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Woolf, S K.1; Barfield, W R.1; Nietert, P J.1; Mainous, A1; Glaser, J A.1

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Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: May 2001 - Volume 33 - Issue 5 - p S186
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Low back pain (LBP) is a common problem in athletes. Data correlating LBP to factors related to running and walking is limited. The purpose of this study was to investigate LBP in runners and walkers. The study population was derived from participants who registered for either a 10-kilometer run or a four mile walk. An on-line survey was developed. A hardcopy of the survey was also made available during registration the day before the event. There were 6 blocks of questions representing demographics, physical characteristics, shoe information, training routine, general fitness activities, and history of LBP/treatment sought. Among 539 respondents, the incidence of LBP was 74%. The prevalence was 13.6%. Of those with a history of LBP, most respondents reported less than three episodes in the past year. Runners typically trained more than the walkers weekly. Runners and walkers who do aerobics at least weekly were less likely to report a prior history of LBP. Runners with a higher body mass index (BMI) were more likely to report a previous history of LBP. Most respondents reported more shoe wear on the outside of the heal. Among the runners, those with equal shoe wear across their heels were less likely to report a previous history of LBP than those with more wear on either the inside or outside. Inserts or orthotics were routinely used by 24% of runners and by 11% of the walkers. Use of inserts or orthotics did not correlate with current or previous LBP. In this study, the incidence of LBP among runners and walkers was similar to the general population. Regular participation in aerobics may be protective against developing LBP. Uniform shoe wear was less likely to be an associated factor than inside or outside wear. The significance of this finding is unclear, but it may validate the popularity of shoes designed for those with certain foot types and patterns of foot motion.

©2001The American College of Sports Medicine