Helpful Information

A Runner’s Guide to Back Pain & Treatment

While running and jogging are excellent forms of aerobic exercise and can be done by people of all ages, they involve repetitive jarring of the spine which can worsen or cause back pain, especially in the lower back. In this guide we share what causes back pain from running, how to prevent and alleviate this pain, and when to see a spine specialist.

Causes for Back Pain From Running

Like we said above, running involves repeated jarring of the spine. Running also causes compression by the force of the body leaving the ground and landing on every stride. And, when you run, your back muscles have to work harder to keep the body upright and in good posture, which can get more strenuous the longer you run. Other causes for back pain include:

  • Faulty training techniques (intensity, sharp increase in mileage and improper shoes)
  • Muscle imbalance, especially in the core
  • Lack of flexibility in the hamstrings, hip flexors and calves

4 Ways to Treat and Prevent Back Pain

Work on Your Form

Your back pain can be caused by poor running form, which can be fixed with a few tweaks. We recommend leading with your chest and keeping your head tall and balanced over your chest. This can reduce the force and compression that your stride can put on your back.

Run on Soft Surfaces

Harder surfaces such as sidewalks can increase compression on your joints and vertebrae. Consider running on softer surfaces like grass, a padded track and treadmills.

Buy New Shoes

Like we discussed in our How Your Shoes Affect Your Spine article from March 2022, improper shoes can cause back pain, especially in joggers and runners. Some people need more cushion while others might need to run barefoot. Consult your doctor for information on what’s right for you.

Stretch & Build Strength

While running is a fantastic form of exercise, runners still need to find time to build strength and flexibility in order to prevent and treat back pain. When it comes to strength, try incorporating core-centric exercises to help increase your core stabilization while running. And for flexibility, we recommend spending a few minutes everyday stretching your hamstrings, calves and hip flexors. These five exercises are a great place to start.

When to See a Spine Specialist

If you have tried the above treatments but see no alleviation from your pain, then it’s time to book an appointment with a spine specialist. Your pain could be caused by something more serious such as joint dysfunction.


Dr. Bendt P. Petersen is an orthopaedic and neurospine surgical specialist with over twenty years in operative clinical practice. He is a fellowship-trained surgeon whose practice is the only one in the Mobile-area devoted exclusively to the treatment of your spine.

The Center for Spine Health employs the most advanced operative and nonoperative therapies in concert with the most highly-trained physical therapists and other advanced ancillary practitioners to help you live the life you want to live.

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