Exercise is one of the best treatments for chronic back pain. But, certain forms of exercise, when done incorrectly, can exacerbate pain and lead to additional injuries.

If you regularly struggle with back pain while running, you don’t have to give it up altogether. Read on to learn how you can avoid back pain while still maintaining a regular running regimen.

1. Start with the Right Shoes

All running shoes are not created equal, and wearing ill-fitting or unsupportive shoes could be contributing to the back pain you feel while running.

Visit a specialty running store and have your gait and arch height evaluated by a professional. They’ll take your running goals into account and help you find the right pair of shoes for your particular needs.

Don’t forget to replace your shoes every 250 miles or so, or when they start to show a significant amount of wear.

2. Warm Up Before EVERY Run

A proper warm-up can make a big difference for runners who find themselves feeling achy and sore after every training session. Take time to let your muscles acclimate before you start pushing yourself.

A good warm-up should include a few minutes of walking and light jogging before you hit your desired speed. Doing plyometric exercises like burpees or lateral jumps can also help you improve your power if you’re working on sprints or increasing your speed.

Static stretching before a run is not ideal, as it can increase your risk of injury. Instead, focus on dynamic stretches that move your limbs through a full range of motion.

3. Cool Down Properly, Too

A proper cooldown matters just as much as a good warm-up, especially if you’re trying to prevent sore muscles and back pain.

When you’ve finished running, transition to a jog, then to a walk to slowly bring down your heart rate. Then spend some time foam rolling or static stretching to send blood to the muscles and promote faster recovery.

4. Don’t Overtrain

Running more than 3-4 days a week, for most people, constitutes overtraining. If you’re doing this on a regular basis, you could be taxing your muscles and increasing your risk of injury, especially if you’re not taking time to stretch and cool down afterward.

When you’re trying to increase your mileage for a race, it can be easy to find yourself overtraining. Make sure you’re not increasing your mileage by more than a couple of miles each week.

Also, don’t work on increasing speed and distance and the same time — focus on one at a time to protect your body from too much wear and tear.

5. Work on Your Posture

Proper posture can significantly improve your running performance and help remedy for any back pain that you experience while running.

Consider working with a running coach to have your form evaluated. If you can’t afford a coach, some good cues to keep in mind include:

  • Keep your glutes pulled in and hips facing forward

  • Keep your spine straight with your head stacked directly on top of the neck

  • Pull elbows back to encourage good posture

  • Focus on landing softly to lessen the impact on your bones and joints

If poor posture is a real weakness of yours, you might also want to try wearing a back brace that promotes proper posture when exercising.

6. Cross Train

Cross training with resistance exercise and other forms of cardio like cycling can help you avoid burnout or overtraining while still strengthening your muscles and helping you avoid injury.

Make sure you include core strengthening exercises in your cross training routine — a weak core is often the culprit of back pain for all people, but especially runners. The following are some of the best core exercises to perform for back pain relief:

  • Planks

  • Side planks

  • Back extensions

  • Exercise ball pikes

  • Glute bridges

Wrapping Up

Many runners who deal with chronic back pain fear that they’ll have to give up their sport altogether. This might not necessarily be the case, though. If you keep these tips for avoiding back pain while running in mind, you can allow your body to recover while still maintaining your running routine.