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   Sep 24

Ballet, barefoot trainers and warm-ups… how David Cameron CAN keep on running with his bad back

The Prime Minister has kept up with his exercise despite a slipped disc

With the right technique and equipment you do not have to stop running

Not being held back: David Cameron keeps running despite a slipped disc

He undoubtedly has a fair bit on his mind at the moment, but I was saddened to read that David Cameron has been forced to give up his regular jogging sessions due to a ‘phenomenally bad back’.

Indeed, before his holiday in Cornwall was cut short by the unfurling crisis in Syria, the Prime Minister was pictured looking rather less sporty – and dare I say rather more portly – than usual in his trunks on the beach.

Apparently, he’s had tests that show he has a protruding disc, which may require a painkilling injection.

These kinds of spinal problems can be horrendously painful – I often think the amorphous term ‘bad back’ barely does justice to the debilitation it can cause.
But barring medical advice to the contrary, giving up exercise completely isn’t necessary – and can actually be counter-productive.


Bad backs can be due to problems with the muscles and soft tissue, or with the spine itself.

Most usually, as in the Prime Minister’s case, it is with the soft, gel-filled cartilage discs that act as cushions between the bones of the spine (vertebrae), which allow flexible movement.

We don’t know what caused Mr Cameron’s problems. Sitting down can be as damaging as being active, if not more so.

When we sit, the legs are not supporting the body, so our full weight is borne by the bottom of the spine, which can cause compression and ultimately lead to pain. Whether jogging itself leads to problems depends on how you run.

There is research that shows that if you strike the ground with the heel first – the so-called heel, ball, toe gait – it can send shockwaves up the leg that impact on the lower back.This is why there has been a trend away from wearing very cushioned trainers for running – the more springy the sole, the more likely you are to do this as it feels bouncy and doesn’t hurt.
But those shockwaves are still being sent up the leg, and they don’t allow the joints in the foot to articulate naturally, which compounds the problem.


Just a few years ago, the prevailing view among sports scientists was that if a trainer became so worn in that you could fold it in half, it wasn’t providing enough support and should be replaced.
But there has been a sea change in medical understanding of the foot that shows the opposite is actually the case.

Do it right: Go for a springy sole of the shoe to avoid striking the ground hard with the heel first which can send shockwaves up the leg that impact on the lower back

Today we recommend trainers with minimal cushioning that allow the foot to articulate properly – and some of the leading brands advertise the fact that you can actually roll the trainer up into a tube, as you would a towel. Of course, you don’t need to spend a fortune because old-fashioned school plimsolls are just as effective.

On a basic level, if you run with a heavy heel strike in these kinds of shoes, it may hurt. You will probably start to naturally feel comfortable with a toe, ball, heel gait. This allows the foot to flex naturally and protects the back.


If you have back pain, it is wise to stop running until you have worked out exactly what is wrong. But that doesn’t mean you have to stop moving. As a general rule, pain that gets worse, not better, over a week is a worry. And if pain has remained constant for more than two weeks, you should see a doctor.
But generally, too much inactivity encourages the tissue in the area causing a problem to stiffen, leading to further immobility.

It’s a good idea to focus on exercise that moves the whole body. These movements lengthen and stretch the connective tissues, and strengthen the muscles at the same time.

Swimming is fine – the front crawl stroke involves some rotation to take a breath, as well as moving the arms and legs. But things such as dance classes, where you twist and bend, yoga and Pilates are excellent choices. If you let your instructor know you have injured yourself, they’ll be able to modify exercises. Don’t force anything – just listen to your body.


For alpha males such as the Prime Minister, it can be rather frustrating to have to reduce exertion levels. But if you try to rush back into intense exercise, you are at risk of slowing the healing process or doing further damage.

Run for victory: David Cameron is an avid jogger, seen here running along Blackpool’s seafront just days ahead of the 2010 General Election

I advise my clients to focus on performing simple movements perfectly – it’s about quality rather than intensity while you are rehabilitating an injury.

For example, doing a simple body-weight squat with perfect posture is much more challenging than you might think.

I would recommend a couple of sessions with a physiotherapist or trainer with corrective exercise experience who will be able to show you some interesting things to do. To find well qualified instructors, visit anatomytrains.com and instituteofmotion.com.


When your back is feeling better, don’t instantly throw yourself into a 10k jog as you used to. A first run will undoubtedly feel amazing, with that old rush of adrenaline you have been missing. But this euphoria is a key time for another injury to happen. Start slowly, listen to your body, and then gradually increase your effort levels (distance or pace) by about ten per cent each week until you are back to your optimum. You’ll have to get over your ego, as it won’t be as exciting to begin with.


It might be what athletes do so they can keep training, but for mortals, dosing up on painkillers will only make matters worse. In fact, if you have just felt a twinge, most back experts recommend you don’t take anything for the first 48 hours if you can help it, so that you can really feel the extent of what is wrong. If you need pain relief, acupuncture is pretty good.

Many osteopaths and physiotherapists now offer it.


If you are prone to injury, a ten to 15-minute session of stretching and mobilising before and after exercise is incredibly important.

Many people simply do a couple of seconds of some stretching exercise they’ve seen others do.

This is pointless. I recommend investing in a foam roller – it’s a tube of hard foam that you lie on and roll up and down in various positions. Again, look online for specific exercise recommendations. It can hurt like hell, but it helps to iron out the connective tissues in the same way a sports massage would.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2427945/Ballet-barefoot-trainers-warm-ups–David-Cameron-CAN-running-bad-back.html#ixzz2fmwFUecl

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