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, then 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.
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. We can liken our core to a trunk of a tree. If our trunk is strong, then everything benefits!
Which Exercises Can Help?
When performing strengthening and lengthening exercises, it is important to find a sequence which you enjoy and that will fit into your schedule. Pilates is a great way of strengthening the lower back and aligning the hips. Alignment of the hips is crucial, since so many injuries can stem from this problem, remembering again how the body is linked up. If you find self motivation to be a challenge, then why not find a good personal trainer. If you are based in London, we recommend Nordic Balance, they are highly trained and encouraging from beginners to elite runners.
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. It's always 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 is so helpful with 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.
Stretches for the Back
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.
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.
The Right Footwear
Last but by no means least: make sure that you are wearing the correct footwear! Why not visit one of our shops to have a full Natural Gait Analysis. In addition, we can talk through your specific training needs.
This general information is not intended to diagnose any medical condition or to replace your healthcare professional. If you experience any pain or difficulty with the exercises or advice, stop and consult your healthcare provider.