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Navigating The Link Between Running And Back Pain

For many runners and marathon enthusiasts, including those who have recently completed the prestigious Boston Marathon, back pain can become a significant barrier, not just physically but also emotionally.

Missing out on your favorite activity because of injuries that can be fixed or even prevented is not an option.

The relationship between running and back pain is not something that is obvious on the surface level, but is actually very complex and interlinked, influenced by factors such as running form, footwear, and individual biomechanics.

This blog delves into why back pain occurs in runners, the types of back pain commonly experienced, and offers strategic advice on alleviating and preventing this discomfort to keep you running strong and not sitting on the sidelines.

Understanding The Connection Between Running And Back Pain

Back pain in runners can manifest in various forms, often stemming from incorrect alignment or posture, which leads to compensatory patterns causing pain in the hips and back.

Here are common types of back pain encountered by runners:

  1. Muscular Strain: Often due to overuse or improper form, leading to muscle fatigue and strain.

  2. Lumbar Pain: Typically involves the lower back, where mechanical stress is most pronounced during running.

  3. Sciatica: Irritation of the sciatic nerve, which can cause pain radiating from the lower back down to the legs.

  4. Disc-Related Issues: Such as herniated or bulging discs, exacerbated by repetitive impact and poor core support.

Running involves the entire kinetic chain, from your feet striking the ground to the alignment of your spine.

When there's an issue at any point in this chain, such as improper foot alignment or ankle instability, it can set off a series of compensatory movements that affect the entire body, highlighting the interconnected nature of our musculoskeletal system.

The Role of Foot and Ankle Alignment in Back Pain

The feet and ankles form the base of our kinetic chain, absorbing the impact with each step during a run.

When there's an alignment issue, such as overpronation (excessive inward roll of the foot) or supination (outward roll), it can lead to uneven weight distribution.

This misalignment forces the knees and hips to adjust their positions to compensate, which puts abnormal stress on the lower back.

Compensation Patterns and Their Impact

These compensatory patterns disrupt the natural biomechanics of running.

For instance, if one foot tends to overpronate, it can lead to an asymmetrical hip alignment, tilting the pelvis.

This tilt puts uneven pressure on the spine, leading to muscle imbalances and strain in the lower back.

Over time, these adjustments can strain not only the back muscles but also the ligaments and discs, leading to pain and discomfort that can become chronic if not addressed.

The Importance of Addressing Lower Kinetic Chain Issues

Understanding and correcting lower kinetic chain issues are crucial for preventing and alleviating back pain.

Runners should pay close attention to the signs of improper foot and ankle alignment and seek expert guidance to correct these issues early.

Simple interventions such as orthotics, proper footwear, and targeted exercises can realign the lower extremities, improve overall running mechanics, and reduce the risk of back pain.

By addressing these foundational aspects of running form and ensuring that the feet and ankles are properly aligned and supported, runners can enjoy a smoother stride and minimize the risk of compensatory injuries that lead to back pain.

This proactive approach not only enhances running efficiency but also safeguards long-term spinal health, allowing athletes to continue pursuing their passion for running without being held back by preventable injuries.

Tips to Alleviate and Prevent Back Pain in Running

  • Strengthening Your Core: A strong core is essential for stabilizing the lower back, reducing the burden on the spinal structures during running. Incorporating exercises like planks, bridges, and abdominal workouts can enhance your core strength, providing better support for your back.

  • Improving Flexibility and Mobility: Tight muscles, especially in the hips and hamstrings, can pull on the lower back and alter running mechanics. Regular stretching and mobility exercises can improve flexibility, reduce tightness, and enhance overall running form.

  • Optimal Running Techniques: Maintaining proper running form is crucial. Avoid overstriding and ensure your foot lands directly under your body. This reduces the impact on your back and distributes forces more evenly across the musculoskeletal system.

  • Appropriate Footwear: The right running shoes can make a significant difference. Shoes that provide adequate support and fit your gait pattern can prevent abnormal stresses that lead to back pain. Consider getting professionally fitted for running shoes, particularly if you have a unique foot structure or gait.

  • Regular Physical Therapy Assessments: Working with a physical therapist can provide tailored advice and interventions to prevent back pain. A therapist can assess your running form, identify biomechanical issues, and create a personalized program to strengthen and protect your back.

Take Action Against Running-Induced Back Pain

The journey from pain to performance doesn't have to be a solo run.

At Ascent Physical Therapy, we're dedicated to helping runners like you overcome back pain and achieve optimal performance.

By understanding the causes of your pain and implementing effective prevention and treatment strategies, you can continue to thrive in your running without discomfort.

Start Your Pain-Free Running Journey Today

Are you ready to leave back pain behind and improve your running performance?

We offer a free 30-minute in-office consultation to get you started on the path to recovery.

Alternatively, if you're not local or prefer to start remotely, take advantage of our free telephone consultations.

Here's what you can expect:

Don't let back pain keep you from the activities you love.

Contact us at Ascent Physical Therapy today and take the first step towards a healthier, more active life. Let us help you run stronger and pain-free.

Call us at 516-387-0053 or visit our website to schedule your consultation.

Whether it's improving your sports performance, enjoying pain-free playtime with your kids, or simply living without pain, we're here to guide you every step of the way.

Don't hesitate to reach out to us with one of our FREE options so that you can continue tackling the tracks without discomfort and with confidence in every stride.

Other Free Resources For Running and Back Pain

If you don't feel you're quite ready to come into our North Massapequa NY clinic, we have even more free resources for runners.

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