Why Some Runners Have Lower Back Problems

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While there may be some differing opinions on the subject, running is one of the best feelings in the world. It’s freeing, it’s great exercise, and it can be done just about anywhere in the world. For those that are in the world of running, it means something unique to each runner. Common triumphs and shortcomings exist, of course, but it also offers a sense of teamwork when it’s most needed. One of the not-so-good issues runners can get saddled with is lower back problems. These can be short-term or long-term and can have a variety of impacts on a runner’s dedication to their craft. Keep reading to find out more about it.

Common Reasons Why Runners Have Lower Back Problems

Just like general back pain, there can be a series of reasons that lower back pain may pop up with runners. Some are more common than others, and some are more severe than others. All pain, whether minor and more serious, should be taken seriously. “Walking it off” like some people tend to do, may result in more serious problems down the road. Proper care and monitoring should always be in place. Common reasons include:

  • A pulled muscle – The most common reasons for lower back pain is a pulled muscle. This could be from stretching too vigorously, combining various workouts together that lead to too much focus on a particular muscle group, or more. If you get lower back pain when running, this is typically the most common reason. While this is considered minor, it should still be treated as serious. Pain is pain, after all.
  • Too much impact on joints – Joints can only take so much, even if you are very careful and slowly introduce your body to running. Unless you have a perfect medical history with no record of joint issues in your family, sometimes there can simply be too much impact on your joints and this can cause back pain when running. This is can be true whether you are just starting out, or even if you are an experienced runner.


  • Stretched ligaments or tendons – A more serious pain issue could be the result of a torn or stretched tendon or ligament. This results in a sharper kind of pain that you should be able to distinguish from traditional muscle pain. This occurs because a ligament or tendon is over-extended, and you’ll start to feel it in the back when this happens.
  • Herniated lumbar disc – Arguably a serious condition, this occurs when the soft center of a lumbar disc weakens, the jelly center is going to leak out and irritate the roots of your nerve, causing back pain. This will irritate the area even further and cause it to swell up. More information on herniated discs.
    Please note that these are the most common reasons. There could be other reasons why you are experiencing back pain and the only real way to determine the root cause is to consult your doctor/health care practitioner as soon as possible.

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    Things You Can Do To Get Relief

    The good news is that there are plenty of things that you can look at doing to help ease the pain, regardless of the kind of pain that it is. Such as:

    • Get some much needed rest – Take a break from running for a while. We know that it’s easier said that done, but still very important. Start by taking a week or so off to allow your body to heal and repair any damage – no matter how seemingly small your pain level is. Your body will be stronger for it, and you’ll be able to hit the pavement to enjoy your activities. If after a week it isn’t better, then consider taking more time off.
    • Alternate heat/ice therapy – Another common way to help with pain is alternating between heat and ice packs. Depending on the kind of pain that your’e having, you’ll find one more beneficial than the other. For example, with muscle pulls are involved, heat packs tend to be more helpful since they open up the veins and promote blood flow. For something like a disc issue where the area is irritated, a cold therapy wrap (as seen below) will probably be more soothing, as it will help dull the swelling as much as possible.
    • Gentle StretchingGentle stretching and slow, careful exercise can also help when it comes to pain management when you have lower back problems. The emphasis here is, of course, on gentle. This can help keep your body accustomed to movement, it just won’t need to repair any new damage.
    • Over the counter pain medication – Keep this as the last option as much as possible (and always check with your doctor before). This can help when the pain is keeping you from doing your regular daily activities or keeping you up at night. These can be used regularly, or just when needed during the healing process.


    Long-term Effects When Pain is Ignored

    As we mentioned earlier, it’s important to deal with the pain as it happens, and not ignore it. Why? Simply because the long-term effects could end up being much worse than the original pain. For example, when you have a simple and “not too bad” muscle tear or soreness, walking it off with careful exercise (like mentioned above) could be beneficial. But, if it’s a serious muscle pain or a tendon or ligament issue, this can actually do more damage. Long-term effects start with the idea that your back won’t get a chance to heal one injury without moving on to another one. This means your body will be working overtime to try and help you recover, which may lead to more injury. It’s a vicious cycle.
    When it comes to a tendon or ligament issue, running without allowing it to heal means that you could eventually snap or otherwise permanently injure your tendon/ligament. This is extremely painful and leads to all sorts of problems in your daily life. Ignoring pain within your disc means that you could have serious alignment and back problems that will need to be fixed surgically, leading to medical expenses and a long recovery time that doesn’t guarantee you can ever run again.
    What it all comes down to is that your body is telling you that the reason you have lower back problems is because you overdid at some point or you just plain hurt yourself. Give it time to heal, and you’ll be back at it before you know it.
    Disclaimer – We are not medical professionals here at SimplyJnJ. The information posted today on Why Some Runners Have Lower Back Problems was for informational purposes only. Please consult your doctor if you are experiencing any sort of pain.
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