Do you suffer from back pain while running?
There are often alarming statistics quoted when it comes to Low Back Pain. One such statistic, produced by Datamonitor estimates that in 2010, that there were in the region of 55.7 million total prevalent cases of chronic low back pain reported in people aged 18 and over in the seven markets (the US, Japan, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the UK). It’s a real epidemic of modern living.
While active adults are thought to be less likely to suffer from chronic back pain than those in the sedentary population, us runners and triathletes are certainly not immune.
In fact, the repetitive nature of the movement patterns involved in endurance sports can greatly amplify the negative impact of soft tissue imbalances, movement dysfunctions or structural asymmetries leading to back pain. Just ask anybody who has suffered after a four hour bike ride on a poorly fitting bike!
The same can be said for running. Whether caused by a structural asymmetry, such as a leg length discrepancy, a movement dysfunction at the Sacroiliac Joint for example, or soft tissue imbalances around the hips and pelvis, running related low back pain can be both incredibly frustrating and debilitating when symptoms strike.
Causes of Back Pain in Runners
The possible underlying causes of low back pain in runners are greatly varied, too much so for this particular article. Instead, here are four of the common causes (far from an exhaustive list).
Four Common Causes of Low Back Pain In Runners
What About Core Stability & Core Strength?
Firstly we need to define what is meant by Core Strength and Core Stability. There are many definitions out there for these generic terms, many of which speak of providing stability to the lumbar spine through strengthening the deep and superficial abdominal muscles.
Consider the fact that the bony and ligamentous architecture of the lumbar spinal segments give them a good level of inherent stability. If your back pain stems from having truly unstable spinal vertebrae, such as in the case of a lumbar spondylolisthesis, being able to run is probably the least of your problems.
What we should instead be considering in terms of Core Strength and Stability is this:
Strength, stability and mobility, all in the right areas will allow your ‘core’ to maintain a neutral pelvic posture. in addition, having good functional thoracic motion, is going to also be a factor in enabling you to be more effective in keeping the lumbar spine in a neutral position through the motion of running.
While typical ‘core’ activities such as floor-based Pilates will be great for getting a ‘feel’ for the activation of the correct core muscle groups, the real focus for a runner should be to train these muscles to provide pelvic control through functional ranges of motion in load bearing positions.
N.B. For a specific diagnosis and identification of root causes for your back pain symptoms, I strongly suggest a visit to a Sports Physiotherapist with a good knowledge of running biomechanics in particular.
Exercises For Running Related Back Pain
As with all exercises we share on this website, if it hurts, stop!
We previously said that there are many different types and causes of back pain in runners. Not all of the exercises below will be appropriate in every case. The videos below serve instead as an example of some back rehab exercises.
Please do seek the help of a Physio to get specific advice for your injury.
Low Back, Thoracic & Hip Mobility Exercises
Glute Activation & Pelvic Stability