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 the benefits and risks of running when you have back problems and how you can protect your back. 

Running When You Don’t Have Back Problems

Man Holding For Backs

It is generally wise to do everything in moderation, even when it comes to activities you love. 

If you run regularly, you might worry how this impacts your long term 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 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 using MRI scans, the researchers measured the participants’ spinal discs correlated to activity levels and found that the runners’ spinal discs were healthier and had more fluid in them. 

The runner group had less pain and more flexibility than those study participants who rarely exercised, indicating that running as an activity, when done with proper moderation, can be good for your back health.

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 overdoing exercise can backfire, and that is true. You can reach the point where too much exercise can actually be bad for you. 

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

That’s why moderation is key and not overdoing a running program 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 injured 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 hold you vertical and work with the rest of your body to keep you moving forward. So, while you might think that your knees and legs are taking most of the stress, your back is also. This is especially the case if you don’t have a strong core.
  • There’s a big connection between your back and your core. The strength of your core muscles 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 abdominal muscles, your back ends up carrying too much of 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 and lack lower extremity stability and coordination. This also puts unnecessary pressure on your back.
  • Your upper back and neck 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 or neck, this could be because you’re not maintaining good stable 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 neck. On the other hand, if your arms are held too high or tight when you run, this places tension in your shoulders all the way up to your skull, which puts even more strain on your upper back and neck.

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. 
  • Imagine you have a hook on the top of your head that is pulling you straight up. This will keep your head in line with your spine and legs.
  • Pull your shoulders back so that you aren’t hunched over.
  • Keep your arms at a 90-degree angle.
  • Wear the right shoes. Make sure your running shoes fit comfortably and replace your them before they show signs of excessive suffer wear and tear, as shoes that don’t provide adequate support can put a strain on your back. It’s also a good idea to run on softer surfaces, not just on concret as it’s easier 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

Besides running form, you should work on your flexibility and strength, with a special focus on building your core muscles. 

Also, work on your leg strength so they are able to keep your body stable and supported as you run. 

When your overall body strength improves running is 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 more traditional exercises, such as sit-ups, might work to strengthen your core, they actually put too much stress on your back and are not optimal for safely strengthening your core muscles. 

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 ball.

Do these stabilizing exercises regularly and you’ll likely begin to notice your back pain improving when you run.

Is Running With Back Pain After An Injury Bad? 

Woman Relaxing After Running

If you’ve recently experienced a back injury, should you continue to 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 generally best to stay away from running for two to three weeks, and then to ease back into it slowly over another two to three weeks.

While running is an activity that generally isn’t harmful to your back, there are things that can cause problems. 

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.

Rather than continuing to run with back pain, you should try alternatives to maintain your strength and cardiovascular health as your back heals. 

It’s a good idea is to start out walking and build back to running slowly as your body heals. This will help you reap the benefits of some exercise without putting too much pressure on your back.

You can also try other exercises to slowly rebuild your back and core strength after an injury, such as swimming or short stints on a stationary bicycle.

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, that may be a sign that there’s something more serious 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 find our for certain what is causing the pain.

Related Questions

Is it better to run barefoot?

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

These include not offering your feet protection and 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 loose and supple to prevent injury. 

It also prevents Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, also known as DOMS, that can occur after running and leads to muscle soreness and aching.

Conclusion

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

It’s good to know that while running doesn’t typically cause back problems, it can worsen any existing problems that you’re dealing with. If you’ve recently suffered a back injury or had surgery, it’s time to give yourself some rest before hitting the road again. As with any activity, common sense and moderation should guide your return to running.

Listen to your body and slowly increase your running activity until you are pain free and back to running as much as you want.

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