Lower Back Pain: How to Prevent It

Matt Lakin-Hall, Physiotherapist at MLH Physio

Lower back pain may not be the first injury you would associate with running, but it’s fairly common and it can really get in the way of your training programme. The last thing you want is for lower back pain to interfere with your daily run so Matt Lakin-Hall, physiotherapist at MLH Physio, explains why lower back pain can occur when running, how to treat it and prevent it from happening again. 

Why do runners develop lower back pain?

Traditionally lower back pain was associated with manual heavy work or lifting a heavy box at home, and this can still be a cause. However, nowadays in the modern world, our more sedentary work and lifestyles can be as much of a contributory factor; have you sat at your computer all day, driven home then gone straight out for a run? It’s easy for your lower back to stiffen up and become painful when you go from one extreme to the other.

 

A change in training type, volume or intensity can have an effect on your body and lead to an injury. Suddenly increasing your mileage or adding some intense speed sessions to your plan may sound like a great idea but could potentially lead to injury. Always be careful when making sudden changes to your training plan.

What causes my lower back pain?

Your lower back pain can stem from a number of sources. Most commonly in runners we will see problems caused by myofascial tension. Yes, obviously tightness in the back but also around it, hip flexors, glutes, hamstrings, quads or even your thoracic spine. Tension in other areas can put more stress on your lower back and lead to pain.

 

Sometimes with lifting injuries or if the pain or symptoms aren’t treated, the pain can worsen and facet joint irritation can be the cause. If you are new to running or pushing yourself hard in your training, postural or core control issues can cause pain.

What should I do?

1.     Firstly don’t panic, stay calm and seek the advice and treatment of a chartered physiotherapist.

2.     Try some gentle stretches and exercises like these to ease the pain:

3. Stay mobile, change position regularly, particularly if you work at a desk.

4. Try some basic core and postural work.

As any research article on lower back pain will suggest, exercise is a key part of lower back pain relief. Physiotherapists can support all of these patients and provide the correct physiotherapy treatment and exercise to aid recovery and not worsen symptoms.

 

Most runners with a sudden bout of back pain will be in moderate to severe pain and their back may even have “locked up”, so continuing to run isn’t the best plan. For the first few days, some gentle stretching is the best place to start. Also continuing to lift weights in the gym or high impact classes is not advisable until you’ve seen a physiotherapist.

 

Long-term advice:

 

·       Stretch regularly and use a foam roller

·       Do some strength work in the gym

·       Carefully plan training volumes and implement gradual changes

·       Analyse running technique if recurrent issues are not resolved with the above

 

Author: Matt Lakin-Hall

 

Matt is a Physiotherapist at MLH Physio, in Sale, Manchester. Alongside his job he is a keen hockey player and obviously runs a lot as part of his training. He has vast experience of dealing with running injuries and works with lots of runners from local running clubs.