If you lack strength and stability in your lower back and pelvic regions, it can lead to pain when running and even doing everyday activities. Many runners have felt back pain at some point, and it can happen for different reasons.

Running with back pain can be frustrating, but there are ways to prevent and manage it without having to stop running completely. In this guide, we’ll explore the common causes of lower back pain after running, how to address it, and preventive measures you can take. 

Causes of Lower Back Pain from Running 

Several factors can lead to lower back pain after running. Many of these can be addressed with straightforward measures like stretching, strengthening exercises, and light movement. Causes of lower back pain when running include:

1. Muscular Issues   

Muscular back pain is one of the most common lower back injuries. It often starts with a sharp, sudden spasm in the lower back on one side, known as the ‘ouch’ moment. 

This can occur if you increase your running distance too quickly, train intensely, or change your running surface, like moving from flat tracks to hilly terrain. Also, when you overwork your muscles, it can react negatively.


2. Facet Joints  

Your facet joints are the joints in your spine that sit between the spinal bones above and below – you have one joint on each side. They allow you to twist and bend your back (flexibility) while preventing too much motion (stability). These joints can get irritated if they’re overworked, which can affect the spinal discs that act like shock absorbers when you run.


3. Sacroiliac Joint 

Your sacroiliac joints are located between the left and right pelvic bones and the central sacrum bone in your lower back. These joints are not smooth like the ball and socket joints in your hips. 

Instead, they have an uneven ‘C-shaped’ structure that provides stability and transfers the forces through your body as you move. The stability in this joint comes from the strong network of fibrous ligaments and muscles attached to and around it.


4. Discs 

The discs in your back act as cushions between the bones of your spine. They have a tough outer layer and a soft, jelly-like inside. As we age, these discs lose their flexibility and become thinner and more rigid. Contrary to popular belief, discs don’t slip out of place. Instead, if a disc gets damaged, it can bulge outward, much like when you squeeze a water balloon. 

Sometimes, this bulge can cause a leak, with fluid seeping out. These conditions can press on the sciatic nerve in your lower back, leading to pain that radiates into your legs.


5. Nerves 

The nerves of the lower limbs originate from the lower back (aka lumbar spine), the most common being the sciatic nerve. Irritation of this nerve at its root, or as it exits the spine, will likely give you symptoms down the leg. These symptoms can affect the entire leg or specific spots, depending on where the nerve is irritated.


How to Diagnose Lower Back Pain from Running

diagnosing back pain

If your lower back pain persists or worsens after a few days of rest, it’s advisable to seek medical attention. For runners, a healthcare professional can provide a diagnosis of lower back pain to identify the root cause and recommend appropriate treatment.

When to See a Specialist

Common Diagnostic Procedures

Treatment Options for Lower Back Pain from Running 

Addressing back pain from running requires effective treatment strategies to keep you on track.

1. Non-Surgical Treatments   

Non-surgical treatments can manage and reduce lower back pain from running.

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2. Exercises to Strengthen the Lower Back 

A strong lower back is critical for managing and preventing pain, especially for runners. Various exercises can help build stability, flexibility, and resilience. Strengthening exercises for lower back pain include:

Pilates focuses on building core strength, flexibility, and body control – essential for a healthy lower back. These low-impact exercises are great for improving stability and body alignment. They help strengthen your back without requiring intense effort.

Use stretchy bands or light weights to do exercises like rows, deadlifts, and squats. These movements strengthen the muscles in your lower and middle back, which helps support your spine better. Additionally, incorporating stretches for lower back pain can further alleviate discomfort and improve flexibility.

The basic front plank is excellent for building core and lower back strength. Lie face down, lift your body on your toes and forearms, and keep your body in a straight line. As you get stronger, try side planks to engage different muscle groups.

The lumbar rotation stretch improves lower back flexibility and reduces tension. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat. Slowly drop both knees to one side while keeping your shoulders on the ground. Hold, then switch sides.

The side-flexion stretch targets the muscles along the sides of your torso, which in turn relieves lower back tension. Stand or sit with feet shoulder-width apart. Bend sideways at the waist. Reach one hand down towards your foot while the other stretches overhead.

Lie on your back with arms extended towards the ceiling and knees bent at 90 degrees. Slowly lower one leg towards the floor while extending the opposite arm overhead.

Beyond the basic front plank, try side planks by lifting your body sideways, supported on one arm and the side of one foot. Such variations challenge different lower back muscles and enhance overall strength and stability.

Glute bridges are exercises that strengthen your bottom muscles and lower back. Lie down, bend your knees, and put your feet flat on the floor. Lift your hips while tightening your bottom and stomach muscles.

Hip thrusters are like glute bridges, but you rest your upper back on a bench or step. Move your hips up and down, then focus on using your bottom and lower back muscles.

To perform it, stand with one foot on a step and let your other foot hang off the side. Next, drop your hip to lower the hanging leg, then raise it back up. As you do this, you’ll feel your lower back and glute muscles working.  

How to Prevent Lower Back Pain When Running

Here are important lower back pain prevention tips for runners

1. Strength Training 

Your core isn’t just your belly muscles. It’s also your lower back, side muscles, and hip area. When these are strong, they help you stand straight and run better.

To learn how to prevent back pain from running, incorporate exercises like planks, bridges, and sit-ups to make your core stronger. A strong middle helps spread the bumps from running all over your body which means less strain on your lower back.

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2. Train on a Good Running Surface

Where you run matters for your back. Hard surfaces like sidewalks can hurt your joints and spine when you step. Softer ground like grass, dirt paths, or running tracks are easier on your body. They soak up some of the shock, which is nicer for your back.

Running on a treadmill is often safer than running outside. It’s easier on your joints. If your back pain comes from your hip or spine joints, a treadmill might help.

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3. Choose the Right Running Shoes

Put on good shoes for running. If you’re not sure what to get, go to a store to find the right shoes.

Running shoes can wear out after a while; when they are worn out, they don’t support your feet as well. Get new shoes when needed to ensure you have enough cushion to avoid getting hurt.

Common Questions About Lower Back Pain from Running 

Let’s tackle some common questions about running-related lower back pain.

1. Is Running Good for Lower Back Pain? 

Running can help strengthen the core and back muscles. However, improper running form, excessive mileage, or underlying conditions can worsen lower back issues.

2. Why Does My Lower Back Hurt from Running?

Several factors can contribute to running injuries in the lower back. These factors include:

3. Why Do I Have Lower Back Pain on One Side When Running? 

If you experience lower back pain on one side while running, it could be due to:

Final Thoughts 

You now understand why back pain can occur from running and several ways to prevent and manage it. Whether you’re new to running or have been at it for years, these insights can help keep your back healthy and pain-free. The key is to use these ideas regularly. Make sure you have good shoes, run on softer ground when you can, and do exercises to make your core stronger. 

Also, listen to your body and rest when you need to. It’s okay to start slow and build up. Your back will thank you for being careful. With these tips, you can enjoy running without worrying about back pain.