Are you suffering from pain in your back when you run? Despite being the most prevalent musculoskeletal condition amongst the general population, lower back pain (LBP) surprisingly registers a lower occurrence rate among runners. 

Understanding LBP in Runners

First, let’s try to understand why running might induce lower back pain. Contrary to common belief, science has not established specific risk factors for LBP, such as tight hip flexors, stiff hamstrings, or a weak core. Instead, it seems that LBP can spontaneously occur in people, irrespective of their fitness level or physical strengths and weaknesses.

Clinically, one consistent observation among runners is the possibility of overstriding, where the heel lands in front of the body. This running pattern could correlate with an athlete’s LBP, possibly due to the load transferred from the heel strike to the lower back.

Running with LBP: When is it Okay?

While it may seem counterintuitive, running with LBP is typically acceptable, barring cases of acute and disabling pain. Severe pain could inhibit simple tasks such as wearing shoes and socks, and in such instances, pushing through the pain to run could aggravate the symptoms.

However, if the pain is tolerable, running is often a feasible option. It is important to note that persistent lower back pain doesn’t necessarily equate to ongoing tissue damage. Rather, an increase in pain could indicate sensitization of the tissues.

Running uphill, with its associated neck flexion position (chin tucked to chest), may add extra neural load to the spine and potentially trigger symptoms. Thus, runners should exercise caution with uphill running.

Managing LBP While Running

So, how can we mitigate lower back pain while running? While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, some runners find relief in stretching their anterior hip and thigh muscles (quadriceps/hip flexors) or gluteal muscles.

Patience is key when dealing with LBP; it takes time for the pain to subside. Meanwhile, reassure yourself that running is not only safe but also potentially beneficial for this condition.

For runners who overstride and experience LBP, gait retraining could prove to be a useful strategy. By modifying running patterns, you could potentially reduce the load on the lower back and thereby alleviate symptoms.

To sum up, while LBP is common, runners actually experience a lower prevalence of the condition. For those runners who do experience LBP, modifying running patterns and incorporating specific stretches might offer relief. Remember, when done with care and proper guidance, running may very well act as a protective activity against lower back pain.