Many many runners come to me complaining of back pain when they run.
Even before I watch them run I can normally predict their running form and even what shoes they wear with some accuracy.
They usually run very upright with a considerable heel strike. Many have been taught to run this way or have images of Olympic sprinters in their head who they are trying to emulate in form.
This upright position is often accompanied by an anterior pelvic tilt. This tilt can be the result of many different environmental factors – sitting, wearing built up shoes, pregnancy, too much belly fat etc.
Along with this we will normally see overactive adductors (sitting again) and weak glute max and/or medius muscles, often imbalanced from one side to another.
Shoes will normally have a load of protection at the heel to minimise the effect of the poor foot strike position (without this protection they simply could not run on hard surfaces for very long).
There will often be poor ankle mobility and the knees will often be unable to flex properly to absorb some of the shock. Same at the hip.
So now the ground reaction forces are being poorly dissipated all the way up to the lumbar spine, which is compressed due to the forward tilt of the pelvis.
Into that mix you now throw the rotation and drop of the pelvis due to instability because of glute medius etc. Hey presto, you have all the ingredients you need for lower back pain – poor shock absorption through all the areas that should be dissipating it efficiently, exacerbated ironically by the ‘protective’ shoe, compression, rotation and drop on one side at the hip.
Whilst a more upright running style may be appropriate for a sprinter on the track, it is going to find you out over longer distances where efficiency is key, not explosive power and muscular effort.
So you go to the doctor and he gives you a painkiller and tells you to lay off running for a while. Is that going to fix this problem which is a conbination of so many things, environment, lifestyle choice, shoes and running form, to name just a few??
Do you think that going to a physio or chiropractor will resolve all these factors or will it just resolve the surface issue perhaps for a while?
A really good place to start for most runners is to slightly change their body position, foot strike and cadence when they run. Often, within 5 minutes, their back no longer hurts, and the penny drops – it’s not some kind of random overuse injury at all – it’s more about working efficiently with gravity and taking a whole body view, not thinking that where the pain is felt is the only issue!
Indeed, thank God for pain because we would not know how to function at all without this warning signal that something is wrong. In fact, the more you dull the pain with painkillers, the less efficiently you will be able to function!
To run faster and more efficiently without back pain call David on 07504439555 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.