Oh My Aching Back!!

guest-blogger-helen-behn(This is a post from our special guest blogger, Helen Behn.)

According to the American Chiropractic Association, 80% of people will have back pain at some point in their lives. Does being a runner increase or decrease the ACA statistic? Do you often wonder if running helps or contributes to back pain? While there have been studies and direct correlations between running, temporary spine shrinkage, and other low back pains, there are other claims that active people are the least likely to have back pain and that more movement is good for your back.

Regardless, the answer to this question is not so easy to figure out. However, I think we can all agree that even runners deal with back pain from time to time. When we run, our intervertebral discs act as shock absorbers in our back. Extended, repetitive movements, (e.g. running) can further stress those discs and cause back pain.

There are many different reasons that can ultimately lead to back pain. The most severe reasons derive from disc issues: herniations, slipped discs or degenerative disc disease. Arthritis, the loss or breakdown of disc tissue, can also cause pain in your back. But the most common type of back pain is muscular.

For runners, muscular back pain can be caused by something as simple as the wrong shoes, poor form or insufficient warm-up time. More than likely, however, runners deal with back pain due to core strength or flexibility issues, tight hamstrings or hips, which cause added stress on the spine.

For me, I love to run, but in the past had trouble managing the aftermath of back inflammation and pain. I would get caught in a vicious cycle of exercise vs. treatment. Since there’s no “one-size-fits-all” solution to solve back pain, I’ve created my own recipe of widely accepted methods to help minimize my back pain so I can keep going.

  • Stretching before and after a run, especially focusing on hamstrings, hip flexors and back muscles.
  • Warming up & easing into a run. I always walk for 5-10 minutes before I move into a slow jog and then steadily increase my speed with distance. I often do the reverse as part of my cool down too.
  • Consciously activate my core muscles to help me run and use my whole body, not just my legs.
    • Pilates has taught me to ‘tighten my inner suspenders” which automatically makes me rotate my hips forward, lessening pressure on my spine!
  • ICE my back after a run. Icing my back reduces inflammation making it easier for me to do another workout the following day. But icing my back is not a convenient or easy task. It’s hard enough trying to find time to fit in a run! To be able to ice (or heat) on-the-go, you may want to check out the Spand-Ice Revive Tank. Spand-Ice has created the therapeutic Revive Tank to help back pain. The versatile and practical design integrates cold / hot so now you can relieve back inflammation and muscle pain while staying mobile and active!

With proper awareness and preventative measures, you can reduce the risk of recurring back pain or injuries. I want to be able to keep running as I get older, but in order to balance a healthy relationship between exercise and recovery I know the key components need revolve around core stability and icing therapy. I hope this blog post helps you too to #Keepgoing

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