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Tony asked...

I have been experiencing lower back pain when I do cardio either at the gym or outside. I go to the gym 4/5 times a week and mainly do weights with no problem, but my lower back kills when I start running.

I think this might be a result of: driving long distances/hours, poor posture, my upper back is far more developed than my lower backs (from lifting weights). I do not want to waste my GP's time or panic into a physio/chiropracty appointment.

Is it normal to only experience lower back pain when running? I would be grateful if you could give me some initial pointers with where to seek help.

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The Answer

Low back pain is often associated with sports which involve lifting or bending but it is also fairly common in runners too.  Even a slight imbalance in the muscular structures which support the spine and pelvis can bring on low back pain.  By lifting weights regularly you will have developed strength in certain muscle groups but not necessarily the core muscles which are needed for stability while running.

If you have had a recent or old injury to your lower body e.g. foot, ankle, knee or hip, then this can also lead to an unbalanced gait which can result in low back pain when running. If the pain is only located in the lower back and does not involve pain into the buttock or legs then there is a good chance that the recovery period will be shorter. The key is to develop the correct core muscle balance and alignment when running. This will involve a period of relative rest from longer distance running while you work on your biomechanics and core muscle balance.

Pilates exercises are an excellent way to improve core muscle strength. While you are recovering it is alright to check your progress through short controlled posture runs on a flat even surface. If the back pain remains quiet you can then gradually build up the frequency then the distance of your runs. The most important point is not to push on running through low back pain - this is likely to result in longer term problems.

Although you may be reluctant to consult with a physio or chiropractor this may be false economy as chronic musculoskeletal injuries are more difficult to resolve. It would certainly be worth having an expert look at your biomechanics including foot posture.

Answered by Dr Alasdair Wright.

 

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