This article provides all the information you need to know about the common causes of lower back pain when running and the best ways to treat it. Chronic low back pain is a highly prevalent pain disorder that affects millions across the globe. It is due to back pain that most days are missed from the office. The pain arising in your back can be of different types and intensities.
The prevalence of low back pain was found to be around 4.2% in the young population while it increased to values greater than 20% in the older population. When compared to other sports-related injuries, the incidence of lower back pain from running among runners is low. The most evident risk factors for pain include:
- Lack of aerobics activity
- Restricted range of hip motion
- Poor hamstrings
- Poor back flexibility
In this article, we will be discussing the reasons for lower back pain when running.
Common Causes Of Lower Back Pain When Running
Back pain from running can interfere with your everyday routine and limit the performance of professional athelets. If you feel uneasy or achy when running, following conditions could be the reasons:
1. Muscle Sprains/Strains And Overuse Injuries
Muscle sprain and strains are common in athletes involved in strength training. Cross-training is a hectic type of sports training readily adopted by enthusiastic runners.
Excessive exercise, however, can be troublesome for athletes. Too much stretching can lead to the development of:
- Stiffness (reduced hip mobility)
- Muscle spasms
A study pointed out paraspinous muscle spasms to be the cause of low back pain and highlighted the importance of early treatment.
Another reason for low back pain in running is an overuse injury. Overuse and running injuries are common in those putting carry excessive weights on the back while running. These injuries
2. Hamstring injury as a cause of lower back pain when running
Hamstring injury mostly causes pain in the posterior knee, however, the trica of muscles forming the hamstring can lead to a belt-line like feel in the back.
Research shows that individuals having chronic low back pain have reduced flexibility of hamstrings indicating that hamstring strength is good for back muscle strength.
It is important to keep your glutes and hamstrings strong to keep backache at bay.
3. Stress Fracture
Though rare, stress fractures of the bones in the lower back can cause lower back pain while running. These types of fractures result from repetitive stress on the joint.
In a case study, a 16-year old volleyball player reported low back pain. Detailed investigation revealed an underlying sacral stress fracture to be the cause of pain.
In most cases, stress fractures are identified on the basis of associated inflammation, soreness and tenderness in the region.
4. Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction
The sacroiliac joint is an important joint that provides support to the back as you carry out different activities. Around 15 to 25% of all patients suffering from low back pain have an SI joint disorder too.
The joint is a major shock absorber (cushioning effect) too, therefore, dysfunction of the joint is most noticeable when moving your body.
There can be damage to the soft tissues or the hard tissues. In some cases, the cartilage or the ligament that provides a protective layer gets damaged while in other cases the SI joint itself goes out of alignment.
SI dysfunction can be the outcome of long-standing osteoarthritis or other joint inflammatory conditions such as ankylosing spondylitis and gout. Trauma/injury to the joint while running can also trigger SI joint imbalance and consequent lower back pain.
Inflammatory arthritis and pregnancy may also contribute to abruptions in the SI joint. Studies have found back pain and sacroiliac joint dysfunction to be a two-way link as people with back pain have a greater chance of developing SI dysfunction (if not present already).
5. Facet joint irritation as a cause of lower back pain when running
Training for long periods can have a negative impact on the body. The spine is composed of small yet highly efficient bones called vertebrae. The vertebrae are connected to each other via facet joints.
Individuals having weak abdominal muscles (like dancers) are prone to irritating the facet joints which can ultimately lead to pain in the back when running. Patients of degenerative disc disease undergo joint and vertebral disintegration. This disruption of the bones in the lumbar spine makes their bones and facets more prone to irritation.
6. Weak Core Muscles Of The Back
A major reason for low back pain when running is weak core muscles of the back. The lower back muscles are crucial in keeping your body weight evenly distributed and safe from muscular imbalance.
There is strong evidence which suggests that weakness of the glutes (gluteus medius) paired with the tenderness of the muscle can cause chronic non-specific lower back pain.
Another study found that an imbalance in muscle strength of the trunk (lower extensor muscle) can be a perpetuating factor for low back pain while running.
Back muscle weakness, in some cases, makes the patient follow a “swayback” posture that involves abnormal positioning of the hip flexors, knee and ankle. These structures then try to compensate for the weak abdominal and back core muscles which leads to low back pain.
7. Poor Posture And Training Plans
Running is best for your health but only when done in the right manner. There are a lot of aspects that should be followed when making running a part of your routine.
To begin with, you should follow training plans made by professionals in the field. Running abruptly and more than your limit increases the chances of falling prey to low back pain.
Back pain is often experienced by runners who do not give attention to the biomechanics of the body and start off without a warm-up.
Running with improper postures shifts the body weight to one side, increasing the chances of muscle sprains.
Sciatic nerve impingement in the buttocks can give sleepless nights. Sciatica (sciatic nerve inflammation) is characterized by severe, stabbing or radiating pain accompanied by numbness, tingling or burning sensations.
