T Nation

Running and Lower Back Pain


For my summer job I will be required to take clients out for early morning runs... so I have had to drastically up my running from... nothing... to a comfortable 5k within the next 10 weeks or so.

So far things have been going well however after yesterdays run I have noticed a pain in my lower back - does not feel like it is the musculature down there.

I know the obvious thing is to go and see a doctor however my last 3 bouts with the GP about exercise related injuries have been nigh upon pointless. I was told to give up weightlifting and live off painkillers last time I injured my shoulder... 8 months later with my own treatment I was pressing as heavy as ever with no discomfort.

Could you guys help me by listing off possible reasons for lower back pain when running?


What kind of shoes are you running in? That can be a big factor, which a lot of people never realize. I would assume you can find a dedicated running store in England, call around and find one that has knowledgeable staff who can analyze your gait and fit you for the proper type of running shoes. You might pay a little more going this route, but it will be worth it in the long run.(no pun intended)

If you don't have a running program yet, try this on. Pretty basic, it's recommended for guys going to BUD/S.

Week 1 & 2: 2 mile run @ 8:30 pace or better(Mon/Wed/Fri)
Week 3: no running, instead cycle or swim for 2-3x the amount of time you would be running on those same days (this is to help stave off shin splints/stress fractures for those who haven't been running prior)
Week 4: 3 mile run @ 8:30 pace or better(M/W/F)
Week 5 & 6: 2/3/4/2 mile runs, 8:30 pace or better (M/Tu/Th/F) (11 mile total)
Week 7, 8, 9: 3/4/5/2 mile runs, same pace (M/Tu/Th/F) (16 mile total)


Most GP's are clueless when it comes to sports injuries and nutrition. In fact, if it was not so pathetic it would be funny.

Anyway, I'm about to give you a piece of advice that will change your life when it comes to running. You are going to be so happy with my advice that that you're going to want to mail me regular monthly payments for the next two years. But don't do it I really can't take it, no, but thanks, hey it's the thought that counts right?


Here it is:

Go to a podiatrist (foot doctor). You most likely have a problem with your arch. He will check it and if you do (you do) he will give you specially made arch supports. Put those in your running shoes and your back pain will disappear like magic.

If for some reason that's not it (and I bet it is) you are leaning forward when you run putting pressure on the lower lumbar region.


This is a bugger... I just went out and bought some new Asics running shoes for £50. The lady in the store looked at the wear on my trainers and said that I'm not particularly pronated and suggested something neutral.


I shall drop by the physio first to check for imbalances/mobility issues/etc... and then if that doesn't fix it I shallcheck out the podiatrist!

If the leaning forward is the issue... is this due to an imbalance or techique pure and simple... I don't have the best of posture!


When I am comfortably running 2 miles without pain I shall give this a go! Thank you!


Start much slower and with shorter mileage.

Look up the "Couch to 5k" program on Coolrunning.com

It will start out with very easy walk/run intervals, and by the end of 6 or 8 weeks you are running for 30-40 minutes nonstop.

Look up stretches for your gastrocnemius (superficial calf muscle) and your soleus (deep calf muscle). They will help with shin splints and most discomforts included with running


Thank you goose!

I have already looked at the program and implement some of the concepts in the running program I am following.

My lower legs aren't what are holding be back any more - its my back! Its really damn sore! =[


The "Couch to 5K" is a good program that I would also highly recommend you stick with.

I am going to bet you probably have super tight hip-flexors which are pulling on your lumbar spine where they attach. I would incorporate a very thorough dynamic warm-up before you run, as well as a good cool-down stretching routine emphasizing stretching those hip-flexors.

I would recommend incorporating some barefoot running in your regimen a couple of times a week. The caveat is you need to have some grass, and start off slow. A typical first week would have you run 2 minutes, walk 2 minutes for 7 intervals.


armygrunt82 said it
hip flexor stretch, and barefoot running
i had a lot of discomfort too, its all down to posture! when i did what i needed to fix my posture the pain instantly dissapeared. for strengthening nothing works like full atg overhead squats as slow and controlled as possible


I can't believe no one mentioned foam rollers for getting rid of the back pain.

