Preventing Pain in Lower Back Area When Running

Preventing pain in lower back area when running starts with landing with a forefoot strike, not a heel strike — a harmful landing style generally caused by overly cushioned heeled running shoes. And, new evidence suggests that in addition to forefoot running, you can stave off lower back pain by spine with increasing trunk flexion (slight forward bend) and axial rotation (letting your torso sway slightly side-to-side) to deduct stress from your upper body.

Avoid Pain in Lower Back Area When Running
Bending and twisting during running may be related to the shock-absorbing characteristic of the back.

Preventing Pain in Lower Back Area When Running

The amount of stress and strain on the lower back is strongly influenced by trunk flexion and axial rotation (i.e. bend and twist). Researchers have documented that runners who don’t bend and twist their trunk have a more rigid, less pelvis-trunk coordination pattern and are more likely to experience lower back pain compared to runners who do bend and twist.

For instance, Seay et al. (2014) found that runners with lower back pain had less pelvic-trunk bend and twist compared with controls. Other investigations have found that runners with lower back pain had a more gaudard gait compared to healthy runners. A guarded gait significantly limits trunk range of motion and allows the possibility that lower back pain will become chronic.

Based on their results, the researchers concluded that clinicians should target velocity components in multiple planes of motion when treating runners with lower back pain. In other words, allowing your trunk to rotate swiftly during running may improve load transfer mechanisms and internal stress states within the trunk.

As for trunk bending, trunk posture has the capacity to affect load distribution in the lower extremity joints during running. Hsiang-Ling and Powers (2015) found that a slight forward trunk bend, or lean, reduced loading on the knee-joint without compromising biomechanical demands at the ankle during running.

The Take Home Message

A lack of pelvic-trunk bend and twist may negatively affect shock transmission through the body. The belief that running involves minimal bend and twist motions may play a major role in the prevalence of lower back pain in runners.

What is more is that bending and twisting is important because it may be a factor in determining how force is transmitted to the musculoskeletal system during running. To deduct stress from your back while you run, bend and twist a little.

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References:

Hsiang-Ling, T and Powers, CM. Influence of trunk posture on lower extremity energetics during running. Med Sci Sports Exer, 201547(3):625-6.

Lamoth, C. J., Meijer, O. G., Wuisman, P. I., van Dieen, J. H., Levin, M. F., & Beek, P. J. (2002). Pelvis-thorax coordination in the transverse plane during walking in persons with
nonspecific low back pain. Spine, 27, E92 – E99.

Seay et al. Trunk bend and twist coordination is affected by low back pain status during running. Euro J Sport Sci, 2014;14(6):563-68.

Seay, J. F., Van Emmerik, R. E., & Hamill, J. (2011b). Low back pain status affects pelvis-trunk coordination and variability during walking and running. Clinical Biomechanics (Bristol, Avon), 26, 572 – 578.

Bretta Riches

Bretta Riches

"I believe the forefoot strike is the engine of endurance running..."

BSc Neurobiology; MSc Biomechanics candidate, ultra minimalist runner & founder of RunForefoot. I was a heel striker, always injured. I was inspired by the great Tirunesh Dibaba to try forefoot running. Now, I'm injury free. This is why I launched Run Forefoot, to advocate the health & performance benefits of forefoot running and to raise awareness on the dangers of heel striking, because the world needs to know.
Bretta Riches

P.S. Don't forget to check out the Run Forefoot Facebook Page, it's a terrific place to ask questions about forefoot running, barefoot running and injury. I'm always happy to help!

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