Why You Get Upper Back Pain After Running

July 24, 2019

back pain after running
Kyleigh Roessner RN-BSN

Running is one of the oldest exercises. It can be done almost anywhere, with very little equipment and without a gym membership. It's great for your cardiovascular fitness. However, if you run improperly, you may experience back pain after running.

Upper Back Pain After Running

Upper back pain after a running session is likely a result of poor posture while running. According to the Marathon Training Academy, when runners are fatigued, they start to relax their posture and slouch. The head tips forward on the neck, which causes strain to the upper back, leading to pain. Good posture, especially while running, is essential to managing neck and back pain.

Podium Runner also suggests that upper back pain while running may be from a problem with your form. If your shoulders raise and tense toward your neck, for example, it can be painful after a long run. You may also be swinging your arms too much, or too little.

The Marathon Training Academy encourages runners who experience upper back pain after running to practice strengthening back muscles to improve their posture. They also suggest stretching before and after running, and that you make foam rolling part of your routine. Additionally, make sure that anything you wear on your back while running is not making your problem worse.

Ultimately, if your upper back pain persists, you should consult your doctor or physical therapist who can help diagnose your problem and create a plan to overcome it.

Lower Back Pain After Running

Running may exacerbate problems with your intervertebral discs due to the pressure on your discs, and it can also cause problems with the sciatic nerve and joints in the pelvis.

In order to prevent lower back pain after running, Spine Health suggests that you stretch your hamstrings regularly — as often as twice a day. They also recommend a warm up before you start your run, and doing back strengthening exercises to provide a good base of support for your body. Cross-training is beneficial in preventing overuse injuries, as are using comfortable shoes and running on forgiving terrain.

If you are experiencing some pain after a run, Spine Health recommends trying one or more of the following:

  • Take a break from your runs for a couple of days
  • Anti-inflammatory medications, like ibuprofen
  • Hot and/or cold packs to the affected area
  • Stretching before and after your run

When to See a Doctor

If you're not experiencing relief after you have done all of the at-home care and perfected your form, then it's time to see a physician or physical therapist. If you're feeling any numbness, tingling or weakness, it could be a sign that you are having problems with your intervertebral discs or nerves. And of course, use your best judgment, if something doesn't feel right, reach out to a qualified medical professional.

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