This condition, again, is due to muscle imbalances present in the buttock and back region. The sciatic nerve is a large nerve that innervates the back, legs, thighs, and buttocks region. People prone to sciatica usually get a pain episode on running or jogging.
9. Obesity And Wrong Shoe Wear
Shoe wear selection might not seem like an important issue but it can be the sole cause of back pain while running in runners.
As per the Cooper river bridge run study, low back pain was more frequently experienced by obese runners and those individuals who reported specific patterns of shoe wear.
Thus, if you are a regular runner, you must be very careful when selecting shoe wear and consult a podiatrist. Runners must be very careful in selecting running shoes.
Treatment options for lower back pain when running
Getting pain-free is not very difficult in cases of muscle sprains. All you have to do is allow the muscles to rest. You can take help from over-the-counter pain killers to relieve the pain.
To get muscles in a better condition, it is advised to get a physical therapy session. The hands of a physio can rejuvenate the blood supply of your back muscles and increase hip mobility while alleviating pain.
Studies suggest that physical therapy exercise be adopted as the first line of healthcare treatment in the management of low back pain.
Core Muscle Strengthening
A major triggering point for low back pain on running is weak core muscles (of the back and the abdomen). Thus, to get rid of this gnawing pain you must undergo muscle strengthening exercises.
You can adopt core strength training to make your trunk muscles strong enough to bear the weight of the body when running.
Core exercises have shown to be more effective in decreasing low back pain as compared to general exercise.
Attention To Biomechanics
Following these steps can help restore the balance of the muscles and make you robust against injuries:
- Always warm-up before running.
- Follow a coach-guided fitness and running plan based on your running technique and running form.
- Do not overdo exercise.
Many of the structures in the lower back have a poor blood supply, which is why they can struggle to heal on their own. It is the oxygen and nutrients in our blood supply that help to heal these structures.
Prolotherapy involves the injection of a regenerative solution into these structures to provide a direct supply of what is required to heal and repair.
As the treatment is helping to treat the root cause of the problem, it is deemed to be a permanent fix.
Low back pain on running is usually the consequence of over-exercising and running with improper postures. Facet joint irritation and muscle sprains can cause low back pain on running. SI joint dysfunction and stress sacral fractures can also trigger pain. Weakness of the core muscles (of the trunk and abdomen) and sciatic nerve impingement is also responsible for gnawing back pain. Effective ways of achieving pain relief include rest, painkiller medications, physical therapy and following proper biomechanics during running. Individuals having weak core muscles must follow strength training exercises under the supervision of a professional coach.
Frequently Asked Questions about lower back pain when running
How Do I Stop my Lower Back from Hurting When I Run?
In order to stop lower back pain while running, individuals are recommended to undergo a proper warmup. They may do this by light stretching exercises, focusing on the hamstrings either before running or doing them on their own twice a day. These are intended to reduce the stress imposed on the lower back. Strength training may also prove to be effective, with a special focus on the core muscles in the back.
Why Does My Lower Back Hurt When I Run?
Excessive running or physical; activity of any kind can lead to the ligaments and muscles of the lower back being overused, and this stretching may also lead to their tearing. This can lead to stiffness, pain, and muscle strain. However, in a majority of the cases, the muscle strains and sprains of the lower back can be treated at home by taking adequate rest and applying topical ointments.
Is It OK to Run If Your Lower Back Hurts?
Running is believed to be beneficial for individuals with lower back pain. However, it is important to note that this running should be light, and individuals should try not to overexert their muscles. This is also proven by studies, which show that aerobic exercises, like running, can act as an effective management therapy for low back pain. This is also one of the reasons runners have a stronger spine as compared to non-runners.
Why Does My Lower Back Hurt When I Run or Walk?
Individuals may develop back pain due to a number of reasons, including sitting in a bad posture for very long, carrying additional weights, and certain lifestyle habits. These can put a high level of stress on the spine and the lower back muscles. The resulting muscle sprain and increased stress on the spine can ultimately lead to lower back pain, which may be felt on walking or running.
Why Does My Back Hurt When I Run Long Distances?
Individuals who experience pain after running long distances usually locate this pain in the upper and middle areas of the back. A bad posture most commonly causes this. An example of this may be sitting in a slouching position for long periods of time, which can cause an added strain on the back. This added strain ultimately triggers pain in the back, which may be particularly felt during long runs.
How Do I Strengthen y Back for Running?
A number of exercises may be practiced to strengthen one’s back. These include forward lunges with rotation. Single leg bridges, weighted superman, side plant with knee drive, single-leg Romanian deadlifts, stirring the pot plank, and dead plunges. These strengthening exercises mainly focus on strengthening the core muscles, which include hip muscles, abdominal muscles, gluteus, and the other muscles surrounding the spine.
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