Running and Low Back Pain

Have you ever noticed every time you go running, you have lower back pain either during or after the run? If so, you may be wondering if you should quit running, find an alternative sport, or simply stop all activity and adopt a sedentary lifestyle. If you love the benefits of running and want to continue, is there anything you can do to make running tolerable? First, NEVER stop doing activity and adopt a sedentary lifestyle – it will start a slow decline with an unhappy ending! So, let’s see if we can make running work for you!

  1. STRETCH: In general, stretching helps “warm up” your muscles and joints and can prevent the low back from hurting during or after your run. In past articles, we’ve reviewed simple stretches, even some that can be done from a sitting position (when you’re in a hurry). Yoga-based exercises are also excellent!
  2. FOOT STRIKE: The “proper” gait or method your feet hit the ground is very important! To avoid low back injuries (not to mention foot, ankle, knee, or hip injuries), run SMOOTHLY so the heel strike is gliding/glancing vs. a hard vertical load. The foot then “ROLLS” from heel to toe, first on the outside of the foot and then shifts to the inside during which time the arch flattens out, getting ready to “spring” you forward. The heel then lifts up and you push off the ball of the foot and big toe.
  3. RUNNING POSTURE: Lean forwards when you run – DON’T run vertically like a Po-Go stick! By doing this, your momentum move you forward – NOT downwards into the pavement (like a “jack hammer”)!
  4. CORE STRENGTHENING: By keeping your “core” (midsection) strong, your back is more supported and less likely to become injured. Core exercises include pelvic tilts, the “dead-bug”, bridges, prone swimmers, lunges, squats, sit-ups, arch-ups, side bridges, 4-point kneeling/opposite arm/leg, and many others. These can be done on the floor and/or with a gym ball. Balance exercises are also very important!
  5. RELAX: Have you ever noticed when some people run, they just look “tight” and uncomfortable. RELAX – don’t shrug your shoulders up to your ears. Let your arms hang down bent at your sides. Don’t clench your teeth or make a fist – RELAX!!!
  6. PADDED INSOLES: There are many brands of padded insoles – try some and see how they work for you.
  7. RUNNING SHOES: The key here is TRY THEM ON and walk around inside the store. There are a lot of good supportive shoes so just find a brand that works for you!
  8. FLAT FEET: This is common and NOT a reason to stop running. Ask your doctor about foot orthotics and the function and importance of the arches.