Running with back pain or neck pain is certainly no pleasure. You concentrate on the pain instead of enjoying your special time. Each footfall sends a nagging jolt into your lower back, your neck, or between your shoulder blades. With no relief in sight, the miles drag by and you keep looking at your watch to see how long you have been on the road. It’s no fun at all. There are many causes of back pain and neck pain, especially in the athlete. In some cases, you can overcome the problem by yourself. In other cases, you will need to seek the help of a qualified professional, like a chiropractor or sports medicine specialist. How do you know when to self treat and when to get help? Here are a few suggestions to follow before you head for the doctor’s office.
1. Work On Your Form. Running requires the maintenance of correct posture with tremendous muscle exertion for extended periods of time. Be sure to “think tall” when you run. A forward lean when running places extra stress on the erector spinae muscles in the lower back, which causes them to fatigue and predisposes them to injury and, eventually back pain. Keep your shoulders down and relaxed. I see many runners holding their shoulders up around their ears. Strains of the trapezius, levator scapulae and muscles of the neck are the common result of this type of bad form, neck pain being the eventual result. Finally, keep your chest up and out. Avoid that burning pain between your shoulder blades by maintaining the tone of the interscapular muscles. Keeping your chest thrust up and out also expands lung capacity.
2. Work On Your Flexibility And Strength. Stretch your hamstrings. Almost everyone who has tight hamstrings has some type of low back pain. That is because these muscles work in conjunction with your erector spinae muscles to maintain you in an upright position. Gentle daily stretches of the hamstrings and calves may help alleviate your lower back pain. Strengthen your quadriceps and abdominals. Running does not naturally develop the quadriceps or spine-stabilizing muscles like the abdominals. Do some cycling or lift some weights. Do your crunches. Increase your spine’s range of motion. Gently stretch your neck and lower back in the directions of forward flexion, backward extension, side bending and rotation. Roll your shoulders up and back and squeeze your shoulder blades together. You will feel a difference in your mid-back immediately.
3. Work On Your Injuries. Get a massage. A good massage will help relieve back pain and neck pain, increase circulation to injured muscles, break up scar (non-functional) tissue and speed healing. Use ice where it hurts. Ice is nature’s own pain reliever and anti-inflammatory treatment. Stay away from hot tubs for a couple of weeks. Heat is one of the components of inflammation. Muscles may feel better while you are in the tub, but it’s like adding gasoline to a fire. Increase your intake of readily-absorbed forms of calcium, magnesium and potassium. They are nature’s muscle relaxants. Vitamin D3 modulates the inflammatory response. Fish oil is an excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids for repair and health of muscles. Finally, make sure you’re getting enough rest both between workouts and at night. Seven to eight hours per night is needed. Your body will need extra time to heal. You are healing most efficiently when sleeping.
When You Should See A Specialist. If back pain or neck pain continues a few weeks after following these suggestions, your injury may be more serious than you can handle alone. You may be suffering from a condition that involves more than just muscles. The health of the spine is dependent upon the individual movement of each of its 24 vertebrae. When one of these joints becomes injured and doesn’t move the way it is supposed to, it can cause irritation of the nerves that run between the vertebrae. These nerves control every function of the body, including the voluntary and involuntary muscles of the spine. Irritated nerves cause muscles to spasm. Spasm causes pain. The condition where abnormal function of a joint is interfering with a nerve is called a “subluxation”. Chiropractors are doctors who specialize in the relief of this condition without the use of drugs or surgery. Getting your spine checked for subluxations may be the key that will break the injury/pain cycle for you. Back pain or neck pain takes all of the pleasure out of running, or any activity for that matter. By following these simple suggestions, you may find relief and once again enjoy a great sport and your special time. For a video edition of this article click on the following link: Running With Back Pain? Relief