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Low Back Pain in Runners: 5 Ways to Prevent Back Pain

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Avid runners expect some aches pains. Honestly, if you are running with any consistency and don’t have anything that hurts, I would wonder if you are even doing it!

Some aches are a normal expectation of running and pains that you should not ignore. One important skill to have is to be able to parcel out when to be concerned and when to push through.

Is It Okay to Run with Lower Back Pain?

Studies show that running with lower back pain can be therapeutic. That is true of other types of aerobic activity also. Since back pain can be either mechanical or structural, it is hard to say if your pain can be helped by running or not. 

If you suffer from mechanical back pain, you have a structurally normal spine. Your pain may result from how you run or from having a weak core, hips, or other body parts. 

If you are wondering, “does running worsen lower back pain?” The answer is that it can. With structural back pain, running can actually cause more problems. This should be avoided.

5 Ways to  Prevent Lower Back Pain While Running

  1. Warm-Up: Taking the time to warm up (and cool down) will help you avoid pain and injury. Don’t skimp on these things!
  2. Stretch: Stretching appropriately is also advantageous when trying to stay healthy and keep your body happy. Avoid static stretching until your body is properly warmed up.
  3. Easy Running: As you are coming out of injury and rehabbing your body, take it easy. Jumping into challenging workouts is a good way to get yourself hurt. 
  4. Cross Train: There are many good ways to keep your heart rate elevated besides running. Try your hand at some non-impact cardio, such as cycling or using the elliptical. My favorite winter workout is cross country skiing. 
  5. Proper Gear: Ensure that you have the right gear for your body and what you are trying to do. If you need support, get a shoe with the proper support. 

Does Running Strengthen Your Lower Back?

Any exercise that involves engaging your whole body can help to strengthen it. This includes your lower back. It is important to remember that there are other things you can do to strengthen that part of your body. 

Strength training is an obvious choice. See it there? The very word strength is in the title. You should know that there are many exercises other than just ones that specifically target your back that can help build it up. Many exercises that are categorized as core work also work your back.

Working on flexibility can also be very helpful to back health. This can be through yoga, dynamic stretching, or static stretching. 

Which Exercise is Best for Lower Back Pain?

If it does not hurt too much, walking and swimming can be excellent for lower back pain. Swimming is particularly good for a choice because you do not have any impact at all. In fact, the water’s buoyancy keeps you up.

Cycling can be another excellent option, assuming that bending down to reach the handlebars does not cause discomfort. 

Yoga is a personal favorite of mine when I am experiencing lower back pain. Not only is it good as it promotes stretching and flexibility, but yoga also promotes mindfulness. 

What About Upper Back Pain?

I have also had people ask me, “Why does my upper back pain hurt while running?”

That is almost always about one of two things: running form or running too tense. If you have poor running form, you can be hunched over, which results in upper back pain.

It is also true that if you are way too tense, you can get that upper back pain. Both of these problems are avoidable!

What is the Fastest Way to Relieve Back Pain?

While many people don’t want to hear this, movement is one of the best ways to relieve any back pain. Some exercise can be a game-changer as you work to make your body feel better.

Hot and cold therapies can also be used to alleviate pain or discomfort. Whether you should use hot, cold, or a combination where you alternate hot/cold depends on the type of pain you have (and how long you have had it). 

Sometimes, an anti-inflammatory can be used to help with body aches such as your back. Just be careful you are not using drugs to mask pain. 

When to Rest Back Pain

If your pain is acute and the remedies discussed don’t work, it is time to rest. Wondering how many days you should rest for lower back pain? 

My standard advice is to take three days off, then try some easy, light activity. After three days off, a good warm-up, and some gentle stretching, it still hurts you to run slowly, you may need expert medical advice.

If your back is giving you grief, you should not neglect it. Think about it: every step you take engages your back.

To be proactive: Look back at the five things you can do to avoid back pain when working out. If you are in pain, decide how to handle the problem before it gets worse.

Take care of your bodies, folks, and run happy, smart, and safe. 

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