One of the most common health problems experienced by runners is frequent lower back pain. Whether this pain is mild or acute, back pain can be a serious hindrance to your exercise regimen, disrupting your running routine and daily schedule.
Though your lower back pain may be persistent, you shouldn’t have to struggle with it forever. Are you suffering from chronic back pain as a result of jogging or running? Read on to learn more about pain management and treatment options for your lumbar pain.
What Conditions May Be Causing My Lower Back Pain?
There are a number of conditions that may be contributing to the pain you are experiencing while running. Though most of these are less serious conditions, you ought to consult a spine specialist if your pain is chronic and severe.
If you are already prone to lower back pain, your pain may flare up as a result of performing stretches or bends that put strain on the back and spinal column, or as a result of running long distances without warming up properly beforehand. Fortunately, back pain of this nature can be relieved by re-thinking your warm-up routine. Consider researching stretches and exercises that will relax your muscles without causing muscle and ligament strain in the back.
The good news is that running itself is NOT generally the cause of lower back pain. In fact, lower back pain tends to occur less frequently in runners and athletes than amongst the general population! For runners who feel that their back pain is exacerbated by running despite taking the proper precautions, you may be suffering from excessive tightness of the hip flexor muscles and hamstrings. Consider implementing stretches to target these muscles if you feel that this may be contributing to your lumbar pain.
You may also be experiencing pain in your lower back due to excess strain being put on your facet or sacroiliac joints during running. By altering your running and stretching techniques, this pain can generally be alleviated in a number of weeks.
If your back feels particularly tight and sore, it is probable that your condition is caused by a weak back or myofascial trigger points (commonly referred to as “knots”) in your back. Massages, stretching, and exercise can generally reduce the symptoms of these conditions.
If your back pain is particularly severe and has lasted for a month or more, it is possible that you may be suffering from one of the following conditions:
- Herniated Disc
- Chronic Arthritis
- Degenerative Disc Disease
How Can I Treat My Lower Back Pain?
Are you currently suffering from back pain after running? If so, consider trying out the following remedies. For all mild and moderate back pain conditions, these treatments ought to reduce the back pain experienced while running.
– Take one or two days to recover. Don’t run for a few days, and try not to over-exert yourself. Don’t resort to bed-rest, but give yourself some time to recover from your muscle strain and fatigue. Diving right back into running will only exacerbate your pain.
– Treat your problem area(s) with ice/heat packs. Though it’s well-known advice, many runners shrug off this age-old treatment option. This simple remedy, however, can dramatically reduce your back pain and can easily be applied while relaxing at home.
– Over-the-counter medications for reducing pain and/or inflammation. Simple OTC medications such as aspirin and ibuprofen can assuage the worst of your lower back pain. Consider taking a few pills until your pain has reached a more tolerable level.
– Cut back on running uphill and downhill so much. Try running on softer, flatter surfaces for the time being. Doing so will reduce the overall strain placed on your spinal discs and vertebrae.
How Can I Prevent Future Lower Back Pain When Running?
Taking preventative measures to treat your lower back pain is the most reliable way to reduce muscle strain and prevent spinal pain from occurring in the future.
– Purchase shoes with proper support and cushioning.
Are you running in an old pair of athletic shoes, or in sneakers not intended for running? Consider purchasing a new pair of shoes intended for long-distance running. Make sure your new shoes have solid arch support as well.
– Evaluate your chairs, couches, and mattress.
It is possible that your sedentary activities are contributing to your back pain more so than your running! If you’re sleeping on a mattress that’s too firm or overly soft, you may be exacerbating your lumbar pain. If your desk chair is uncomfortable, consider purchasing something more ergonomic and intended for prolonged use. If you spend long hours slumped down on the couch, consider adjusting your posture or acquiring furniture that promotes better resting posture.
– Running outside? Consider running on softer surfaces, such as a track or soil, rather than cement.
Running, after all, is a high-impact sport that puts a great deal of strain on the spine. By running on a softer surface, you will reduce the strain placed on your discs and vertebrae, keeping your overall back pain to a minimum. Running on a treadmill may also reduce your back pain as compared to running on concrete.
– Warm-up properly.
Resist the urge to break into a run right from the get-go. Stretch out your hamstrings, do a few sit-ups, and loosen up your hip muscles. Walk for a block or two before jogging or sprinting. By gradually warming up your body, you will prevent the likelihood of developing more serious back injuries.
– Practice core strength exercises regularly.
Performing regular sit-ups and crunches will increase your core strength and reduce the many problems associated with having a weak back. Consider alternating running with another strength-building activity, such as yoga.
– Improve your overall health and fitness levels.
If you are overweight, your extra pounds may be increasing your risk of experiencing frequent back pain. Improving your overall health and lifestyle may reduce your back pain significantly.
When Should I See a Doctor about My Back Pain?
Though most of the aforementioned back pain conditions are not serious, you should consult a back pain specialist if your back pain is severe and limits your ability to perform daily activities. If you pain has lasted for four weeks or more, you may also want to consider consulting a doctor regarding your back condition.
If you believe your back pain is a result of sciatica, a herniated disc, degenerative disc disease, spondylolisthesis, or another chronic condition, you also ought to consult a doctor. A professional can recommend exercises that will not accentuate your pain.
Most back pain caused by running can be easily treated with a few weeks of rest and some simply home remedies. By re-structuring your stretching and exercising routines, you will most likely be able to find relief and prevent yourself from experiencing back pain in the future.