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atural Medicine Research

Exercise and disk degeneration

© Ray Sahelian MD

The following is one in an ongoing series of columns entitled Natural Medicine Research by Ray Sahelian MD. View all columns in series
Ray Sahelian Does exercise have a deleterious effect on joint cartilage or spinal disks? We do know that certain sports place undue stress on joints through sudden twists, bent postures, and excessive weight bearing. Several epidemiological studies have shown that certain athletic activities such as gymnastics, weightlifting, and soccer may lead to acceleration of spine degeneration. Do non-athletes who exercise recreationally also risk cartilage or disk degeneration?

Researchers from Finland investigated the effects of endurance exercise and power sports on disk degeneration in monozygotic male twins with contrasting lifetime exercise histories. The age range for these twins was between 35 to 69 years. The disks were evaluated with a MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). Twenty-two twin pairs were studied where one twin was a regular endurance type exerciser (i.e. running, cross-country skiing) and the other was generally sedentary. No differences where found in disk degeneration in these twins. A second group of twelve twins were studied where one twin was involved in power sports (mainly weightlifting) while the other was also relatively sedentary. In this second group, there was a slightly increased risk for disk degeneration in the lower thoracic spine, but not in the lumbar spine in the power lifters.

Recreational exercise does not seem to pose any problems in relation to disk degeneration

Videman T, Battie M, Gibbons L, Manninen J, et al. Lifetime exercise and disk degeneration: a MRI study of monozygotic twins. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 29:10, pp 1350-1356, 1997.

Comments: Recreational exercise does not seem to pose any problems in relation to disk degeneration

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About The Author
Ray Sahelian, M.D., is a popular and respected physician who has been seen on numerous television programs including NBC Today, Dateline NBC, and CNN, and quoted by countless major magazines such as Newsweek He is the bestselling author of Mind Boosters, Natural Sex Boosters, and ...more
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