Lower back pain is a constant concern within the running community. Whether you're a novice runner or an Olympic racer, you're at risk of back discomfort. Low back problems can include aching lower back muscles, tightness in the lower back and pain upon trunk bending or twisting. Discomfort can occur before, during and after a run. Lower back pain is often the cause or result of a number of problems, such as muscle tightness, muscle imbalance or improper running technique. To combat this runners' bane, treat existing pain and proactively protect against future pain.
Whether your back pain started today or a year ago, an accurate diagnosis is difficult to come by because runners' back pain is often the result of multiple causes. For this reason, consult your doctor prior to participating in any exercise regimen. If your lower back pain is accompanied by bladder or bowel weakness and numbness in your legs or groin, take time off from your running routine and seek medical attention immediately.
Get Off Tight Legs
Running with tight hamstrings aggravates existing back pain by pulling your pelvis backward. While you run, pressure on your spine is increased, which can increase your discomfort. Fortunately, there is a quick fix. Simply stretch your hamstrings before a run. Place your right hand on a wall or tree to stabilize yourself. Stand arm's-length away with your right hip beside the wall or tree. Leave ample room to swing your leg forward and back. Keeping your pelvis level, swing your right leg forward and back. Feel the back of your leg stretch as your leg swings forward. Complete 12 to 20 swings and repeat with your left leg.
Run with Protection
Run with tight core muscles to protect your spine, so that you never put your lower back at risk of injury. As soon as you ignore your abdominals and glutes, they'll weaken. Left alone, this will cause tightness in the front of your hips, which will pull your lumbar spine joints up, causing them to stiffen and you'll overload your back while you run. Protect yourself by adding core exercises to your training regimen. On your hands and knees, straighten your back so that it is parallel to the floor. Tighten your abdominal muscles to protect your spine and slowly straighten your right leg behind you. Once your right leg is straight, raise it slightly to target your glutes. Bend your right leg and draw your knee into your chest to target your abdominals. Repeat eight to 12 times with each leg.
Watch Your Pelvis
Reassess your running technique by paying particular attention to your pelvis. If your pelvis is tilted too far forward or too far back, you're placing stress on your lower back. Run on a treadmill, in front of and beside a mirror, so you can watch your running position. In addition, monitor your running terrain. With trail running, one's pelvis will naturally rotate and tilt more; uneven terrain necessitates more movement, which can cause pain if the core muscle are weak. Strengthen your core muscles by performing straight-legged mini crunches. Lie on your back, on a mat. Add a downward pressure with your heels to the mat. Cross your arms over your chest, tuck your chin and tighten your abdominal muscles. Slightly raise your shoulders off the ground, maintaining the pressure in your heels. Repeat 12 to 15 times.
- Running Well; Sam Murphy and Sarah Connors
- Spine Health: Running and Lower Back Pain; Sean E. McCance, M.D.