For anyone who is suffering from back pain, running is the last activity they imagine doing because it is believed to aggravate the problem. While there is some truth in that, it is purely based on one’s individual back pain diagnosis. In other words, it is highly recommended that you go for a checkup to find out what is causing your back pain before you decide to start any type of treatment, or begin a running program.
When You Shouldn’t Run With Back Pain
For a better understanding of when running is or isn’t advisable if you have a backache, you must first know of the two primary types of back pain one can experience – mechanical back pain and structural back pain. The former means that the structure of your spine is normal and therefore, the pain in your back is likely caused by other factors such as poor posture, spasms, a herniated disc, trauma, etc. On the other hand, deformities in the spine or other structural problems can lead to back pain which generally worsens with certain physical or strenuous activities. Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, it is not advisable to run if you are experiencing structural back pain.
How Running Can Help Alleviate Back Pain
Running is a great way to strengthen your spine; therefore, if you are a runner, your chances of developing back pain that is caused by spinal problems are slimmer than non-runners. This is because the spongy discs that are located between the vertebrae are generally bigger and healthier in individuals who run on a regular basis as opposed to those who lead a sedentary lifestyle.
Another way in which running can help you do away with back pain is by shedding excess weight and maintaining a good fitness level that reduces stress on the spine. It also helps you build a stronger core which is very important for the surrounding muscles to support the spine. A weak back and core are common causes of low back pain which can lead to lifelong problems with your back if not addressed while you are physically capable of improving your spinal health and fitness.
Lastly, it may come as a surprise but your level of pain can be reduced when your body releases endorphins. This is because these “feel-good” chemicals bring about a sense of well-being and trick your brain into sending your body signals that manage mental stress and pain in the body. Running is an activity that is well-known for releasing endorphins almost immediately, thus helping to rid your body of back pain.
Tips to Benefit From Running With Back Pain
It should be noted that if you are not careful, you could end up worsening your back pain and other related symptoms when running. Unlike a healthy, pain-free body that can just up and go (with the right approach and gear), back pain sufferers must tweak their running program and keep a few important tips in mind to eliminate the risk of injury to their already painful back region.
If you are experiencing mechanical back pain and would like to use running as a means of alleviating the pain while enjoying the many other benefits of this activity, take a look at the tips below to ensure that you are doing it safely.
Warm Up Carefully
Regardless of what exercise, workout, or physical activity you are doing, warm-ups are essential for reducing the risk of injuries, sprains, strains, etc. Apart from stretching which can be performed freely or with yoga poses, it is important to engage your lower back muscles, abs, and leg muscles in your warm up session before you go on a run. Another useful tip is to ease into the run with a walk that gradually progresses to a jog before you begin running.
Gradually Decrease Activity Post-Run
After a run, it is not advisable to sit idle immediately as your back is more likely to feel sore with a sudden drop in physical activity. Instead, as you are coming to the end of your run, transition to jogging and then walking for a few minutes. Post-run stretching of the lower back muscles is another integral part of the process when looking to minimise the chance of injury.
Wear the Right Shoes
The wrong running shoes can lead to under/over-pronation, as well as other ill effects which alter your gait/stride, and interfere with your balance and mobility. All of these factors can put unwanted strain on your lower back and worsen or cause pain in that region. If you are unsure of what type of running shoes are best-suited for your feet, consult with a podiatrist or running trainer for assistance.
Keep Your Form in Check
Form is very important when performing any physical activity as it can either decrease or increase the amount of strain placed on your back and other muscle groups. When running, a few good tips to improve your form include relaxing your shoulders and pushing them back in a natural position that corrects your posture; swinging your arms back and forth on either sides of your body as opposed to moving them across your chest; and sticking to a stride and pace that feels comfortable instead of stretching your legs forward to the point where the strain can be felt in your lower back.
As long as you are taking measures to prevent aggravating your back pain or injuring yourself, running will grace you with a multitude of benefits that include getting rid of a nagging backache. For professional assistance in alleviating back pain with non-invasive treatments such as chiropractic care, physiotherapy, dry needling, and massage therapy, contact MSK Therapy for a consultation today!