Injury: Runner’s back pain

Injury: Runner’s back pain
November 4, 2019 Michelle Khoury

Injury: Runner’s back pain.

Why does my back hurt when running?

Recent research has made this question interesting and our PhysioScienceUK team will dig a little deeper into runner’s back pain.

Back Pain when running

Through our work with local sporting teams and athletes, it’s not uncommon to hear this question, ‘Why does my back hurt when running?’ My interest in this topic was sparked recently, after the results of a study showed that runners actually had healthier lumbar spinal segments, than non-runners.

Furthermore, the study also showed the more someone runs in a week, the healthier they are compared to runners who ran less.  So, why are people getting sore backs when they run!?

In this situation the back is the victim.

There is very rarely anything pathological found within the spinal segments, themselves.  Its the way the spine is being loaded when running which is focussing the strain on a particular area.  That area becomes overloaded and then lets you know by telling you it’s painful.

So, we have the victim, but where is the culprit?  This answer won’t quite fit into a paragraph, unfortunately!

The culprit could be in a lot of places this really is something that your Physio Science Physiotherapist will assess extensively.  To ensure that the culprit is found and that your treatment and rehabilitation is appropriate.


We often find our clients, who present spinal pain, their spines are happiest when held and loaded in a neutral position.  The easiest analogy is that if I bent your finger backwards for half an hour, it would probably begin to hurt, even though we haven’t damaged your finger.  So the same is true for the spine.

Often people will adopt very upright, chest puffed out, stiff running positions and this is essentially holding the spine in a very extended position.  The added bonus of producing a compressed load, down the line of the spinal column, just to ensure the joints are overload suitably!

For these types of runners, focusing on diaphragmatic breathing may be enough to relax them into a pain free position.   Quite often they will require a rehabilitation approach to improve the control of their abdominal wall and pelvis.


Gym ball roll-back

Running positions

Another way that someone can be repeatedly moving away from their neutral, is if there is a lack of control in a one-legged landing/loading position.

Running can very simply be viewed as repeated, reciprocal singe leg hopping, passing from a hop on one leg to a land and then hop on the other leg.

If your ability to control forces involved with landing and then pushing off from a single leg position is poor, then it is likely that there is going to be some unusually excessive motion occurring at your hips and pelvis, which will have a knock-on effect to your spine.


These client presentations will require a thorough lower limb assessment but quite often a rehabilitation program will involve some element of one sided gluteal strengthening, as pictured….


Side Plank


Glut Bridge

They may also benefit from improving the tolerance of the side trunk muscles to endure lateral forces, though exercise like this….

Final word

The spine and it’s interaction with the rest of the body is a complex area to assess, treat and rehabilitate.  We want to keep our runners on the road so that they can get the proven benefits of spinal health, without having to endure the pain in the meantime!

If you or a friend are suffering with running related pain in their back, Physio Science look forward to working with you, to find a solution!

Our clinics locations are Brighton, Hove and Hurstpierpoint,  If you would like some advice or to book an appointment with one of our team, please click here.

Alternatively, you can book online here.

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