Running is a great way to stay in shape, but anything from the wrong shoes to the wrong form can have a negative impact on the health of your spine. After all, running is quite a high-impact activity, and the spine is tasked with absorbing a lot of that impact force. Make sure you follow these six steps to ensure your running routine doesn't produce back pain.
1. Wear the Right Shoes
First and foremost, wear the right shoes. See a gait specialist so they can determine exactly what kind you need – you may find that certain shoe designs aren't ideal for your stride. Once you've chosen your shoes, you're recommended to change them every 450 to 550 miles. Over time, the cushioning will begin to fail, which will place more jolting force along your legs and up to your spine.
2. Mix Up the Terrain
Running on softer ground is better on your joints and spine since less force is created at each footfall. It's not always possible, but make sure you run on the grass when you can. You can also mix things up with some trail running on the weekends.
3. Warm Up, Cool Down and Stretch
Too many runners don't understand the importance of stretching. It won't just prevent muscle pain; it will also help prevent back injuries. If the muscles in your legs are tight, they won't properly absorb impact and will tend to pull on the pelvis, which in turn will affect the spine. Make sure you warm up, do some stretches and then cool down when you're done.
4. Develop Your Core
Running isn't generally considered a core exercise, but your core will be engaging during each and every run. If your core is weak, the back muscles won't be properly supported, which could lead to injury. Take the time to develop the abdominal and lower back muscles to ensure this doesn't happen.
5. Maintain Correct Posture
As you run, make sure you maintain proper form. One thing to watch out for is heel-strike, which means that you're landing on the heel instead of the mid-foot. This produces a lot of force that will jar along your spine. You should also align your body above your feet and avoid leaning forwards.
6. See a Specialist If Pain Develops
If you ever notice any pain or discomfort, see a chiropractor as soon as possible. Back injuries can take a long time to heal, and they can also become chronic if not dealt with quickly. A specialist will help determine the problem and let you know how you should change your running behaviour to work around it.