If you ever experience pain in the lower part of your back, you’re not alone: Almost 80 percent of the population will encounter lower-back pain at some point in their lives, according to the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
And if you’re a runner? You’re even more likely to deal with this bothersome problem. Lower-back pain after running is particularly prevalent because a weakness or imbalance in your central and hip muscles can disrupt your body’s ability to run with proper form.
Further evidence: Research from Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center found that runners with weak central muscles were at a much higher risk of developing lower back pain, while another study published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise found that performing strength exercises for the lower body improved lower-back pain and overall running ability.
A sturdy central region is akin to having a strong base built into your pelvis, hips, and legs. When these areas are supported by robust muscles, they can bend and stretch more effectively, says Audrey Lynn Millar, P.T, Ph.D., FACSM, chair in the department of physical therapy at Winston-Salem State University.
However, that doesn’t mean you should do countless abdominal crunches: “The hip muscles control the movement of running, so instead of solely focusing on abs, concentrate on strengthening all the trunk and hip muscles that intertwine and surround the lower back,” she advises. Millar suggests performing leg and core exercises two to three days per week, as well as incorporating overall strength, flexibility, and balance work into your weekly workout routine. All of this will aid in synchronizing your lower-body muscles for pain-free running.
Moreover, if you work a nine-to-five job in an office, your situation is likely even worse. Sitting all day causes tightness in your lower back and hips. This tightness restricts your ability to move and extend your stride while running, putting additional strain on the surrounding muscles, including those in your lower back, in order to compensate, explains Millar. To alleviate any tightness caused by sitting, she recommends taking walking breaks during the day, using a standing desk, and stretching at night. However, if you experience lower-back pain that radiates to your hips or knees, or pain that spreads to other areas of your body, it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional.
Exercises to Help Alleviate Lower-Back Pain After Running:
Incorporate the following six exercises into your workout routine to target the central and lower-body muscles that specifically support your lower back when running:
The lateral plank “requires activation of the profound hip rotators and profound core muscles that stabilize the lower back when running,” says Millar.
A. Recline on the floor, balancing on the right elbow and exterior of the right foot.
B. Elevate hips off the floor to maintain a lateral plank position, forming a straight line from head to heels.
C. Sustain for 15 to 20 seconds, and then release. Repeat on left knee and left forearm.
This activity stimulates the lumbar region to aid in stabilizing your trunk, elucidates Millar.
A. Initiate on hands and knees on the floor.
B. Raise the right hand and left foot up off the floor simultaneously, extending right arm forward, biceps by ear, and thrusting the left foot directly backward.
C. Activate core to maintain the back from curving.
D. Maintain for 30 seconds, and then release. Repeat on the converse side.
This exercise assists in minimizing lower-back discomfort for runners as it gently elongates and lessens strain in inflamed nerves, granting you a wider scope of motion while running, states Millar.
A. Initiate on all fours on the floor.
B. Exhale and mildly arch the spine upward towards the ceiling, dropping the head and tailbone towards the floor.
C. Then inhale and lower the belly button towards the floor, convexing your back, extending the head and tailbone towards the ceiling.
D. Perform 5 to 10 repetitions.
Side-Lying Leg Raise
This exercise fortifies the gluteus medius hip muscle, claims Millar. It’s a vital muscle for sustaining your pelvis in position and diminishing the rotational force on your lower back during running.
A. Lie on the floor on the right side with legs fully extended.
B. Lift the left leg up roughly 6 inches, then gradually lower it without making contact with the right foot.
C. Maintain a small and controlled range of motion.
Do 10 repetitions. Repeat on the contrary side.
Bridges strengthen all of your upper-leg muscles, including your glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps.
A. Lie supine on the floor with both knees bent and feet level on the floor.
B. Raise hips up around 6 inches, pause, and then gradually lower.
C. Perform 10 repetitions.
A. Stand on the right leg.
B. Bend at the hips and right knee to gradually descend about 6 to 10 inches into a partial squat.
C. Return to the upright position.
D. Perform 10 repetitions.
Repeat on the contrary side.
This energetic sprinting drill serves to fortify the leg that you’re balancing on in order to counteract the movement of the other leg, imitating the action of running, asserts Millar.
A. Maintain an upright stance on the right leg.
B. While keeping the upper body vertical and in a gradual and controlled movement, elevate the left knee towards the chest, then propel it forward, downwards, and backwards, executing a circular motion akin to pedaling a bicycle or running.
C. Accomplish 10 repetitions. Rotate sides and replicate the exercise on the opposed side.
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