Southwest Florida Neurosurgical Associates


4 Situations That Lead to Running-Related Back Pain

When you started running, you only needed to grab your shoes and your iPod before you left your house. Over time, you increased your mileage—and your gear. Now you carry a hydration pack, GPS, and snacks. With more miles comes more responsibility.

While you might hit the road prepared to hydrate your body and track your pace, you might not think about how to ready your body. If you start your run without thinking about the best way to prep your muscles and joints, you could encounter back pain.

Should you experience lower-back pain, read through the following situations to see if any of them sound familiar.

Situation 1

On your busy Saturday last weekend, you scheduled in an early-morning run before the sun came up. Although you covered a familiar path, you accidentally tripped on a curb—hard. Since you felt no immediate damage, you pressed on. However, in your current workouts, you notice a sharp pain radiating from your lower back and hip. Sometimes, the pain feels so intense, you can’t finish your runs.

Sciatica/SI Joint Sensitivity

Your trip likely affected your sacroiliac (SI) joint, which lies in the pelvis. A fall, trip, or downhill stride can inflame the ligaments in the joint and cause pain similar to sciatica.

Similarly, overuse or improper form can cause piriformis syndrome, a common long-distance running injury. Piriformis syndrome occurs when the piriformis muscle in your hip inflames and irritates the sciatic nerve. Sciatica can result from this condition, an overgrown bone, or a herniated disk. Whether the source of the pain comes from exercising or not, long and intense runs may further aggravate the pain.

Learn more about treating sciatica pain through our blog post on physical therapy and sciatica.

Situation 2

You’ve spent months speed training on roads because you signed up for a scenic 10K trail run. Just when you start adjusting to the increased elevation, your lower back begins to bother you.


Each person’s feet vary, and these appendages rarely perform perfectly. Everyone has some sort of pronation, but for certain people experience more drastic side effects. While pronation involves a number of factors, your running surfaces play a big part in how you hit the ground.

As your body adjusts to absorb shock, your feet will pronate to combat the impact. This adjustment can cause you to use your feet in unbalanced and unnatural ways.

Dirt acts as a natural support with loose material and variant pressure. However, your running surface change, so you never know what you’ll encounter—concrete, asphalt, dirt, gravel, or steel. If one surface type feels comfortable, a change can alter your pronation. To best meet various terrains, work with a professional to find shoes or insoles that work with your pronation.

Situation 3

You feel more like a runner than ever as you train for your half-marathon. The miles pass by and you have your favorite music, podcasts, and motivational thoughts to power you through. You even have your pair of favorite shoes. You might have worn them down, but they fit your feet just the way you like. However, you’ve started to notice dull, aching lower-back pain.


Even if your shoes match your pronation, they won’t do much good if you’ve worn them through. Shoes offer the stability and support you need to maintain proper form, and unevenly worn shoes can lead to increased shock and imbalanced running. These issues might lead to injury or further aggravated pain.

Situation 4

You spend all day at work slumped in front of a computer screen and slouched in your office chair. So when you get off work, the chance to use your muscles and get some fresh air excites you. While you feel energized as you start running, your back starts to ache.


Day-to-day posture affects your running stance. If you slump at work, your spine will start to take this shape—even during your run.

Your body constantly moves and contracts to hold a neutral, steady spine. However, many people let their bodies slump, rather than use muscles to hold it up. This relaxed shape forms into a more familiar and unnatural position that can lead to back pain.

And poor posture doesn’t just lead to back problems. It also affects how you store and use energy. Since your core plays a key part in proper back support, a weak core leads to poor running form and a host of muscle aches. But strong core muscles also won’t work as efficiently if you have poor posture. Combat this running issue with our four tips to improve posture.


To fight your back pain, remember things like warm ups and stretches. Our blog post Stretch Away Your Back Pain with These 7 Moves has helpful tips tailored to alleviate back pain.

If your pain becomes severe, work with a professional to find a solution so you can get back to running in the safest way possible.

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