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Posted: January 3, 2005

Running: Eliminate Your Back Pain

By Michael Yessis, PhD - Sept/Oct 2003

Why Do You Get Back Pain

There are two main reasons why back pain is so prevalent, especially among runners. The first is improper technique. The second is a lack of physical ability (mainly strength) to withstand the forces involved in running, and to run more efficiently. In regard to technique, most runners develop back problems because they have poor posture while running, and/or they land heel first with every foot-strike.

Poor running posture includes having a rounded spine or leaning forward with the head and shoulders. This places your center of gravity in front of your body, which creates additional stress on the lower back muscles to maintain an upright position. In time, the muscles fatigue and cant counter the forces generated during the run. The situation is compounded if you also land heel first, greatly increasing the forces on the lower back.

When you land heel first, your foot lands in front of your body, which creates braking forces that impede your forward progress. When repeated over long distances, the muscles give in to the forces encountered-overloading occurs. The overloading can develop anywhere, including the muscles of the lower leg (ankle and knee), hip, and lower back.

The Importance of Muscle Strength & Good Posture

If your muscle strength is only adequate for a certain distance or to handle a certain amount of force, once you exceed its limits you'll experience an injury. This is why some runners continually break down and develop injuries, especially to the lower back. The keys to injury prevention are improving both your running technique, and your physical abilities that are specific to running.

It's also important that you don't overstretch your lower back in other activities, especially when you stand and sit. Unfortunately, were not taught in school how to stand, sit, walk, run or breathe properly. It seems everyone takes these actions for granted and because of this, we develop poor habits. Poor posture eventually causes the spine to curve unnaturally, causing the nerve endings to become pinched, shish creates lower back pain.

This problem is complicated by the fact that many runners who suffer bad backs have occupations that emphasize excessive sitting. When you sit for long periods of time, especially in soft chairs, the spine…

Treating and Preventing Back Pain

Exercise that improves technique and develops both strength and flexibility in the spine and spinal musculature is the primary method used in the treatment and prevention of back problems. You must develop a muscular corset around the midsection that will hold the spine in its normal anatomical, safe position.

Spinal flexibility and strength are needed to keep the vertebrae apart so that the discs and nerves don't become compressed. Keep in mind that discs are living entities and require nourishment. This nourishment is possible only if the vertebrae are kept apart by full discs and the blood circulation to them is unimpeded. To get increased blood circulation, you must exercise for flexibility and strength. There are five stretches that I highly recommend to maintain or improve spinal flexibility. They are…

Strengthening the Muscles

Foremost in treating and preventing back injuries is performing exercises to strengthen the lower back musculature. This includes mainly the erector spinae, a long muscle running the entire length of your spine that holds you erect, and the quadratus lumborum, located in the lumbar area on both sides of the spine that is used in all side bending actions. To strengthen these muscles the following exercises are recommended…

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