The continuous pounding your body takes while running places a compressive load on your spine, resulting in tight muscles, constricted blood vessels and a lack of circulation, all of which can manifest as pain and loss of range of motion in your lower back. Ridding yourself of a tight, stiff, lower back may take a multifaceted approach, one that requires you to be consistent and patient.
The Right Way to Warm-Up
The best way to prepare for any physical activity is to perform a lower-intensity version of the activity, one that readies all the muscles you will be using. Start with a brisk walk or a light jog for about five to 10 minutes before running. You may also engage in some dynamic stretches -- such as running in place with lifted knees, moving side to side with toes slightly turned out, or even jumping jacks -- to warm up your body. Steer clear of static stretches, which do nothing to prepare your body for running and may cause injury by over-stretching cold muscles.
Yoga for Better Running
Gentle, yoga-based stretches can relieve tightness right after your run -- while your body is still warm and pliable. On your non-running days, try exploring some different styles of yoga classes to see which of them complement your running routine best. One of the simplest passive yoga stretches is "legs up the wall." This pose stabilizes your lower back and relieves pressure while inducing a relaxing calm. Sit adjacent to a wall, scooting as close to it as possible. Slowly lie on your back as you swing your straight legs up against the wall. Your body should be in a 90-degree position. Close your eyes and breathe into your lower back.
Core Strength for a Balanced Body
Cross-training through exercises such as Pilates can help to prevent overuse of the same muscles, provide a more balanced body, and strengthen muscles needed to support your frame while running. The roll-up is a great core strengthener that can be modified to suit all levels. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Pulling your navel toward your spine, contract your gluts as you tuck your chin toward your chest and start to slowly roll up to a seated position, stacking each vertebra and extending your arms out in front of you. Roll back down to your start position slowly and with control. Repeat four to five times.
A heating pad can help to relieve a stiff lower back after a run. Icing for 10 to 20 minutes before applying heat may be even more beneficial. An Epsom salt bath is another way to alleviate discomfort. Fill your tub with warm water and add 2 cups of Epsom salts. Soak for at least 10 minutes. Regular massage has been shown to be an effective tool for athletes looking to maintain their well-being. A massage increases blood flow and circulation. Meditation and deep mindful breathing may help to relax tight muscles. Try it for a few minutes after each time you run.