Is Jogging on a Treadmill Bad for My Back?
Jogging on a treadmill might be bad for your back, depending on your condition. Jogging on a treadmill doesn't qualify as a low- or no-impact exercise activity, which are the best exercises to prevent back pain. If you don't have back problems, jogging on a treadmill is unlikely to bother you as long as you choose a treadmill with excellent cushioning -- inexpensive treadmills with poorer conditioning are intended for walkers, not joggers or runners. If you have, or have had, back problems, you should check with your doctor or physical therapist before starting a jogging program. There are alternatives that won't put as much strain on your back.
As Megan Tyner, an accredited trainer with the American Council on Exercise states, "treadmills are a good choice to begin a new exercise routine because walking is well tolerated by most individuals regardless of fitness level and for most back conditions." As you get stronger, you can use a treadmill for jogging, running or interval training. Tyner notes that treadmills are particularly easy to use. The machines have a surface that involves movements that are much more consistent -- and perhaps much less impactful -- than jogging on concrete or on a trail.
A treadmill, Tyner writes, "may still inflict too much of a jarring impact on the back or stress the hip, knee and ankle joints." According to "The New York Times," you should not jog on a treadmill or anywhere else if you have acute back pain or are recovering from acute back pain: "Jogging is not recommended, at least not until the pain is gone and muscles are stronger."
There are alternatives to jogging on a treadmill that will give you a very low- or no-impact workout. The elliptical machine was designed specifically for a very low-impact workout: It was invented by an engineer whose daughter had broken her foot. Because your feet never leave the pedals, elliptical machines can be less stressful on your knees, hips and back than running on a treadmill. Other good alternatives to the treadmill include swimming, riding a stationary bike or walking.
Experts usually recommend physical activity for those who have chronic pain, including back pain, and studies show that 80 percent of Americans will experience significant back pain at some point in their lives. However, back pain is often tricky to diagnose and treat, and you should consult with a doctor or physical therapist if you have back pain or if a particular activity seems to stress your back. Some stretches for the back often are recommended to treat or prevent back pain, and you might benefit from stretching before and/or after aerobic activity.
Jim Thomas has been a freelance writer since 1978. He wrote a book about professional golfers and has written magazine articles about sports, politics, legal issues, travel and business for national and Northwest publications. He received a Juris Doctor from Duke Law School and a Bachelor of Science in political science from Whitman College.