Runners and Back Pain

Back pain can occur as a result of many daily activities, from sitting in your chair wrong at work to lifting a heavy box. The pain may already be throwing a wrench into your workday, and  it could be exacerbated by your workout. For those who enjoy an active lifestyle, especially runners, exercise comes with a lot of stress and impact on your muscles. When running or jogging, back pain can actually become worse and lead to additional conditions. During a run, your joints and discs are compressed by the force of your body landing on each stride. If you’re experiencing back pain after a run, it’s important to be mindful of the serious conditions you could be developing and how to prevent them. If you can’t stay away from the running track, there are a number of tips and tricks to help your back pain. New Jersey’s Coastal Spine is here to help!

Common back injuries for runners

Strained/pulled muscles

When it comes to lower back pain, 70 percent of the population report issues, and runners are no different. Low back pain is actually the most common back condition for runners. Strong back muscles and ligaments are needed for keeping the spine upright and maintaining a good posture throughout a run. When your muscles become fatigued and strained, your back may feel dull and achy, sore to the touch, and stiff in motion. Sometimes, these sore back muscles will spasm, causing worse pain that affects your daily activities. It is even possible for the muscles to hit a nerve root and cause pain to radiate down the legs, known as sciatica.

Injured spine

Everytime you run, the spine’s vertebrae and intervertebral discs experience extra pressure. From this, a herniated disc or degenerative disc can occur.

  • Herniated disc: the vertebral discs in your spine act as shock absorbers between the spine’s vertebrae. When a disc is squeezed out of place, it is considered herniated and could bulge or rupture. The most common place for herniated discs is in the low back.
  • Degenerative disc: overtime, a disc’s firm outer layer weakens and can cause intervertebral discs to breakdown. By the age of 60, most people have some degree of disc degeneration, but not all experience pain.

Tips for preventing back pain

  • Thoroughly warm up before a run
  • Stretch your hamstrings throughout the day to minimize stress across the low back
  • Strengthen back muscles with exercises like these
  • Wear supportive shoes
  • Avoid running on cement, and try softer surfaces, like a rubber track or treadmill.

At-home remedies

Pain from benign muscle strains can be lessened by methods you can do in the comfort of your own home. Note: if pain persists for longer than a few weeks, it is best to see a doctor. Good ways to relieve lower back pain caused by muscle strain include:

  • Resting for a day or two before running again
  • Gentle stretching
  • Alternating ice and heat packs for 10 to 20 minutes at a time
  • Over-the-counter pain medication (i.e. Tylenol)
  • Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication (i.e. ibuprofen)

When to seek treatment

Typically, lower back pain caused by muscle strain will subside within two to three weeks. If your pain is lasting longer than that, or you’ve had an injury to the spine, it’s time to see a spine specialist to help your back pain. New Jersey’s Coastal Spine physicians are all board-certified and experts in their field. They are dedicated to finding an approach that works for you to get you back to normal activities as smoothly as possible.

Spine conditions like a herniated disc or a degenerative disc require treatment. When you have a herniated disc, your nerves can be inflamed by repetitive exercise. If you begin experiencing numbness, weakness, or pain in the leg, it’s important to see a doctor. Once diagnosed with a herniated disc, your doctor will advise you to stop running and recommend physical therapy or injections to relieve the pain. Over time, repetitive stress from running can cause your discs to degenerate. This mainly affects patients 40 to 60 years old. Again, a spine specialist will suggest you stop running if you’ve been diagnosed with a degenerative disc. However, there are core strengthening exercises that can alleviate symptoms of degenerative discs.

If you’re still not sure whether you should see a back pain specialist, our blog may help you decide.

When you’re in pain, getting back to your daily activities and exercise routine is your number one priority. Coastal Spine in New Jersey wants to help your back pain, so you can return to your normal life. If your pain has lasted longer than two weeks, it’s time to see the back pain specialists at Coastal Spine.

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