s bone health .

Being Thin Could Boost Stress Fracture Risk in Female Runners

Being Thin Could Boost Stress Fracture Risk in Female Runners

Female runners with a low body weight are more likely to have stress fractures and take longer to recover from them, according to a new study.

Researchers from the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center reviewed data on dozens of injuries suffered by female college runners. They found that runners with a body mass index (BMI) below 19 were more likely to suffer stress fractures than others. BMI is an estimate of body fat based on weight and height.

Women with a low body weight were also sidelined longer after an injury. Among those with the most severe stress fractures, recovery time was 13 weeks for women with a BMI of 19 or higher. That compared to more than 17 weeks for those with a BMI below 19, the study found.

“We found that over time, we were able to identify the factors that put female runners at an increased risk of developing a stress fracture,” said study co-author Dr. Timothy Miller, assistant professor of clinical orthopedic surgery and sports medicine.

“One of the most important factors we identified was low body weight, or low body mass index,” he said in a hospital news release.

Having too little lean muscle mass to dissipate the impact of repetitive pounding on hard surfaces makes the bones of runners’ legs vulnerable to injury, according to Miller.

“When body mass index is very low and muscle mass is depleted, there is nowhere for the shock of running to be absorbed other than directly into the bones. Until some muscle mass is developed and BMI is optimized, runners remain at increased risk of developing a stress fracture,” he explained.

Female athletes should maintain a BMI of 20 to 24, Miller suggested.

A woman who is 5 feet, 5 inches tall and weighs 120 pounds has a BMI of 20, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The BMI for an average American woman is 26, the CDC says.

To prevent injury, Miller said women should stay at a healthy BMI and include resistance training in their workout regimen to strengthen their lower legs, “even if that means adding weight from additional muscle mass.”

The study was published recently in the journal Current Orthopaedic Practice.

Runner’s Knee

Runner’s Knee

What is runner’s knee?

Runner’s knee means that you have dull pain around the front of the knee (patella). This is where the knee connects with the lower end of the thighbone (femur).

What causes runner’s knee?

Runner’s knee may be caused by a structural defect, or a certain way of walking or running. Other causes may include:

  • A kneecap that is too high in the knee joint
  • Weak thigh muscles
  • Tight hamstrings
  • Tight Achilles tendons
  • Poor foot support
  • Walking or running with the feet rolling in while the thigh muscles pull the kneecap outward
  • Excessive training or overuse
  • Injury

What are the symptoms of runner’s knee?

These are the most common symptoms of runner’s knee:

  • Pain in and around the kneecap that happens when you are active. Or pain after sitting for a long time with the knees bent. This sometimes causes weakness or feelings of instability.
  • Rubbing, grinding, or clicking sound of the kneecap that you hear when you bend and straighten your knee
  • Kneecap that is tender to the touch

The symptoms of runner’s knee may look like other conditions and health problems. Always talk with your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How is runner’s knee diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider can diagnose runner’s knee by looking at your health history and doing a physical exam. X-rays may be needed for evaluation of the knee.

How is runner’s knee treated?

Your healthcare provider will figure out the best treatment based on:

  • How old you are
  • Your overall health and health history
  • How much pain you have
  • How well you can handle specific medicines, procedures, or therapies
  • How long the condition is expected to last
  • Your opinion or preference

The best course of treatment for runner’s knee is to stop running until you can run again without pain. Other treatment may include:

  • Cold packs
  • Elevating the leg
  • Compression knee wrap
  • Medicines such as ibuprofen
  • Stretching exercises
  • Strengthening exercises
  • Arch support in shoes

Can runner’s knee be prevented?

Preventing runner’s knee includes not overstressing your knees. You can do this by:

  • Losing weight if needed
  • Stretching before running
  • Increasing your activities gradually
  • Wearing good running shoes
  • Running leaning forward with your knees bent

Key points about runner’s knee

  • Runner’s knee is dull pain around the front of the knee.
  • It may be caused by a structural defect, or a certain way of walking or running.
  • Symptoms include pain, and rubbing, grinding, or clicking sound of the kneecap.
  • Treatment includes not running until pain goes away. Also using cold packs, compression, and elevation may help. Medicine such as ibuprofen can lessen pain and reduce inflammation. Stretching and strengthening exercises can help prevent runner’s knee.

Next steps

Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:

  • Know the reason for your visit and what you want to happen.
  • Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
  • Bring someone with you to help you ask questions and remember what your provider tells you.
  • At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also write down any new instructions your provider gives you.
  • Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed, and how it will help you. Also know what the side effects are.
  • Ask if your condition can be treated in other ways.
  • Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.
  • Know what to expect if you do not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.
  • If you have a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
  • Know how you can contact your provider if you have questions.
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