Dealing With Lower Back Pain From Jogging
When I got into running I expected some aches and pains in my feet and legs. Lower back pain from jogging came as a complete surprise though. It started out as just a small discomfort when I would sometimes sleep on my stomach (more on that later). However it was soon a constant dull ache that was always around and sometimes spasmed when I went for a run.
Talking with my doctor was a first stop. She quickly ruled out problems related to the spine itself like arthritis and slipped or bulging discs. The real issue was some weak muscles in the chain that keep you upright. For example if you have weak hips or glutes when you go for a run they become tired quickly and other muscles have to work harder to pick up the slack. Constantly stressing those muscles leads to an increased risk of injury. Your entire core is responsible for keeping you upright while walking or jogging and weak abs, glutes, hips or even hamstrings can all lead to your back screaming for relief.
My top 3 recommended exercises for fixing lower back pain from jogging
While I will share exercises that will help strengthen all of the problem areas I would highly recommend talking to your doctor to be sure you aren’t going to cause more problems than you are fixing.
When thinking about strengthening your core one of the first things you likely thought of was sit ups. However most people when doing sit ups will actually use the muscles in the hips more than the abdominals. Sit ups also put a lot of pressure on the spine and discs in the spine.
Another common exercise I’ve seen recommended is leg lifts. Lifting both legs at the same time while lying on your back is very hard on the core muscles and if they are weak already you can actually cause more pain rather than helping heal the problem. Instead lie with your back on the floor with one leg straight. Bend the other one so your foot is on the floor next to the knee of the straight leg. Slowly lift your straight leg off the floor not allowing it to bend at the knee till your foot is 6-10 inches off the ground. Hold it for a few seconds and lower it. Repeat 10-12 times and then switch legs. This will help build up strength without overloading your core and making things worse.
If those modified leg lifts are already too easy here is an exercise I recommend to replace the sit-up, leg lifts and crunches.
Partial bridges help build the glutes and lower back muscles. Lie on your back with your legs bent heels on the floor. Lift your hips off the floor till you are a straight line from shoulders to knees. Make sure to squeeze your butt, imagine holding a quarter between the cheeks, you will feel the difference if you try a few without squeezing and with squeezing. Hold your hips at the top for 5 seconds then slowly lower to the floor. Relax and wait about 10 seconds then repeat for 8-12 reps.
Superman - Banana
A goofy name but it lets you know what it should look like.
Start lying face down on the floor with your legs straight out behind you and start with your arms down by your side, palms facing down. Lift your legs, arms, chest and head up off the ground like you are balancing on your bellybutton. Hold for about 30 seconds and then relax. If you want to feel a little more super put one arm at a time out front and imagine you are flying.
Flip over on your back.
Bananas are pretty much the same thing just on your back balancing on your buttocks. Alternate between Supermans and Bananas repeat both 3 to 5 times.
Getting Good Sleep
All those exercises are great but waking up several times a night with my back on fire was still a common occurrence.
Not getting quality sleep was hindering not just my daily life but also recovery. Sleeping on your stomach, it seems, will put a lot of strain on the muscles of the lower back. It flattens out the natural curve of the spine and the simplest way to relive the strain if you prefer to sleep on your stomach is to put a small pillow under your pelvis, this puts your back into a more natural position.
For people who sleep on their backs a small pillow under your knees to slightly elevate the legs help to return curve to the spine and take the pressure of those sore muscles.
If you are a side sleeper putting a pillow between your knees (or a full body pillow) with your knees pulled up towards your chest can bring relief.
Some quick adjustments and I was soon sleeping soundly again and not causing more aggravation of my lower back muscles.
One More Thing
If I had to recommend one more thing that is not just related to treating back pain I would recommend Foam Rolling
If you aren’t familiar with foam rolling it is like a self administered deep massage. You can get rollers almost anywhere from walmart to amazon. Aside from the benefits of loosening your muscles up and relieving the pressure on sore, injured muscle groups. It just feels great and you can do it every day!
Today I can say that my back is feeling great and jogging no longer causes me any kind of lower back discomfort. I just do my exercises and stretches for a few minutes every day and feel better than I have in decades.
-The Stay At Home Dad