Back Pain in Runners

Running Mobilisation & Stretching,Running Injuries: Back & Shoulders
Back Pain in Runners

Back pain is such a common problem. However, unless it is severe, running can really help. Sometimes just the energising movement of going for a run can be just what our body needs. After hours of sitting at a computer, or at the other end of the spectrum, standing for hours on end; the body craves variety of movement.

If it is lower back pain which is the issue, then it could be due to a tightness in the hamstrings, but if the pain is more in the mid-back, it could be due to tightness in the shoulder area. All parts of the body are linked, so it is important to look at the big picture.

Here are a few pointers as to the best prevention methods and pain-relieving techniques. With these top tips, there's no reason why you can't be heading for that next 5k, half marathon or even full marathon.

We always recommend seeking the advice of a sports practitioner for persistent injury and pain. However, there are some things you can do to bring relief in most cases.


Core Stability / Consistency / Staying Mobile


Basic Stretches / Stretches to Combat Pain (Video)

Core Stability

Core Stability is essential for a happy, injury-free runner. See it as an integral part of your running training. Our core is where our body engine lives. If we have a strong mid-section, then immediately our lower back feels better, which in turn increases good posture.

Too often our lower back simply has to do too much when our stomach muscles and glutes should be sharing the work. We can liken our core to a trunk of a tree. If our trunk is strong, then everything benefits! Try this video of the Hollow Body Hold...

Consistency is Key

One of the most important things in any runner's life is consistency. Because of our 'start, stop' lifestyle – rushing to the train, standing squished like sardines, then sitting in an office for hours and then rushing to our next appointment – we can sometimes neglect the 'back-up' work needed to sustain our training programme.

This back-up work is our daily stretching routine. When performing strengthening and lengthening exercises, it is important to find a sequence you enjoy and that will fit into your schedule. If you have a history of back pain, it's worth visiting a good physio or osteopath, who will look at your body structure and then put together a daily programme for you specifically.

Staying Mobile

Staying mobile is so helpful in keeping soreness at bay. The longer we sit at a desk or in a car, the more the muscles in our body shorten and tighten.

There is a simple way to remedy this. Set an alarm clock to beep every half hour, then stop what you are doing and take a few minutes to gently walk around and stretch your back. Do some shoulder circles that will ease the tension in the upper back. It may sound inconsequential, but it really helps.

By the time you head off for your evening run, you will already have accomplished some 'back up' work earlier in the day.

3 Basic Back Stretches for Runners

Specific Lower Back Stretch

Lift one knee to 45 degrees and place on a table at hip hight, keeping the standing leg straight. Lean forward from the hips, placing your hands on the table for support. You will feel the stretch in your hip joint. Hold for 1 minute. This is a great stretch to ease the tightness in your lower back. Repeat on both sides.

Back pain in runners
Back pain in runners

Specific Upper Back Stretch

Sit on a chair, leaning forward,with your knees hip width apart and feet flat on the floor. Cross your arms and place each elbow on the outside of the opposite knee. Gently push your knees away from each other. (It only needs to be a small amount.) Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat by crossing your arms over. This is such a good way to ease out the neck and shoulders as well as the upper back. These two stretches were recommended by the wonderful Physio, Reza Daneshmand. They have been and still are invaluable to my training!

Lower and Upper Back Stretch

Stand with your feet hip width apart, engaging your tummy muscles. Slowly and gently roll down to touch your toes. Start drawing your chin to chest and then vertebrae by vertebrae slowly roll down as far as you can comfortably go, and then reverse backup. This stretch feels great and eases the tension from your back and encourages flexibility.

Now it's over to Shankara for an exercise video...

3 Effective Stretches to Combat Back Pain

The vital thing to remember is: don’t push it too far. Start gently, gingerly even, Just a little bit of articulation of the spine can bring some relief to a stiff back.

The other trick is BREATHE.

The Right Footwear

Last but by no means least: make sure that you are wearing the correct running shoes! Why not visit our London store to have a full Natural Gait Analysis. In addition, we can talk through your specific training needs.

These are exercises that we've found very useful and want to share with our customers. But we're not certified instructors. Always consult your specialist before beginning any exercise programme. This general information is not intended to diagnose any medical condition or to replace your healthcare professional. Consult with your healthcare professional to design an appropriate exercise prescription. If you experience any pain or difficulty with these exercises, stop and consult your healthcare provider.

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