If you've had back spasms while running, you know how painful this condition can be. Spasms usually are the result of previous trauma, inflammation or muscular weakness in the region.
Many instances of back spasms can be prevented with proper running techniques, stretching, strengthening and other anticipatory measures. If you frequently get back cramps while running, talk to your doctor to rule out a more serious condition.
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Lower Back Discomfort While Running
Back spasms often occur when muscles are imbalanced, causing your spine to pull out of natural alignment. If one muscle is strong and the opposing muscle is weak, it causes an imbalance that can affect posture.
For example, if your quad muscle is much stronger than your glute muscles, your pelvis tilts forward rather than sitting straight in spinal alignment, a condition called anterior pelvic tilt. This places significant pressure on the spine, causing lower back discomfort while running.
Build Core Strength
Your core muscles consist of the abdominals, obliques, quadriceps, glutes, back muscles and hamstrings, or basically every muscle involved in spinal stabilization. If your core muscles are weak, your spine is not effectively supported. Supplement your running program with core-strengthening exercises such as planks, goblet squats, bodyweight rows, walking lateral lunges and single leg Romanian deadlifts, as recommended by the American Council on Exercise.
Check Your Footwear
Back pain while running can be the result of foot imbalances such as high or low arches, which cause the foot to pronate or supinate. When this happens, your ankles, knees and lower back are affected. See a podiatrist or go to a local running store and have your walking gait analyzed to rule out foot problems. You may need an additional arch support or insole for your running shoes.
Your shoes may be worn and no longer providing adequate support. The American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine suggests replacing your running shoes every 350 to 550 miles.
Read more: 12 Essential Tips for New Runners
Prevent Back Spasms While Running
The best method of preventing back spasms is to address the issue before it starts. Vary the intensity of your runs. Mix short runs with long runs, and cross-train to prevent overuse injuries. If you are running on cement or hard surfaces, switch to grass, turf or a track for better shock absorption.
Stretch your hamstrings, quads, calves and back daily to maintain proper range of motion and prevent muscle imbalances. Supplement your running routine with upper- and lower-body strength training to keep your supportive muscles strong.
Treatment for Back Spasms
Rest your back, but do not confine yourself to a bed, which can worsen the condition. Avoid activities that aggravate your pain, such as running. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications can help reduce pain while muscle relaxants might also be prescribed to help treat lower back discomfort with running.
Less commonly, you might require a steroid injection in your back to help decrease inflammation in your spine, according to Mayo Clinic. In rare cases, surgery might be needed to eliminate the causes of your back pain while running.