A little soreness after a good run is normal. Even some minor back pain isn’t too out of the ordinary, especially if it’s just a temporary inconvenience. Nonetheless, it never hurts to know what may be triggering the back pain you experience after running. Understanding what’s likely to cause such discomfort could help you determine the steps you’ll need to take to minimize the risk of being surprised by back pain after finishing a run.
1. Going Overboard
Running is an excellent form of cardiovascular exercise. However, it can also be a source of back pain if you push yourself too much or overdo it. If your goal is to increase your speed and endurance, gradually work yourself up to those goals. Stick to flat, even surfaces as much as possible to prevent back strain, and take a break if you start experiencing persistent or distracting pain.
2. Lack of Core Muscle Strength
A great deal of pressure is placed on the lower spine as you run. If your core muscles aren’t strong, you may be putting extra pressure on your backbone without realizing it. While working out between runs, pay attention to your hip muscles, especially the hamstrings and glutes, abdominal muscles, and side muscles (obliques). Be sure to maintain proper form as you work out to prevent another potential source of back pain.
3. Improper Running Form
Improper form can also have an impact on your running. For instance, excessively leaning forward places added pressure on the upper spine. When running, push up and off, make an effort to keep your head and shoulders aligned, maintain short, quick strides, keep your foot under your knee as it strikes the ground, and keep your elbows bent 90 degrees.
4. Not Drinking Enough Water
Not getting enough water could affect the discs in your spine enough to trigger back pain. Water also helps keep nutrients flowing to your spine and its nearby tissues. Don’t just grab some water before and after a run. Take a bottle with you to sip during your run, especially if it’s a hot and humid day.
5. Feet Not Striking the Ground Correctly
While it may not seem like there’s a connection, the way your feet hit the ground as you run can affect your spine. If you’re in the habit of striking the ground with your heel, you’re giving your spine more pressure to absorb as you run. It may take some time to get used to it, but switching to a forefoot strike pattern will be less stressful for your spine, especially if you already have occasional back pain. Also, invest in a good pair of supportive and comfortable running shoes.
Most of the time, the back pain experienced after a run will respond well to conservative treatments. One of the most effective remedies is the application of heat and ice. You may also benefit from getting into the habit of stretching before you run. Over-the-counter medications shouldn’t be taken long-term. Any pain that’s lingering should be evaluated by your doctor or a Santa Monica back surgeon to determine if there’s something that needs attention.
In some cases, back pain caused by running or other physical activities can progress and require a procedure such as spinal fusion surgery. Santa Monica patients who are seeking a solution for alleviating their pain should contact The Spine Institute today at 310-828-7757.