The Southeastern Spine Institute

Running involves high-impact and repetitive stress for long periods of time. And when your lower back feels strained, it can be an indication of overuse and stress — or a more serious problem. Unfortunately, it’s often due to your running schedule. While it may be your first instinct to keep moving through the pain, disregarding back pain can lead to greater problems.

Running with back pain stresses your joints and discs, as well as the muscles and tendons that support your structure. Back pain can develop from improper lifting or standing. You can also feel pain from running too far or too long without proper warm-up. Anytime you develop an injury that seems more than mere muscle soreness, a visit to your specialist at the Southeastern Spine Institute (SSI) gets you back in running shape much quicker than pushing through the pain.

What Low Back Pain Means

Ranging in severity from muscle strain to more serious structural concerns, your low back pain may indicate:

  • Muscle strain
  • Tendon tears
  • Herniated disc
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Sciatica

With proper self-care, muscle strains and tendon tears resolve relatively quickly. Conditions involving compromised discs or sciatica may result in the need for altered exercise regimens. Sciatica is a condition that causes inflammation of the nerves running from your low back down your leg. You may experience pain, numbness, weakness or tingling — and repetitive impacts aggravate the inflammation.

Self-Care Measures for Running with Back Pain

When it comes to your back, pain usually means it’s time to take a break. Runners typically don’t want to hear this. But taking care of your back now with patience may mean the difference between getting back into your running shoes and having to hang them up for good. Good self-care includes:

  • Rest anywhere from a day to three weeks, as long as it takes
  • Cold packs or ice for 10 to 20 minutes at a time, several times a day
  • Heat therapy or moist heat to loosen tight, constricted muscles
  • Gentle stretching, preferably after heat therapy and before any kind of activity
  • Over-the-counter medication such as acetaminophen for pain and ibuprofen for inflammation

If your pain continues after three weeks, call your doctor at SSI to determine if more serious conditions should be addressed. At the same time, if you have a history of back problems or have recently undergone a procedure, let your doctor know right away if you have back pain again.

Exercise Options in Place of Running with Back Pain

While waiting for your back pain to heal or if your spine specialist determines there may be more serious conditions, other low- or no-impact exercises may prove beneficial. These exercises don’t aggravate inflammation like running with back pain does. Instead, look for exercises that target strength and flexibility during your healing process. Options for exercise include:

  • Elliptical machines
  • Rowing machines
  • Biking or stationary bikes
  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Water therapy to help with pain and flexibility

Running with back pain is no fun anyway. Finding relief for your back pain to maintain the active lifestyle you enjoy is your SSI back team’s main goals. The proper exercises, remedies, medication and routines help you get back to the exercise you love without the frustrations of pain.