If you love running or even want to start running, back pain can put a damper on your goals. But it doesn’t have to! Here is what you need to know about running with back pain so that you can get on the track, trail, or treadmill without anything stopping you.
Can you run with back pain?
The first question you should ask when you want to run with back pain is what type of back pain do I have? If your back pain is mechanical, you should be safe to start running or keep running. Mechanical back pain, back pain when your spine is structurally normal, usually comes from a weak core. In which case, running can actually help strengthen your core and relieve back pain. If your back pain is structural (your spine is not structurally normal, such as disc issues or scoliosis) you should ask your doctor before you try running because it could be harmful for you. In any case, if you plan on drastically changing your exercise routine, talk to your doctor to see if running is right for you.
Is running bad for your back?
For those who run every day for long periods of time, running can be harmful for your joints and spine. But there are plenty of precautions you can take so that you can keep doing what you love. Try these quick tips to keep running and stay safe:
- Run only 3 to 4 times a week. On your days off of running try cross-training with swimming, cycling, or lifting weights. Working different muscle groups will help give your running muscles a break and avoid overworking your body. You should even take at least one rest day a week.
- Don’t work to increase your distance and speed at the same time. Just working on one or the other will be safest for your body.
- Work with a running coach to improve your form. Sometimes incorrect running form is a major cause of back pain and fixing your form helps your back pain disappear.
- Take care of yourself off the track. What we mean is prepare properly for each run by eating right, drinking plenty of water, and rolling out on your Chirp Wheel to help loosen up your muscle tension and warm up before your run. You can also use the Chirp Wheel to help relieve pain from achy muscles after a run and cool down.
How to cope with back pain and running
- Warm up and stretch. It’s best to warm up before your run with dynamic stretches. Dynamic stretches (even something like yoga) include movement so they help to prepare your body for more movement and protect your muscles from tears. After your run, do some static stretches to help cool down and reduce muscle soreness after a run.
- Choose your shoes wisely. Especially for those with lower back pain, picking the right running shoe can make all the difference. Ask your doctor what type of shoes you should wear while running with lower back pain. Picking the right shoes can help to stop injuries and back pain.
- Listen to your body’s signals. If your back pain is severe, take a few days off from running until it gets better. Try using hot and cold therapy, the Chirp Wheel, and a lot of rest to let your body heal. If your back pain persists, see your doctor to know what is best to do.
How to know when it’s time to see your doctor
If you have consistent back pain after running or your back pain lasts longer than a few weeks, it’s a good idea to see your doctor. Running puts extra stress on your spinal discs with each step. If you already had a preexisting condition (such as a herniated disc) that you were unaware of, running through the pain will only worsen your condition. Make sure you listen to your body and don’t ignore your pain. See your doctor for some help and take time to rest.
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Lieberman, I. (2015, November 11). How to run safely with back pain. Retrieved from https://www.sports-health.com/sports-injuries/running-injuries/how-run-safely-back-pain
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
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