Running and Lower Back Pain

Whether you jog on a treadmill or on the road, running is still considered a very high-impact exercise, which means your joints are subjected to a large amount of shock. As you run, each stride brings your foot into contact with a hard surface – and your ankles, knees, hips and spine must absorb all of that pressure. Years of running can take a toll on the body, so it’s no surprise that one of the most common complaints of runners is lower back pain.

The lumbar (lower) spine is especially susceptible to injury because, of all the spinal segments, it supports the most weight and demonstrates the highest level of flexibility. If the vertebrae, facet joints and intervertebral discs of the spine are already weakened due to advanced age or degenerative conditions (degenerative disc disease or facet disease), running can lead to further damage in the form of a herniated disc or bulging disc.

Low-impact exercises for low back pain

If you enjoy running but lower back pain is slowing you down, there are a variety of recreational sports and activities that are gentler on your spine. Try using an elliptical trainer. While the movements are similar to those of jogging and cross-country skiing, the foot pedals eliminate the shock of foot-surface contact. Swimming is also an excellent, low-impact way to strengthen your entire body. Using a recumbent stationary bike can build leg muscles as you support your neck and back.

Lifestyle alterations to mitigate low back pain

If you have been diagnosed with conditions like spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, a prolapsed disc or a disc protrusion, you may also want to make some lifestyle changes to decrease your back pain. Consider investing in a mattress with good lumbar support, making an effort to practice proper posture at all times and checking to see that the furniture in your workplace takes ergonomics into consideration.