Running is an exercise that can put repetitive stress on a person’s back and joints, causing pain, discomfort, or injury. For someone who is already dealing with lower back pain and other related issues, they must do what they can to reduce lower back strain.

Pain in the lower back is not rare and affects most people at some point. It is generally standard for new runners to have lower back pain when starting a new running regimen. However, there are methods to help prevent pain when it begins, or before it becomes worse.

Returning runners who have not gone running in some time will find that if they get too ambitious too quickly or aggressive with their workouts, they can also suffer lower back pain. The lower back pain may be a mild discomfort in a few cases, but it can become more aggravated with continued running. The best solution is to try and prevent lower back pain from initially getting out of hand. So let’s discuss some ways runners can minimize back pain.

Minimizing Back Pain with Runners

According to Doctor Brandon Clafin, there are many methods runners can use to lower the risk of back pain becoming a problem when running. A few potential strategies include:

1. Performing Strength Training

Lower back pain prevention strength training is essential for runners. A strong kinetic chain mixed with some strong core muscles can help take pressure off the back and reduce the risk of injury or worsening damage. Building one’s core and abdominal muscles is especially important as these muscles help support the spine.

However, checking with your doctor before starting any new exercise regimen and undergoing a physical examination is always essential. This consultation is especially critical if you already have a history of back pain, injury, or pre-existing conditions to consider.

2. Reduce Lower Back Strain

When beginning to run, start slowly. Then, of course, like all exercises, you must build up to more intense sessions to your desired performance level, but that does not mean the amount you run is the only factor to consider.

Some ways to reduce the chances of putting strain on your back include:

  • Stretching before you run and at least twice a day. It is vital to focus on the hamstrings during stretching.
  • Warm up thoroughly before heading out for a run. Then, thoroughly cool down afterward to prevent joint and muscle stress.
  • Use strength training and muscle toning to strengthen your back and core muscles.
  • Try cross-training and rest properly after a workout to avoid overusing the back muscles.
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3. Wear Comfortable Shoes With Proper Support

What you put on your feet is essential when preventing pain in your lower back. While foot pain is something to watch while running, wearing proper shoes does much more than make your soles feel better.

In addition, make sure that you wear proper running shoes. They must fit right without excess wear or risk causing more harm than good.

4. Do Daily Maintenance Exercises

Daily movement and mobility exercises help keep your back and spine aligned and in shape. In addition, regular maintenance exercises can help strengthen core muscles to support your back and prevent injury.

While it is always a good idea to consult your doctor before adding any changes to your exercise regimen, some good exercises are worth looking into performing as daily maintenance. Some of these exercises include:

  • Legs up the wall
  • Supine twists
  • Supermans
  • Lacrosse ball hips
  • Seated forward folds

5. Try Running on a Rubber Track

Cement and asphalt are not the best surfaces to run repeatedly on, even with the best shoes. Instead, try running on different materials, such as running tracks like those found around a high school football field. Any surface not as hard on your feet as a typical road or sidewalk can help immensely prevent lower back pain.

What Causes Back Pain for Runners

More often than not, running is not the direct source of back pain. Instead, running can worsen back pain symptoms that were already present and might have gone unnoticed without the extra strain from running. These symptoms can include stabbing pain or aching muscles.

Runners may also feel pain lifting objects, bending their backs, or sitting for prolonged periods. However, they may also only have lower back pain on one side.

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There are numerous potential reasons that someone may suffer from lower back pain. While not an exhaustive list, some of the reasons running may result in heightened back pain include:

  • Weak deep core muscles
  • Hyperlordosis
  • Herniated disc
  • Degenerative disc
  • Muscle sprains
  • Muscles strains

Whatever the source of your pain, from weak muscles to poor posture, it is best to bring it up with your doctor to initiate treatment, prevent further injury, and discuss appropriate exercises.

Should You Run With Lower Back Pain?

There is no one umbrella answer for everyone on if they should or should not take up running. While running can be one of the most straightforward exercises, each body will respond differently.

Running is a high-impact exercise. Unfortunately, it can either be good or bad for back pain for various reasons, including differences in coordination, stride, and weight.

People who run or walk regularly appear to have healthier spinal discs than those who do not exercise. Many taking up running or even walking will do a lot to help their health, but there may be some risks for others. So again, it is always important to check with your doctor if you have a history of back pain and want to add running to your exercise routine.

Possible Treatment Options for Back Pain from Running 

Lower back pain treatments can come in a wide range of forms. They can be as simple as basic non-operative physical therapy, stretching, medications, or surgical interventions.

The main goals of treatment will typically be to prevent or reduce spinal nerve stress, maintain normal function, and relieve pain. Most doctors recommend less invasive treatments, such as conservative therapies, to treat symptoms before putting the more invasive options on the table.

However, it is a case-by-case situation. You will know what your doctor thinks is best for your personal and particular situation once you discuss it with them. Therefore, whatever your discomfort or pain details are, it is almost always worth bringing it up with a medical professional.