stretches for lower back pain after running?
September 27, 2016 2:14 PM   Subscribe

I'm a fledging runner, a little over halfway through the C25K program. Now that the runs are getting more strenuous, I'm beginning to notice some nagging lower back pain after runs (also some annoying heartburn, but I think I can fix that on my own). I've been generally very lazy about stretching before runs (read: I don't stretch before runs), but surely there must be a good targeted stretch I can do to help my back. Please tell me what that stretch is!

Note: I'm not wearing fancy top of the line sneakers, but I'm not wearing converse either. I think for my extremely low-impact runs, the sneaks I'm using are probably fine.
posted by cakelite to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: For me, lower back pain from running means two things:

1. a weak core which causes poor posture and also puts too much strain on other muscles like your back to hold up your body. Strengthen your core with good old fashioned ab and oblique work. I would do this AFTER your runs or else you might have sore abs during the run which could make you feel awful.

2. shoes that aren't keeping your body aligned, again causing poor posture and putting strain on other muscles. SORRY. I know you think your shoes are fine and they may have been when you were earlier in c25k, but you should consider that you need something different now. This doesn't mean you need super stiff, supportive, padded fancy shoes or anything. For me, I just kept my same style of neutral/minimalist running shoes and added a custom insole that supports my arch more, which balanced out my posture. I had this done at a running store which can analyze the way you run, where you are putting pressure on your feet, how much your ankles are moving, etc.
posted by joan_holloway at 2:22 PM on September 27, 2016 [5 favorites]

Oh, another thing you can do is foam rolling. I have a stiff black foam roller I bought on Amazon and keep in a closet; very portable and easy to use. Look on youtube for foam rolling stretches. As you run longer distances you will probably want to use it on your IT band too!
posted by joan_holloway at 2:23 PM on September 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I agree that ab work (after your runs), good shoes and foam rolling are the way to go. Planks and ab exercises that engage your entire core (glutes, back muscles, etc.) are especially helpful I think. When I did a C25K program through my local Fleet Feet shop, they always ended the runs with 5 minutes of various ab exercises--planks, crunches, bicycle crunches, side planks, glute bridges, etc. 5 minutes every time made a big difference.
posted by purple_bird at 2:40 PM on September 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yeah, planks right after a run helped me get through C25K in the last few weeks!
posted by lownote at 2:43 PM on September 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Abs and glutes. Work on their and your back pain should improve.

I personally dont stretch injuries much, I think it makes it worse down the road even if it feels good at the time.
posted by fshgrl at 3:27 PM on September 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Runners are often prone to getting tight hip flexors, which can cause lower back pain. I find this is particularly the case if I go for a run at lunch (say) and then spend hours sitting down again at my desk.

The telltale sign is lower back pain when standing up again from sitting.

The lunge stretch halfway down this page relieves it very well:

(Apologies for non link link, posting from my phone)
posted by procrastinator_general at 4:05 PM on September 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Agree with the above suggestions about core, shoes, and foam rolling. Specifically, doing this fairly simple 10 minute yoga routine after I run has been great for me. It includes a little core and upper body work, but most of all it opens up your hip flexors and stretches your glutes, both things that can plague runners and feed into injuries in various different parts of your body. And the woman who does it looks like a normal human being, rather than a six-foot lycra-clad beanpole.

(I know it says it's 15 minutes but it's a bit under, and once you've watched it once you can skip over the bit where she shows you three different ways of stepping forward - just skip to the 10 minute point to carry on the routine).

One note - you're actually right not to stretch before running, it's generally better to stretch warm muscles, not cold ones, so you should stretch after you run rather than before. What you can do before to help are mobilisation exercises to gently prepare your joints for exercise. Walk for a few minutes to warm up slightly, and then while standing, do some movements that get your joints moving, starting gently and increasing the range of motion as feels comfortable - lift your foot and draw a circle with your toes to prepare your ankles, stride to loosen your hips and knees, pretend you're circling a hula hoop to loosen your hips, windmill your arms to loosen your shoulders.
posted by penguin pie at 4:43 PM on September 27, 2016 [6 favorites]

For me it was hamstrings. Amazing how the back pain went away when i made sure to stretch them out.
posted by forforf at 4:45 PM on September 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

Don't start doing static stretches before running, so yay for being lazy. If you do want to become less lazy, google "dynamic stretching" - I'll admit that before a race I'll do that. Before a workout or steady run I'll just take the first 10 minutes slower to warm up.

I agree with others that *after* your runs is a great time for core/strength work - planks, side planks, mountain climber, squats and lunges are all good for beginners - side planks might be a bit hard when starting out, but 10s should hopefully be doable. Doing the strength work after running makes it easier for your body to not overdo it because you're already a bit tired. Aim for 2-3 times per week.

For me, if I have lower back pain it's because I'm doing something wrong in my form - generally it's over striding. As you say c25k and not that you're planning to be a 100m champion, your foot should first be coming into contact with the ground under the centre of your body weight. If your foot is landing in front of your body weight, it will apply a mixture of brakeing and upward force which will go through your legs and your hips/lower back need to deal with this.

If you try to get your cadence (how many times your feet touch the ground) up to 180 per minute (that's both feet, so at 180/minute cadence in one second you hit left, right, left); by taking smaller, but faster steps that will help with the over striding as your feet won't have as much time to get away from your centre. Additionally, if you're raising your cadence there's less total up and down motion in a run/jog stride which should also help.

Stretching after the fact doesn't help me for back issues, however a field hockey or lacrosse ball between your back and a wall can be used for self massage. Just obviously be very careful near the spine.
posted by nobeagle at 7:33 AM on September 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

I will second that my back pain is relieved by hamstring stretches and hip stretches. Normal toe-touch type for the hamstrings, and the hip is this one (sorry for a istock type image)
posted by k5.user at 7:55 AM on September 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Do *not* foam roll on your lower back. I made this mistake once. Rolling is great for your upper back but don't go below your ribs. (Here's one explanation why, there are probably more convincing ones elsewhere if you're interested.)
posted by crookedneighbor at 9:05 AM on September 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

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