Is Running Bad For Your Back

Is Running Bad For Your Back

It’s a known fact that some activity is good for you when you’re experiencing pain.

This is even the case when it comes to back pain. Your doctor is likely to recommend exercise to alleviate your discomfort.

But is running specifically bad for your back?

If you love to run, you might wonder if running is safe for back pain. Research has found that running doesn’t cause back problems – but it could make existing back problems worse.

That’s the finding reported by Runner’s Connect.

So, just how safe is running?

Here’s everything you need to know about it and how you can protect your back. 

Running When You Don’t Have Back Problems

Man Holding For Backs

They say you should do everything in moderation, even when it comes to activities you love.

If you run regularly, you might worry about your back health. The good news is that running can actually be good for your back!

In a study published in Scientific Reports, Australian researchers conducted a study in which they monitored a group of 79 women and men.

Two-thirds of the participants had been running for at least five years. The other people in the group didn’t exercise regularly.

By tracking their activity levels with accelerometers and making use of MRI scans, the researchers measured the participants’ spinal discs and found that the runners’ spinal discs were bigger and had more fluid in them.

This indicated that they had less pain and more flexibility than the study participants who rarely exercised.

Why Do You Get Back Pain When Running? 

Running On Asphalt

Although running can promote back health, there might be times when you experience back pain after running.

You’ve probably heard that doing too much exercise can backfire, and it’s true. Instead of being beneficial for your health, too much exercise can be bad for you.

Unfortunately for runners, this is also the case when it comes to running.

That’s why moderation is key and not overdoing a running exercise regime if you’re not used to it can help you prevent injury.

But there’s something else that you should consider when it comes to running and back pain: it’s not uncommon for runners with healthy backs to experience back pain.

If this happens to you, you might worry that you’ve done something wrong or hurt your back.

Here are some things to consider if you’re experiencing pain in your back after going for a run.

  • Your back plays a big role in your running. It has to remain vertical and work with the rest of your body to keep you moving. So, while you might think that your knees and legs are taking all the toll, your back could be too. This is especially the case if you don’t have a strong core.
  • There’s a big connection between your back and core. The strength of your core plays an important role in protecting your lower back when you run. Core muscles support your spine. If you don’t have enough core strength in your abdomen muscles, your back ends up carrying the load, which is why you can feel pain in this area after going for a run. A similar situation happens when you have weak legs that lack coordination. These can put unnecessary pressure on your back.
  • Your upper back can also be affected. It’s not just your lower back that can experience pain from a run. If you experience pain in your upper back, this could be because you’re not maintaining good posture and a good head position while running. You might be pushing your head forward when you run which ends up putting excess pressure on your upper back. On the other hand, if your arms are held high or tight when you run, this places tension on your shoulders and all the way up to your ears, which strains your upper back too, as Runtastic reports.

How To Keep Your Back Strong And Pain-Free

Man Showing How To Run Properly

There are some important things you can do to maintain a healthy back when you run and prevent pain.

For starters, you should work on having the right running form.

Here are some tips for maintaining the right form:

  • Keep your head upright so that your ears are in line with your shoulders.
  • Pull your shoulders back so that you don’t hunch over.
  • Keep your arms at a 90-degree angle.
  • Wear the right shoes. Always replace your running shoes before they start to suffer wear and tear, as shoes that don’t offer your feet the right support can put a strain on your back. It’s also a good idea to run on softer surfaces, not just on the tarmac as it’s kinder on your muscles and joints.
  • Keep your eyes focused straight ahead. Don’t tilt or bend your chin downwards. If you have a tendency to look down, such as when running on the road to be sure you don’t make a misstep, it could be better to run somewhere safer or where you feel more comfortable so you don’t have to look down.

Work On Improving Your Strength

Running form aside, you should work on your flexibility and strength, with a special focus on your core muscles.

Also, work on your legs so that they’ll be strong enough to keep your body supported when you engage in running.

When your body is strong, this will make running a healthier and safer activity.

Do Back-Friendly Exercises

Some exercises are great for preventing back pain and injury when running. These include planks and stability ball back extensions.

While you might think regular core-focused exercises, such as sit-ups, might work to strengthen your core, they don’t target your deep core enough, as Shape explains.

That’s why it’s important to focus on exercises that require you to hold your core in a secure and stable position, such as planks and bridges on a balance disc. Aim to do these regularly.

Is Running With Back Pain After An Injury Bad? 

Woman Relaxing After Running

If you’ve recently experienced a back injury, should you run or can this make your back pain worse?

Even though you know that physical activity can be good for your body to heal itself, running can put too much pressure on your back if you’ve recently experienced an injury.

If you’ve had a muscle sprain or strain, you need to give your back a chance to heal, so it’s in your best interest to stay away from running for two to three weeks, and then ease back into it, as Healthline reports.

While running is an activity that generally isn’t harmful to your back, there are things that can make it a sore point.

These include poor form when running and not having a strong core, both of which can put pressure on the back and result in pain or injury.

In addition, running with back pain isn’t advised as this can make the problem worse. In such situations, alternatives to running are your best bet until your back heals.

A good idea is to walk instead of run until your body heals. This will help you reap exercise benefits without putting too much pressure on your back.

When To Go To The Doctor For Back Pain

Doctor And Patient

If you find that you get pain in your back every time you run, then that could be a sign that there’s something else going on in your back.

You might, for instance, be suffering from a herniated disc or degenerative disc disease.

So, if your back pain is consistent after you run, even after you’ve tried to correct your form, it’s a good idea to consult with your doctor so that you can get to the bottom of it.

Related Questions

Is it better to run barefoot?

Although running barefoot has been shown to improve your balance and strength, it’s not advisable.

As The Washington Post reports, barefoot running has many risks.

These include not offering your feet protection while also increasing the amount of stress placed on your body’s lower extremities.

Should you stretch before a run?

Stretching before running is important to keep your muscles supple so as to prevent injury.

It also prevents Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness that can occur after running and causes muscle soreness and aching.


If you love to run on a regular basis, the presence of back pain can be a nuisance because it keeps you away from your hobby or favorite exercise.

It’s good to know that running can’t cause back problems but it can worsen any back problems that you’re currently dealing with.

If you’ve recently suffered a back injury or surgery, it’s time to give yourself some TLC before hitting the tarmac again.

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