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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Running Induced Back Pain

For the past couple of months I've been dealing with dull back pain after my runs. It hasn't gotten worse, but it hasn't gotten better either...until just a few days ago. In case any of you are experiencing the same thing, I thought I'd share my experience with you and hopefully it will help alleviate your pain.

At first I wasn't sure what was the cause until I noticed that I didn't have any pain on my "off" days. So the dull pain was directly related to my running. From a physical therapy point of view, my immediate thoughts were that my core muscles must be weak or tight so I needed to do some stretching and strengthening. Maybe...although all through the winter months I did a lot of core work after my treadmill runs. Hmmm, so what have I done differently lately that would cause this? Two things came to mind.

1 - I started my training outside a couple months ago and have been incorporating a lot of hills. The biomechanics of running up hills and at unusual angles leads to postural changes which demands greater stress on your back muscles. Obviously I'm experiencing some muscular strain and I think this is the culprit. Living at the base of a mountain range makes running hills unavoidable (plus I like them) but now when I'm attacking one I focus on my posture and then make sure to stretch AFTER my run when my muscles are warm. Plus, I could have been better at introducing the hills more progressively. I'll keep that in mind next spring. Here's some great things to remember when running hills.

  • You will run slower going uphill, so slow the pace down as best as possible, don't push your pace or even try to attack the hill by going real fast.
  • Shorten your stride, which by not pumping your arms as hard, actually will happen subconsciously... its weird how that works, but it does.
  • Keep good form, especially by keeping your back straight. posture, posture, posture.
  • When going downhill, lean forward and keep the short strides. If you lean back and try to break yourself, you'll kill your quads. (1)
2 - I'm horrible at staying adequately hydrated. I've always been bad at this. I was thinking back to my high school years the other day and I can't even remember having water breaks during soccer or track practice. Well, 12 years later the bad habit still exists. So I have to make a conscience effort to keep a water bottle by my side. Better yet, I also keep a cup by all my sinks at home so when I'm in that room I fill it up and take a swig. This has helped immensely! Dehydration is a common denominator in muscle soreness, spasms, and cramps and is so easily avoidable! How much water do you specifically need in a day? Visit this website to plug in your weight, exercise time, and environmental conditions to see your daily water requirement.

Changing a few of my bad habits and adding a few good ones has alleviated my back pain and now I can more fully enjoy my runs knowing that I won't be achin' for the rest of the day.



Glenn Jones said...

I was jUst reading about this in Chi Running last night. Your advice is right on! Also, a lot of people slouch while running- your example of weak core.

Keep up the good work!

Amanda - RunToTheFinish said...

you might consider seeing a chiro, they can help make sure your whole body is in alignment. It can definitely get off with running.

Form is a huge thing to keep your back from hurting