At some point in their lives, approximately 80 percent of people will experience back pain. Some people, like runners, are highly susceptible to back pain — in fact, one study showed that more than 50 percent of runners reported having a history of back pain.
Runners can experience back pain for a number of reasons. But, for many, the culprit is a lack of mobility, especially in the hips and spine. If you think poor mobility could be the cause of your back pain, keep reading.
Listed below are some of the best stretching and strengthening exercises you can do to improve mobility throughout the body and minimize back pain.
To do a plank properly, start by kneeling on all fours. Make sure your wrists are in line with your shoulders and your neck is neutral. Step your feet back so your legs are straight and your body forms a straight line from head to heels. Don’t let your hips lift up or sag down toward the ground.
Press into the floor with your hands to slightly round your upper back and hollow out your stomach — you’ll feel your abdominals engage more by doing this.
Start by holding a plank for thirty seconds. If this is too easy, increase the duration of your hold. Try to do at least three rounds of planks.
Swiss Ball Back Extensions
Kneel on the ground facing your Swiss ball. Place your hips on the ball and extend your legs out behind you, digging your feet into the floor to stabilize yourself.
When you feel secure, lean over the ball with your arms crossed in front of you. Slowly raise yourself back up (like you’re doing a reverse sit-up) while keeping your back naturally arched. You should feel your lower back and hamstrings working during this exercise.
Shoot for three rounds of 10-12 repetitions.
Start by lying on your back with feet flat on the ground and knees bent. Pull your heels as close to your glutes as possible while still keeping your feet flat. Place your hands flat on the floor at your sides.
Press into the floor and lift your hips until your body creates a straight line from knees to shoulders (don’t over-arch your back!). Hold for 3-5 seconds, keeping the glutes squeezed together, then lower yourself back down.
Do three sets of 12-15 repetitions.
Lie facedown on the ground with your arms extended in front of you, thumbs pointing up toward the ceiling. Press your shoulders down, contract the glutes, and slowly lift both your upper body and lower body — your trunk should remain on the ground.
Try to hold this position for about 30 seconds, then lower down. If that felt too easy, increase the duration of the hold, just like you did with the planks.
Try to do at least three rounds of this exercise.
Lie on your stomach with your chin slightly tucked so your forehead can rest on the ground. Extend your arms in a “T” shape, palms flat on the ground. Bend your right knee to bring your heel toward your glute. Then, cross it over to try and touch your toes to the left side of your body. Return to the starting position and repeat on the left side.
Try to continue alternating legs for 30 seconds, then rest. Repeat for three rounds, total.
Bonus Tips for Relieving Back Pain
These exercises are all great for improving mobility and reducing back pain. But, if you’re already hurting and are in need of some quick relief while you work on strengthening and stretching your muscles, these bonus tips can help:
Soak in a hot bath or use a heating pad on your back for even heat distribution for stiffness and pain
Roll out your glutes, hips, and shoulders with a lacrosse ball for foam roller — or invest in a professional massage
Add anti-inflammatory foods and drinks like ginger, turmeric, and tart cherry juice to your diet
Use a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulator (TENS) to minimize pain and promote faster healing
Back pain is a common ailment that many runners experience, but it’s definitely not an inevitable part of the sport.
There are lots of things you can do to both relieve acute pain and prevent it from coming back in the future. Give these mobility exercises and pain-relief tips a try today to get stronger and make running more enjoyable.