Running injuries are not required, but they do happen for a couple of very common reasons. One of which is tight muscles, the other is poor form and both could be causing lower back pain while running.
Unfortunately, stats show over 31 million Americans experience lower back pain, which means it’s not unusual for runners to mention it. This often leads people to believe that running might be the cause.
We’re doing to breakdown treating lower back pain as a runner through ways we can adjust our training, treatment tips and tools to manage any current issues and prevent it from recurring.
Lower Back Pain While Running
If you’ve finished runs and found your lower back feeling tight, it’s time to make a few changes because it’s not something that you need to live with.
What Causes Lower Back Pain While Running
As with all running injuries there could be a variety of reasons that you’re feeling pain, but there are some super common culprits that are fixable! Here are 5 potential causes to see which might be your issue, then we’ll move on to resolving them.
This one surprises many people, but it’s often where running form breaks down the most.
- we start to puff our chest out in trying to stand tall
- as a result we actually tilt our pelvis forward
- this pushes the butt back
That puts a lot of strain on the lower back, which means the muscles could feel tight or overworked when you finish the run. This is one that I learned I was in fact doing during a running gait analysis!
The second place that our running form causes issues is when we over stride, which means the foot is landing in front of the body. We want the foot to land directly under our body.
When we are trying to run faster or get tired, we tend to stretch our legs in front of us which puts extra strain on all kinds of muscles through repetitive stress and impact
As a result of overstriding and sitting all day long, many runners have tight quads.
That tightness once again results in a forward tilt to your pelvis, also called an anterior pelvic tilt. You might simple know you have tight quads because you feel them, but what about the tilt?
- Try standing in front of a mirror and flexing your shoulders forward and back first
- By exaggerating the movement it’s often easier to then find the middle ground
- Next exaggerate the push back of your butt (think Kardashian) and then forward
Watch this video for some guidance on how to do the above and find the natural spot you want your pelvis to be. While running, you can check in to see if you are in fact pushing that bum out and back.
Tight Hip Flexors
Another common issue for runners is tight hip flexors, which again is something that largely occurs due to sitting all day. But it’s gotten worse recently because many runners have added Peloton biking to the mix, which is still more sitting.
Tight hip flexors once again are pulling that pelvis and placing lots of strain on your low back
Long Run Fatigue
The final issue that causes issues is the fatigue that occurs as we run longer and longer distances.
At that point our form starts to breakdown and if we have not consistently done core work, then our body begins working too hard to stabilize the hips as we leap from foot to foot.
How To Avoid Lower Back Pain While Running
The great news is that a lot of the issues we mentioned have solutions that make preventing back pain no big deal! You don’t need a crazy new program, just a few tweaks.
Sports medicine always reminds us that things don’t change overnight. So remember that it’s going to take a few weeks or even a month for your body to release the tightness and maintain the new better posture.
Increase Your Cadence
One way to prevent overstriding and thus tight quads is through working on cadence.
By thinking about increasing the speed of turn over, you are more likely to land under your body. This is actually a more efficient stride, prevents other injuries
Yoga for Runners
Undoing the effects of sitting all day can certainly be done with some great hip flexor stretches.
But you’ll get some incredible benefits by doing yoga as it’s a combination of both flexiblity and strength, which will help improve range of motion.
- Try getting up more throughout the day to prevent some tightness.
- Do a good dynamic warm up before running to release tension.
- Try adding in yoga once a week or the hip flexor stretches a few times a week.
- Do not do static stretches before a run EVER. This will increase injury risk.
Building a Strong Core
Core muscles help to keep the body in alignment.
If you have pelvic tilt of any kind from tightness in other areas it will be worse if the core can’t fully support your movement. This means strong hips, glutes and abs.
- Checkout this 30 Core Challenge – 10 minutes a day to resolve those back issues
- Be consistent with doing core work and you’ll also prevent hip, knee and ankle injuries
- A strong core will improve your endurance and ensure back muscles aren’t overworked
One of the things that’s helped stop my running injuries is consistently getting a sports massage.
They will find the areas of tightness and dig in to help release that tension.
This is not the same as a nice relaxing massage, though I do find it relaxing…there are going to be moments when they find your super tight glute and it’s like YEOW. But I’ve found that I can’t get as deep to release these areas with a foam roller or even a massage gun.
- Massage guns can help to relax tight muscles
- Foam follers are great to help with tight quads and hip flexors
- Sports massage will often find the root spot causing tightness in other areas and help to release it
Lumbar Support Belt
Most runners won’t need to go to this extent, but especially pregnant runners might find it beneficial. And when you are trying to get going initially with a strained low back, you might find some relief with Kinesiology Tape.
- RockTape placed with no stretch along the low back can tell the muscles to relax
- RockTape is easier to move in and doesn’t feel so constricting
- Belly Bandit is great for active moms to be, it will provide extra support from the weight you are carrying in the front that’s pulling on the body.
Dealing with other running injuries? These tips might help:
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