Why does running make my back hurt?

7 reasons for back pain whilst running



S.A.C. Dip (Diet, Exercise & Fitness), Advanced Human Anatomy & Physiology Level 3
@ActiveLouise
Ask Louise


02 March 2021

Why does running make my back hurt?

Running is a super simple and fun way to stay fit and spend time outdoors, but sometimes all that high-impact activity can take its toll. One area of the body that can develop pain whilst running is the back. This can be linked to:

  1. Running shoes
  2. Posture
  3. Running surface
  4. Distance
  5. Poor preparation
  6. Muscle strength
  7. Injury

1. Running shoes

Take some time to look at your running shoes if back pain is a problem. Here are a few factors that may contribute to back pain:

  • Shoes that are the wrong fit
  • Shoes that are well worn
  • Shoes that do not provide enough support or cushioning
  • Shoes that aren't specifically for running (training/gym shoes, for example)

Getting shoes properly fitted at a specialised running shop will reduce the likelihood of aches and pains developing. Replacing your running shoes on a regular basis is also a good idea. How long the shoe lasts will, of course, depend on how often you are running. If you are a frequent runner, a shoe will generally last about 1-2 years.

2. Posture

The way we hold the body whilst running can be another factor in back pain. Tensing the shoulders, hunching over and hitting the ground with the toes or heels can all contribute to the problem.

When we've been running for a period of time, the body gets tired and this is when our posture can falter. Running with a more experienced buddy is a good tactic here. They can provide reminders to keep the back straight, shoulders relaxed, arms at 90 degrees and fists unclenched when you are too busy focusing on getting to the end of the run to think about how the body looks!

Again, getting shoes properly fitted can help to improve running stride. Joining a running club is also a good way to get tips on perfecting your running technique!

good running form

3. Running surface

Hitting the pavements on your weekly runs can be hard on the joints and the back. So, why not shake things up by doing some sprints on a spot of grass once a week?

Incorporating some restorative exercises such as yoga into your routine is also a really good idea if you are running a lot. Not only can this help to ease out any kinks in the body, but it also stretches out the body, helping to increase flexibility. This will go on to have a positive effect on your running!

4. Distance

Pushing your body hard on regular long-distance runs is also likely to take its toll on the back muscles. If you then don't allow sufficient time for the body to recover afterward, problems are even more likely to develop. Did you know that the body may require up to two days (or more!) of rest after a big run?

By all means keep your body moving on non-run days with a spot of walking, yoga, swimming or cycling. However, don't try to squeeze in a run every other day if your back is feeling the strain.


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5. Poor preparation

You've no doubt heard before that failing to warm up before a run can increase the likelihood of injury and aches and pains. Well, it can also be a cause of back pain in runners. The same goes for missing a cool-down period after your workout.

Begin with some gentle stretches before your run and then gradually increase the heart rate by doing some jumping jacks or jogging on the spot. Do this kind of thing in reverse for an effective cool down.

You can check out our exercise videos with some easy-to-follow stretches here!

6. Muscle strength

Poor core strength is seemingly another reason for back pain in runners. One study showed that having weak core muscles means that the body has to compensate to keep the run going. This essentially puts more pressure on the spine and back pain may result.1

So, it would seem that getting into the gym or working on some core-strengthening activities will really benefit your overall run.

My Self-Care Tip: Try these core-strengthening activities

Why should we think more about core-strength? Let's take a look, plus find out what activities are considered core-strengthening.

7. Injury

Last but not least, injury to the back muscles could be contributing to your back pain whilst running. In this instance, it is best to take a rest from running and speak to a doctor on how best to tackle the issue.

Note! There are many other factors that can contribute to back pain whilst running and you should speak to your doctor or a physiotherapist if the problem persists.

References

1 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0021929017306929?via%3Dihub 

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