Many keen runners have been known to suffer from a variety of health issues ranging from knee pain, to ankle pain. Many runners also experience bad back pain, mainly in the lower region of the back. This can be due to many reasons, but many new studies are finding that it has to do with poor core muscle strength. While the jarring sensation of foot to pavement can also upset the lower back, more often then not, it has to do with lack of strength stemming from another part of the body.
The spine requires strength from many other parts of the body to function correctly. When it does not receive this, it can weaken and perform incorrectly, meaning that pain will occur in an area of the back. Running is a full body exercise and needs a lot more than just the legs, arms and lungs to successfully complete the workout without experiencing pain.
Deep core muscles are instrumental in the bodies process of running. Deep core muscles are the muscles that hide behind the abs and six packs that we see on the body physically. These muscles are the ones that are responsible for true inner core strength and when they are strong, they work wonders in protecting the spine in avid runners.
A good way to protect the spine when running is to ensure that these deep core muscles are as strong as they can be. An effective way to do so is to fire these muscles with static exercises that holds the body in a specific position, such as the plank. Side plank is also a great way to build upon these hidden muscles. The practice of yoga really helps to work your way up to these positions, as well as just generally building upon core strength and overall flexibility. Incorporating yoga into your daily life will assist in the prevention of running injury.
It is not just weak core muscles that can cause back pain, it can also be due to weak hips, glutes or hamstrings. Weakness in any of these pivotal body areas can cause the spine to pick up the slack of any of these muscles which will eventually cause pain or back spasms. Completing exercises daily that work these muscles will help to starve off lower back injury. These exercises include:
The Glute Bridge:
Lay flat on your back with your arms flat by your sides and your knees bent. Lift your hips until your body reaches a point that replicates a straight line from shoulders to knees. Hold this position for three seconds and then release back to a laying position.
Lie face down, with arms down by your sides. Squeeze your glutes as you raise your legs, arms, chest and head off the ground. Rotate arms so that your thumbs point towards the ceiling. Hold this position for thirty seconds.
Stability Ball Back Extension:
Lie facedown on the ball with it resting between on your core and with your feet on the floor and with core engaged. Place hands behind head, and lower body as far over the ball as possible, then squeeze glutes and lower back as you raise your torso until its in line with the bottom half of your body. Hold here briefly, then lower back into starting position.
Stability Ball Reverse Leg Raise:
Lie face down on the ball with your hips on the ball, hands on the floor with shoulders over wrists, and legs extended out straight, toes resting on floor. Keeping legs as straight as possible, engage glutes and lower back to lift legs until they are in line with your torso. Lower back down to the starting position.
By stretching and exercising adequately, the average runner should experience little to no lower back pain after running. If you continue to experience this pain after running it is important to identify what type of pain is occurring, whether it be muscular, or bone related.
Muscular back pain will be felt one or the other side of your lower back, through pain or through spasms. This will be felt more intensely when you twist or move your body. Bone related back pain is more likely to be felt as a general aching through the entirety of your lower back. A back roller is a great way to help assist in muscle related pain. By rolling out the back muscles you are relieving any tenseness and any spasming muscles. If all the stretches above do not assist in relieving your back pain, then an x-ray may assist in identifying the problem.
The most effective way in preventing lower back pain as a runner, is to work on strength. A strong kinetic chain, strong core muscles and overall strong muscles will decrease chances of injury and discomfort. Incorporate yoga, stretches and strengthening exercises into your daily life will assist in diverting back pain and will create general flexibility and agility in order to prevent any other bodily injuries. If these exercises and strengthening exercises do not help, physical therapy is a great way to work through bodily aches that can prevent you from running, such as lower back pain.