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Common Running Injuries - Low Back Pain

Common Running Injuries - Low Back Pain

Acute low back/pelvis muscle spasm can cause extreme pain by irritating the nerves that leave the spinal cord - usually the sciatic nerve which runs into the leg.

Back pain is the most common reason people seek medical attention, and the lower part of the back is the area which is most commonly susceptible to injury.




lower back




There are many causes of low back pain, but the two most common causes are muscular/bio-mechanical problems and disc injuries.


If a runner has a bio-mechanical problem such as those caused by different leg lengths, flat feet, high arches or generally bad posture, then this, with the constant jarring of running, will cause strain and chronic tightening of the muscles that attach onto the spine and pelvis. This chronic tension can develop over a long period, even years, relatively unnoticed. You may only notice occasional back stiffness and a lack of back flexibility. Eventually, however, if this is left untreated, the muscles will become so tight that just a slightly awkward movement, or a run, can bring about an acute strain and spasm of the muscles.






Acute low back/pelvis muscle spasm can cause extreme pain by irritating the nerves that leave the spinal cord - usually the sciatic nerve awhich runs into the leg. Muscle spasm also causes the spinal joints to ‘lock’, compress and irritate the intervertebral discs.


Low back pain due to an acute injury of the intervertebral discs is nowhere near as common as a simple biomechanics or muscular injury. In fact a disc injury is usually caused by a long-standing biomechanics imbalance.


Please remember that there is no such thing as a slipped disc, even if you doctor tells you that you have one! A disc cannot slip. Intervertebral discs, however, can herniate or rupture - the contents of the nucleus pulposus, or inner centre, of the disc are extruded through a tear in the annulus fibrosus (outer covering) impinging on the spinal nerve root, causing extreme pain.


With any low back injury, you should stop running immediately and see your osteopath as soon as possible. Depending on the severity, if the problem is a simple biomechanics/muscular injury the osteopath will often be able to give complete relief of symptoms in a few treatments. Osteopathy can help minor herniations of the disc, but a large prolapse should be treated surgically, so your osteopath will refer you to your GP and then to an orthopaedic surgeon.








Stretching, warming up and warming down are all very important. However, to prevent low back pain, it’s crucial that you get your spine checked out intermittently by an osteopath (this should be twice a year if you’ve never had a back problem, and more frequently if you have).


Back and pelvis problems of a chronic lower level of discomfort can cause all manner of other injuries elsewhere in the body. So your stiff back may not be bad enough to stop you running, but it may soon result in an acute knee or ankle injury.


Apart from joint and muscle manipulation, your osteopath will show you stretching and strengthening exercises for your lower back.



Graeme Stroud ND, MRN, DO, ACOH is an osteopath, 

naturopath, certified zen body therapist and a qualified healer.





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