Exercise, such as running, can help you keep fit and active, but what if it’s painful?

Running is a popular form of exercise for many people who want to keep fit, but it involves repetitive impact on the joints which can cause back pain, especially in the lower back. If you already suffer from lower back pain, running may make it worse, or lead to other types of pain, such as sciatica (leg pain, weakness and numbness).

Muscle strain

One of the more common types of pain from running is a muscular strain, which can appear as a spasm or ache in your lower back. This type of pain doesn’t travel into the legs or buttocks. Resting, heat or cold therapy, and stretching are some self-care measures that may help relieve muscle strain. If the pain is not alleviated by these measures after two to three weeks, there may be a more serious problem.

Disc problems

Sometimes, back pain can be a  sign of a spinal problem, such as degenerative disc disease (DDD), or a herniated disc. Your discs are your lower back’s ‘shock absorbers’; over time, running can cause a high level of stress on these, which can make existing or developing back problems worse. DDD occurs when the disc gradually loses that shock absorbing quality due to wear-and-tear, or injury. A herniated disc is one that has begun to bulge or rupture, which puts pressure on the surrounding nerves.

If you notice that you have ongoing lower back pain after a run, whether it’s muscular or structural, check with a health professional to help diagnose any problems and provide the correct treatment. Running injuries should be treated early before they worsen.

After diagnosis and treatment is in place, some preventative measures may help alleviate pain and discomfort in your legs and lower back:

  • Warm up before a run
  • Stretch your hamstrings
  • Wear comfortable and supportive running shoes
  • Avoid running on hard surfaces such as concrete
  • Incorporate muscle toning, strength training and cross-training

See your chiropractor for advice and treatment on how to get you back on track and enjoying your run with minimal, or no pain.