New to Running & Back Pain? 10 Things You’ll Wish You Knew
By Savanna Stone //
Why running can cause back pain
Running is a great way to exercise because it helps strengthen your muscles, improves your cardiovascular fitness, and keeps you looking great. Unfortunately, running puts repetitive stress and impact on your lumbar spine, which can make you want to stop running if you have a preexisting lower back problem. Running with lower back pain can lead to more issues like sciatica. If you experience consistent lower back pain while running, it might be best to have your doctor check you out for a herniated disc, degenerative disc disease, or other spinal issue.
Runners can also experience muscle strains and spasms, usually in the lower back. If your back pain started after you began running again, you might have a muscle strain or spasm. Symptoms of a muscle strain include pain, tenderness, limited motion, swelling, bruising or redness, or muscle weakness. It is much easier to get rid of a muscle strain or spasm than it is to heal a disc issue. Try resting from running for a few days, gently stretching, or cold therapy to help your muscles heal. With a muscle strain or spasm, you should be able to get back in your running shoes in no time. If your pain lasts longer than 2 or 3 weeks, see your doctor to know what to do next.
How to run without back pain
If you have back pain and want to add running to your list of hobbies, make sure you consult your doctor for the go-ahead. He might suggest you do some of these things to avoid agitating your back pain further:
1. Stretch daily. Stretching your muscles in your lower extremities (especially your hamstrings) 4 to 5 times a week or daily can help prevent further damage to your muscles and can relieve pressure on your lower back. If you have a job where you sit all day, this becomes especially important. Stretching your legs, hips, and back will help prevent injury from running and is great for you even if you give up running altogether.
2. Eat a healthy diet. Eating healthy can help your body heal and is great for you in general. Give your body the nutrients it needs from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. And remember to avoid sugar and processed foods.
3. Ease into it. Lower back pain comes to a lot of runners who are coming back to running after a long time and who run too much those first few days back. Easing into running whether you’re coming back to it or are brand new will help you avoid back pain. Try a little bit at a time to see what you can handle. If your back pain pops up, ease back and rest for a few days and try again.
4. Try strength training. Having a strong core is the most important thing when it comes to back pain. Doing exercises to strengthen your core will help keep the natural curvature of your spine as you run. Read this blog post to get some core strengthening exercise ideas. You can even try yoga to help strengthen your muscles and reduce your back pain.
5. Wear the right gear. Make sure to wear running shoes that are comfortable for you. Don’t go for the name brand products just because they are popular. Go for the shoe that makes your feet feel like they are walking on a bed of sheep. The right shoes could make all the difference, especially because running is high-impact and the right shoes could take pressure off your lower back.
6. Take rest days. When you’re new to running, rest days are just as important as running days, especially for your back. This gives your back time to heal and your muscles time to recover so that you can run farther next time.
7. Start with walking. If you haven’t ever run or if you’re out of shape, start with walking! In fact, walking might be better for your back anyway. Once you’ve got the walking part down, try interval running (running for 1 minute, walking for 2 minutes) or start running small distances. Easing into getting your body moving again is key.
8. Run on a soft surface. Running on a track rather than cement will help reduce the amount of pressure put on your joints and spine. Running on the beach or grass works too, it is just a bit harder. If you choose an outdoor bumpy path, just make sure you look out for bumps and holes so you can prevent injury.
9. Warm up for your run. Warming up your muscles might include a short sprint or aerobic exercise and then some quick stretching before you get started on your run. This will help loosen up your muscles and get your blood flowing so you have strength and energy for your run. And it can help you wake up if you like running in the cool morning air.
10. Roll on the Chirp Wheel+. Rolling on the Chirp Wheel+ before and after your run can loosen up the tension around your spine and help reduce back pain. You can also use the 6” Deep Tissue Chirp Wheel+ to roll out your lower body muscles for myofascial release to help promote healing and recover quicker. Check out this blog post to see how to use the wheel for running recovery.
How to motivate yourself to run
1. Sign up for a race. Giving yourself a goal to work toward will help you motivate yourself to run every week. Plus, some races even need a little money to enter, which might help motivate you if nothing else does.
2. Pick a distance, not a time. Before your run, make a distance goal. Whatever distance you choose, don’t be sad if you don’t run it in a certain amount of time. This method might take a bit more time out of your day, but it will be easier for you to motivate yourself to run this way.
3. Join a group. Running with friends is another great way to motivate yourself because you have someone else (besides yourself) relying on you to get out there and run. It can also be a great way to challenge yourself.
4. Have set times to run. Running every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at the same time will help you create a habit of running, even if it’s just for a short period of time. Pick times that work best for your schedule and stick to them.
5. Keep a log of your progress. Writing down what you have accomplished is great motivation. You can look back on it and see how far you’ve come, literally.
Just remember, in the long run (pun intended) running will generally help with your overall health and back pain.
Better Health. (2020). Running and jogging—health benefits. Retrieved from https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/running-and-jogging-health-benefits
Hetzel, M. (2013, March 13). 11 tips for newbie runners. Retrieved from https://www.runnersworld.com/training/a20843881/11-tips-for-new-runners/
Mayo Clinic. (2020). Muscle strains. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/muscle-strains/symptoms-causes/syc-20450507
McCance, S. (2008, February 27). Running and lower back pain. Retrieved from https://www.spine-health.com/conditions/sports-and-spine-injuries/running-and-lower-back-pain
Parker-Pope, T. (n.d.). How to start running. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/guides/well/how-to-start-running
The Runner’s World Editors. (2018, March 30). Everything you need to know about lower back pain. Retrieved from https://www.runnersworld.com/health-injuries/a19577588/lower-back-pain/