I have the same kind of low back pain caused by running many years ago, I've found that using a foam roller works wonders. Put it on the floor, put your lower back on the roller. Put all of your weight on it, and roll back and forth over the painful area.


The hip flexor that is normally to blame is your psoas muscle. Google some psoas stretches


I went running again today with my new shoes.

Pain back again.

Next port of call is mobility/stretching drills daily!

I have been doing a lot of computer work recently so I wouldn't be surprised if hip flexors are tight!

I shall keep you guys updated.

Also the pain seems to originate more on my right ride of the lower back when I run and then will spread around the lower back afterwards.

Slight pain on outer side of lower right leg also... may be connected...


benmoore, for running questions, you should ask on Pose Running forums


I have the same problem. Back tightens up after running or rugby practice. Foam roller does nothing and i stretch beforehand however i could use a better warm up.


benmoore, are you hitting hills on your runs? I had similar issues when I first started and was in a hilly area. Someone suggested I do reverse hypers (I did them unweighted and on a GHD), and I stopped having problems immediately.


The area isn't THAT hilly - but I shall include these today!

I can't really think of anywhere in my gym where I could realistically drill out reverse hypers - standard back extensions I could do however - weighted too. Do you think this will have similar benefit?


You seem a fairly lean individual... I thought it was me simply carrying too much weight in the abdominal region (University damage, etc.) but perhaps that is not the case (or not the only issue anyway...).


I don't think back extensions would do it, but maybe. It can't hurt to try Something about reverse hypers really worked for me. I think the hills just put extra strain on my back, but it's a strain common to running. I'd also definitely second the foam rolling and an extensive warm-up, but my best guess is that your back is probably strong and stable, but not exactly in the way it needs to be for running.


Just talking out of my ass here but...

Lower back pain during running can be linked to poor shoes, etc. but I think the most likely culprit is poor gait. The issue is that rather than having posture upright a lot of people run sort of hunched over. The net effect is that rather than transmitting the load to the hammies and glutes, the lower back is used for locomotion -- causing pain. Simplest fix is to find a running coach and ask him/her to look at you while you run. Try running but look ahead into the distance for as much of it as you can. If you are running and watching the ground in front of you (common) then you are hunched.

Reverse hypers are a great exercise if you know what you are doing but can mess you up if you don't. They are strictly a hamstring exercise and if you are using your lower back at any point during them, you are doing them wrong and should stop.

Also, check how your feet hit the ground. Are you landing on your heel? Should be mid-foot or fore-foot. Walking is a different operation than running. Other issues might play into this (e.g. flat feet on concrete with bad shoes).

(People who run indoors on machines should be very careful when moving outside as the weather warms up. Elliptical trainers will allow you to have horrific mechanics with little penalty (and I've known several people who promptly got back pain when they tried to switch to outdoor running). Treadmills teach you to shut off you hamstrings at precisely the point you need to engage them since the belt pulls your leg through the stride. One of my buddies who ran a lot inside (elliptical) decided to do a 5 k run for charity and ripped out a back muscle in the middle of it. The mileage was lower than what he normally did too. This last bit does not apply to you but might very well apply to your clients, so always ask them what their activity history is before setting out.)

-- jj


That's your psoas, it attaches from your L vertabrae to your femur (thigh bone)

Now imagine that your psoas is tight (sitting tightens it) and you try to run

It will pull on your spine every time your leg begins to extend (come behind your body)


That's exactly the muscle that tightens up one me. I find sitting down and twisting my back to stretch it helps sometimes but its really hit and miss. Sometimes one stretch works one day and does nothing the next which is frustrating. And no I'm not THAT lean although im not obese, i just dont store that much fat on my back