Can Running Cause Back Pain–An Answer to An Awesome Athlete
A friend of mine, when she was growing up, used to admire how people ran faster in the Olympics. Within a few minutes, they completed a distance which she says would have taken her an hour. I personally think she was being too hard on herself. In any case, she vowed to become a runner and a competitive one, so with time she started her training. It wasn’t an easy process but she was determined to fulfill her dream. However, one day she had lower back pain which even after treatment made her dreams of becoming a professional runner come to an end. She didn’t know that running could cause back pain. I ran track when I was in high school, but this post is not about me. It’s a tribute to a hard working, brave, and classy, athlete . Therefore the question is, can running cause back pain?
Yes, running can cause lower and upper back pain.
Running is a great way of exercising if you want to improve your cardiovascular fitness, build strong bones and strengthen your muscles. As you run you are burning a lot of calories, hence it is a good type of exercise when you want to lose weight and also maintain a healthy weight. People who have a passion for running feel that they are internally pressured to run and they can’t control the urge to run even when they are on vacation. They are better equipped to handle race day stress and have a positive mindset as they train. However, things do change when this passion causes back pain or any other kind of pain.
Running does put high levels of repetitive stress on the back and it affects the overall length of the spine. The most common type of pain is muscular pain and strain and the pain comes as an ache that generally materializes in the lower back muscles before, during, or after running but it doesn’t go to the buttocks or legs. The back ligaments and muscles which help keep the spine upright and maintain a good posture as you run may become strained and fatigued hence causing spasm and pain. The nerve roots are squeezed in such a way that the pain radiates to the legs or arms which makes one temporarily immobile. People who have a history of back pain will find that if they run or jog, then the pain intensifies or it leads to other pain such as sciatica which is leg weakness, pain, and numbness.
The pain in the upper back is usually painful and annoying and it appears in between the shoulder blades. Upper back pain is caused by not swinging your arms enough or swinging too much or the shoulders rising and becoming too tense when you get tired which creates a torque on the upper back. The change of pH in a particular region also causes pain and this happens because there is a buildup of lactic acid which makes nerves become sensitive to irritation.
Lower back pain is caused by various factors affecting the lower back and these include:
One cause of the back pain is the lack of hip mobility. Hip mobility is caused by tight hamstrings which cause the pelvis to be rotated too far backward or forward hence cause strain on the spine. The runners have reduced ability to flex their hips while their knee is straight because of the tight hip flexors and it causes stress when you try and extend it while running hence the pain.
Poor form and inappropriate core instability are also another cause of decreased hip mobility so a runner should be in proper form. Running requires one to have good core strength so that it supports the forces that are transmitted through the pelvis during the phase of weight bearing as you run. Doing corrective exercises will improve their posture and doing exercises such as wall squats, abdominal crunches or leg raises are good exercises to strengthen the core and back muscles.
Your running style and heel strike may cause you to have back pain. When you have an improper foot imbalance that will affect how you run. With poor technique and posture you can end up placing a lot of strain on the back. Pronated feet and ankles cause the feet to roll inwards . This can cause knock knee which in turn shifts the angle of the thigh bones, pelvis and eventually the spine. This causes poor alignment of the hips, legs, feet and spine as you run so it will cause a strain hence back pain.
Too much pressure
Runners are exposed to disc generation and sacral stress fracture because of the extensive running on hard surfaces which poses danger to the spinal column. The pressure also affects the spine vertebrae and intervertebral discs which can develop a back problem such as degenerative disc diseases, herniated disc or vertebral stress fractures.
Herniated discs occur when a disc is squeezed out of its original position and it pushes against the nerve root of the spine and it causes pain. Degenerative disease is the gradual breakdown of one or more intervertebral discs and there is the weakening of the disc and it becomes flatter, less flexible and offers less cushioning.
How much pain a runner experiences depends on the nature of the back injury and the individual runner. If you are constantly getting lower back pain after you run, then it is advisable to seek medical evaluation and early intervention before making the injuries worse
However, you don’t have to stop running if you have back pain. You can get shoes that have orthotics or insoles that have great support as you run. They will also correct your foot alignment. For example, if you over pronate it means that you have poor movement pattern of the hips so you will need to stabilize your hip as you run. Take time to heal first and then start slowly, gradually working your way up. Listen to your body and if the pain persists ,even if you have been treated , you will need to stop running.
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