What is the Connection Between Back Pain and Running?

Alex Paul

The high impact nature of running means that the sport can potentially cause lower back pain. This is usually the result of a strained muscle. While any runner can get back pain, there are often contributing factors such as weak abdominal muscles, tight hamstrings, and flat feet. Treatment for back pain running injuries often involves cutting back on training and a strengthening program.

Running through lower back pain usually makes the problem worse.
Running through lower back pain usually makes the problem worse.

Running places a lot of stress on the ankle, knee, and hip joints. Due to the constant and repetitive pounding of the foot on hard surfaces, it also puts a lot of force through the lower back. This can eventually lead to discomfort. There are a number of factors that can contribute to back pain running injuries, but the most common cause is an overstrained muscle.

Depending on the type of terrain a person runs on can increase the risks of back injury.
Depending on the type of terrain a person runs on can increase the risks of back injury.

If a jogger doesn’t cross train, certain muscles are strengthened much more than others. This can lead to muscular imbalances such as a weak back and abdominal muscles. Runners also tend to have shortened and tight hamstrings. Over time, these factors may cause the lower back muscles to work too hard and become strained. There are, however, a large number of potential causes of back pain; a runner should always get a professional diagnosis from a doctor

Running often causes back pain.
Running often causes back pain.

There are several abnormalities that can make back pain running injuries more likely. If, for example, a runner has flat feet. the resulting force transmitted up the legs can cause lower back pain. If one leg is longer than the other, even by a small amount, this can have a similar effect.

Shoe insoles can help with back pain.
Shoe insoles can help with back pain.

Runners often try to run through the pain when they have an injury, which usually makes the problem worse. In the case of back pain running injuries, however, complete rest isn’t always the best idea. As long as running isn’t making the condition worse, a physical therapist may recommend that the patient continues light exercise to avoid muscle atrophy and maintain fitness levels. This entirely depends on the source of the problem though, which is why a professional diagnosis is important.

Running typically places a lot of stress on the hip joints and may cause pain in the hips.
Running typically places a lot of stress on the hip joints and may cause pain in the hips.

Treatment for back pain running injuries usually begins with a reduction in distance and intensity. This allows the body to heal itself without being reinjured. Running up hill is especially hard on the back, so this may need to be avoided. A physical therapist will usually recommend an exercise routine to strengthen the abdomen and stretch tight muscles because this can take pressure off the back.

Because running is a high-impact sport, injuries to the back are likely.
Because running is a high-impact sport, injuries to the back are likely.

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