What Runners Should Know About Mid and Lower Back Pain

Running with lower back pain

“Men and women are equally affected by low back pain, which can range in intensity from a dull, constant ache to a sudden, sharp sensation that leaves the person incapacitated.”

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

Interest in running is definitely on the rise. When the Boston Marathon started in 1897, there were only 18 participants. Now more than 30,000 men and women enter each year.

Some races just don’t have enough room for all the runners who want in. The Malibu Half Marathon sold out 3 years in a row. More than half the events for the Disney Princess Half Marathon weekend in February have already sold out.

Without a doubt, running has a lot of great health benefits:

  • Burns calories to help you lose or maintain weight.
  • Helps improve your mood.
  • Can make you live longer.
  • Keeps you mentally sharp, even while you age.

You need cardio exercise to stay healthy. But for runners with low back pain, it just leads to suffering.

Does Running Cause Mid and Lower Back Pain?

People may have told you that since running is a “high-impact” exercise, it’s bad for your bones and joints. Well, that’s completely false. Running is good for your joints, including those in your back.

The impact during running increases bone density. It strengthens ligaments. In your spine, impact makes your disks grow to provide more cushion.

Mid and Lower Back Pain When Running

If running is so good for the spine, then why do some people feel back pain while running? 

To run, you need good muscular strength from your lower body — the part that supports your spine. The hips and glutes work to keep the upper body stable during running. But if they’re weak, the spinal erector muscles will try to make up for it.  

The pain you feel from this is muscle soreness. You’ll feel it on either side of the spine. You might feel spasms when you bend or twist. A foam roller works wonders for muscular back pain — it’s like getting a deep tissue massage.

A lot of new runners start out trying to bite off more than they can chew. The same with regular runners who’ve slacked off for a time and then start running again. Don’t start out too fast.

  • Begin with a fast walk or a jog and gradually build up speed.
  • Keep a smooth, steady gait.
  • Don’t overdo it.

A slipped or bulging disc can cause lower back pain. Not everyone with damaged discs suffers. When a disc pinches a nerve, though, it’s torture.

Arthritis causes severe lower back pain for a lot of people. The cartilage at the ends of the bones wears down, causing the vertebrae to grind against each other.

If you have bone or disc-related lower back pain, you may feel the pain shooting down into your legs. That’s a sign you should see a doctor right away. You may need an MRI to find out what’s truely going on.

How To Prevent and Treat Lower Back Pain

A proper warm-up before running can help prevent back pain. Be sure to stretch out the hamstrings. Tight hammies while running puts pressure on the lumbar spine— that’s the five vertebral bones at the bottom of the spine.

You can avoid lower back pain while running by making sure you’ve got a good running form.

  • Chest aimed outward
  • Shoulders back and relaxed
  • Pump arms forward and backward, not across the body

Do exercises that strengthen the glutes and thighs. 20 minutes or so of stair climbing does a lot of good.

Physical therapy and yoga work wonders with many kinds of back pain.

But if you have severe disc or bone damage, you might need treatments such as epidural injections or surgery.


Running is good for you and your spine — most of the time. If you feel pain in your mid or lower back while running or at any other time, Oasis is here to help.

Learn what’s causing your lower back pain with our Condition Assessment Tool below.