Approximately 80 percent of American adults will report having back pain at some point in their lives. If you lead an active life, learn good body mechanics and exercise regularly, you reduce your risk of suffering from back pain. However, people who exercise must learn to work out in a way that prevents injury to the back muscles and vertebrae. If you run, jog or engage in other high-impact exercise that puts stress on the spine, then it is especially important to start preventative measures.
Buy supportive shoes.
Back pain can be a sign of shoe wear and tear. Joggers should replace their shoes at least every year, even if they appear to have little wear and tear on the outside.
Use running shoes for jogging and use cross-training shoes for other exercise. There is a great deal of variety in athletic shoes. Running shoes are meant for forward motion and do not provide much support for side-to-side motion. If you are jogging on uneven trails or during a team sport, you will need a shoe that also has side support to prevent injury.
Make sure there is a thumb-width between your longest toe and the end of the shoe. This wiggle room will ensure you have enough space for each footfall. Always buy the right size that is not too tight or loose.
Buy extra arch supports if you have high arches.
This will increase the cushion on the bed of the shoe and prevent fallen arches and other injuries. Foot injuries can also cause low back pain because the structures that support the back are weak.
Buy a motion-control shoe if you have low arches or flat feet.
This will prevent injury by making sure the feet aren’t too flexible.
Stretch your hamstrings 2 to 3 times per day.
The hamstring runs from the back of your thigh and connects with your buttocks and lower back. Runners often have very tight leg muscle, which can cause pull on muscles in the lower back.
Do the knee to chest stretch 3 times on each leg. Lay on your back with your knees bent. Lift 1 knee toward your chest and grasp it with both hands. Pull it lightly toward your chest for 10 seconds. Switch legs. Increase the stretch slightly with each repetition.
Do the single leg stretch 3 times on each leg. Lay on your back with your knees bent. Raise your right leg and grasp it on the back of the thigh. Straighten your left leg onto the ground and try to straighten your right leg up in the air. It can remain slightly bent. Pull your leg gently toward your chest and hold for 10 seconds. Switch legs.
Do a piriformis stretch if you have pain in your buttocks and lower back. Stand next to a tall counter or surface that is approximately at hip height. Rotate your right leg and place it atop the surface. Make sure you are very close to the counter. Lean forward with your back straight. You should feel a deep stretch in your buttocks and hips. Hold for 30 seconds and then switch sides.
Jog on a soft surface as often as possible.
Choose a rubber track or soft earth over concrete. Jogging is a high-impact sport that causes shock waves to travel up your spine every time you hit a hard surface.
Warm up your muscles prior to every jogging session.
Walk for 1 to 2 blocks before you start to jog. Start slow and slowly build up speed after the first half of a mile.
Do regular toning and strengthening exercises.
Alternate your jogging sessions with Pilates or yoga to strengthen individual muscles throughout your entire body. Train with light weights or resistance bands 2 to 3 times per week.
Jogging mainly trains your legs, heart and lungs. It is not a total-body workout that will protect your muscles from injury. In fact, if you only jog and do not tone your abdominal, back, shoulder and buttock muscles you are still at risk for back pain and injury.
Ensure you are using proper jogging form.
Ask a friend or expert to watch you while you run, in order to ensure the source of your back pain is not incorrect running posture or footfalls. The following are things to watch out for:
Do not land on your heels. A proper running motion should strike the ground mid-foot. Striking the ground on the heel will jar your spine.
Ensure your body is aligned directly above the feet. You should not be leaning forward while you run. Check that your hips, trunk and shoulders are all aligned.
Stop jogging if you experience acute lower back pain.
This is most likely a sign of muscle strain. Lookout for symptoms of nerve pain or numbness in your hips, legs and feet.
Get a doctor’s appointment if you are experiencing extreme pain or numbness in your legs. This could be a sign of a structural problem, such as a herniated disk impinging on nerves.
Restrict your activity for 2 days.
You don’t need to lay in bed, but you should avoid exercising and excessive sitting or standing.
Take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as Ibuprofen.
This can bring down the swelling from a muscle strain. Take the bottle-recommended dose for 2 to 3 days.
Apply ice packs to the affected area for 10 minutes at a time.
Do this 3 to 5 times per day, leaving a few hours between applications.
Apply moist heat, such as a microwaveable rice bag or a shower, onto muscles that are in spasm.
It is a good idea to wait 2 to 3 days before applying heat to a sprain, because it can increase inflammation.
Do very gentle stretching exercises.
Start to take small walks throughout the day. These exercises can start to stretch the muscles and increase circulation.
Do low-impact cardiovascular exercise, such as walking, swimming or elliptical training for 1 to 2 weeks after the injury.
After the back pain recedes, start with gentle jogging and preventative measures.