Lower Back Pain and riding… am I making myself worse?


Can your lower back pain get worse from riding?

Many riders complain of lower back pain at some time or other. The common belief is that horse back riding causes disk degeneration, especially in the lower back.

FYI: Disk degeneration is when the shock absorbers (imagine sponges between each vertebrea) get used over time and flatten. In extremely severe cases your disks become a thing of the past, and in their absence, they can leave quite a bit of pain behind (no pun intended).

What is the data on the current subject? The most thorough study I could find was one done by the Germans in 2009.

Why so few studies? There has never been any research on lumbar pain on elite competitive riders.

What we think : Horse back riding accelerates degeneration of the spine, most notably in the lumbar area (basically, horseback riding causes back pain)

What the studies think : They took 18 men and 40 women that were elite riders, ranging between 18 and 41 years old. There were 21 show jumpers, 25 dressage riders and 12 vaulters. MRIs, questionaires, measurements were taken and compared to 30 active people that were nonriders.

So? Even if the study suggests that 80% of riders have a history of back pain (most of them would be show jumpers), there was no difference when compared with nonriders.

The take home message is that horseback riding will not make your lower back pain worse if you have been diagnosed with disk degeneration, which is a very popular diagnosis given to people with back pain.

Please remember that I am not one to place a diagnosis and to tell you how to treat your condition. I am just a fool for science.

Please email me if ever you have a specific condition that you wish for us to address.


Kraft, C. N., Pennekamp, P. H., Becker, U., Young, M., Diedrich, O., Lüring, C., & Falkenhausen, M. V. (2009). Magnetic Resonance Imaging Findings of the Lumbar Spine in Elite Horseback Riders. The American Journal of Sports Medicine,37(11), 2205-2213. doi:10.1177/0363546509336927



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