Fitness / Running

Why Does My Back Hurt During and After Running?

Find out what's causing that frustrating ache in your back region.

Back pain isn’t fun. It negatively affects our workouts, moods, and ability to do the activities we want to do comfortably.

If you’re a runner, chances are that you’ve experienced low-back pain at some point during a race or after a run.

But, what causes back pain while running, and most importantly, how can you prevent it?

We asked Toronto-based Exercise Physiologist and Trainer Taylor Hurlock for her expert advice.

Here’s what she had to say.

What causes back pain while running?

Running is a full-body activity, Hurlock says. It’s high-impact and repetitive, which causes stress on our muscles, bones, and joints.

It’s not just our legs that keep us going. We also use our arms, back, and core.

While the connection may not be super obvious, “a strong core helps to protect and support our back,” Hurlock says. Since a solid core keeps our form in check and helps maintain proper posture, if your core is weak, your back compensates. (Take that as motivation to work on your abs.)

Speaking of posture, you may feel back pain while running because your form is off.

This can be a result of various factors (like overstriding or holding your head awkwardly, for example), but getting a running coach to observe your form and stride will help you figure out if you need to change your technique.

Footwear is another reason that your back may hurt while running. Old or ill-fitting shoes can negatively affect your form, causing back pain.

If you bought your sneakers years ago or clocked more than 300 to 500 miles in them and suddenly get aches on the treadmill, it’s time to change your shoes.

Finally, Hurlock says that any previous injuries could be aggravated by the impact and repetitive stress of running.

“If you experience any increased pain or the onset of new symptoms, such as constant or radiating pain, you should stop immediately and speak with your healthcare provider,” she says.

Where are you most likely to feel back pain while running?

While it’s possible to feel pain anywhere in the back, Hurlock says that it’s most common for runners to experience discomfort in their lower back.

“The repetitive movement of running causes stress on our lumbar spine—the lower portion,” she says.

“This stress can actually be absorbed by the discs within our spine. Because of this, individuals who have existing lower back pain should consult their [doctor] prior to starting a running routine.”

If you experience aches when you run, it’s not unusual for that pain to linger a while after the workout, too. Hurlock says that it’s common to feel some muscle soreness immediately after running, and even the next day. “However, anything above and beyond this may be a sign of a greater issue,” she cautions.

How can you prevent back pain?

In order to prevent back discomfort and pain while running, Hurlock says that a proper warm-up is key.

“This will help the body to prepare for the activity ahead and decrease the likelihood of pain and injury,” she explains. Hurlock suggests a light aerobic warm-up plus some dynamic movements before you hit the treadmill or trail.

“Adding two sets of a 30- to 60-second planks to activate the core muscles, performing dynamic lower body movements such as hip openers and sumo squats, and incorporating foam rolling for any tight muscle groups [will help],” she says. “Even introducing these three simple exercises into your warm-up can make a huge difference.”

And, as mentioned, since a strong core is super important for runners, working on strengthening those muscles will help prevent back pain. To do this, Hurlock suggests incorporating regular core training into your workout routine—especially on days when you’re not running.

“Challenging the core using different plank variations is the healthiest way to increase strength,” she says.

“This allows the muscles to get a workout while still protecting the spine—specifically our lumbar spine. My favorite variation is the side plank. Be sure [that] your joints are stacked, and that your core is braced. Complete two to three sets of 30-second holds per side, with a brief rest in between.”

Another way to prevent back pain? Make sure that your running technique is solid—and that you’re wearing the proper shoes for your body.

“As a trainer, I focus on a client’s running mechanics—looking at how their body moves during a run,” she says. “By adopting a proper and efficient technique, we not only decrease the risk of injury, but we also improve performance.”

For running workouts, check out the Aaptiv app today. Our trainers will walk you through each workout making form a priority.

Fitness Running


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