Q+A: Do Lower-Limb Exercises Alleviate Chronic Lower-Back Pain in Runners?

Do Lower-Limb Exercises Alleviate Chronic Lower-Back Pain in Runners?

by TONY NUÑEZ, PHD

Approximately 1 in 10 runners suffers from chronic lower-back pain (cLBP). Personal trainers who work with avid runners sometimes begin by strengthening the lumbar region; however, it may also be beneficial to include lower-limb (LL) moves.

Researchers investigated 84 recreational runners (42 males, 42 females; aged 27 ± 5.5) to discover which protocol would best alleviate cLBP: LL exercises, lumbar-extensor (LE) moves or lumbar-stabilization (LS) work. Participants performed two supervised sessions per week for 8 weeks and exercised at home on the other days. The LL program included hip abduction and hip extension moves using a multi-hip machine and leg press. Both the LE and LS programs focused on spinal stabilization—LE by strengthening the lumbar extensors and LS by targeting the midtorso muscles.

All groups reduced running-induced pain and improved muscle function in the back; however, only the LL group improved running capability, stride length and knee extension strength. Personal trainers may want to include more LL exercises in their programs to help clients reduce cLBP and potentially improve running performance.

REFERENCE: Cai, C., Yang, Y., & Kong, P.W. 2017. Comparison of lower limb and back exercises for runners with chronic low back pain. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 49 (12), 2374–84.

Meet our experts

AFM_Author_Nunez TONY P. NUÑEZ, PHD, is an assistant professor in exercise science at Metropolitan State University of Denver. He is an active researcher and presenter in the exercise physiology and fitness field.

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