Running is a high impact activity that can lead to or exacerbate back pain. Every time your feet hit the ground, the shock is transferred up your legs to your hips and spine. With this kind of repetitive impact, sometimes over long periods of time, it can inevitably lead to back pain, especially in your lower back.
There are a variety of different reasons that runners get back pain, which we will briefly go through. It could be something as simple as you having flat feet. If there’s a tendency for your foot to tilt towards the middle of your body, you may experience back pain as a result. You may even get back pain when you’re running because one of your legs is ever so slightly shorter than the other or your pelvis is a little uneven.
While muscle strain is the most common cause of back pain for runners, muscles can be pulled due to the imbalance of an uneven leg length or pelvis. If you think this might be the case with you then visit your GP who will be able to recommend what to do next. If the pain in our back is not muscular then it could be the result of something structural such as a herniated disc.
If you’re out running or jogging, you will be putting repetitive stress and impact on your spine that can damage the shock absorbing discs between your vertebrae. A herniated disc, where the disc itself has started to bulge or rupture, will begin to put pressure around a nerve.
If you have a herniated disc then it can become inflamed by repetitive exercise such as running and these symptoms may progress to sciatica, which is a pain down the leg associated with numbness and tingling. Pain such as this should be quickly evaluated by a GP or spine specialists, who will more than likely tell you to stop running or jogging for the time being.
If you have sciatica, where your disc is impinging on a nerve, it may be recommended to you that you have surgery during which a small fragment of disc is removed away from the nerve. While of course you will have to stop running in the short term or at the very least change to a lower impact form of exercise, this surgery is known to be successful and most people return to athletic activity in time.
Degenerative disc disease, which occurs when the disc loses some of its cushioning/shock absorbing capacity and spondylolisthesis, when one vertebra slips onto the other, can also be exacerbated by running. Symptoms of both conditions can be alleviated by core strengthening and by wearing a supportive brace such as the BACK Back Brace.