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Jogging & Running/Stiff/tired back while running

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Question
Hi Nick,

I'm 24 years old and have been running for about four years (frequency/mileage depending on my school and work schedule). About two years ago I was averaging about 45-50 mpw with no problem, but because of a stress fracture I had to cut back. I'm just now getting back into a regular running schedule and running about 20-25 mpw.

For the past few weeks my runs have been great and I've been increasing my pace. But about two days ago, I noticed my back felt a little stiff and tired like it needed some stretching. During my runs, the fatigue increases the longer I run. By the end of my run, my legs still feel great and I feel like I could still run, but it's my back that really makes me feel tired and want to stop.

Today I tried to see if I could notice anything about my posture. I feel like my right foot placement and how I strike off from it may be an issue. I strike off with my left foot rather effortlessly and I don't even think about it. But with my right foot, I find that I concentrate more on where I land on it and how I strike off. This seems to trigger more fatigue in the right side of my back, although the stiffness/fatigue seems to be in my lower back in general.

When I come back from runs, I bend forward toward my toes, and my back cracks a bit...this normally doesn't happen after my runs. This happens when I pull my shoulders back as well. Throughout the day the fatigue and stiffness fade, but when I wake up in the morning it seems a bit more present.

Any thoughts on what I should do? I did a stretch to see if I have a tight psoas (something I found from Runners World), but that doesn't seem to be an issue.

Thank you so much,
Kim

Answer
Kim, It is very likely that this is "mechanical low back pain" which means that the cause isn't as important as what helps it. It also means that it is likely nothing life-threatening. However, if it gets significantly worse or you notice a fever, pulsing, or that changing positions/activities doesn't change your pain then you should see a  physician immediately.

Try finding a position/movement that makes your back feel better. For example, sometimes people will lean back (arching their back) while standing and that takes away their pain. Sometimes it's twisting or bending to the right or to the left. Sometimes it's a combination of twisting, side bending, and extending (leaning back). If you can find a movement that feels good do it repeatedly and often. You can also hold it there for 10-60 sec.

If the above tip doesn't work then write me again. This may be an easy fix that you can do before, during, and after runs.

Good luck and hopefully this quick and easy tip helps!

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Nick Rainey

Expertise

I can answer questions about pain and training program. If there is a question about running that I don't know then I'll do some research and make sure I provide you with an answer.

Experience

I'm a Doctor of Physical Therapy. I'm a track and cross country coach. I train clients throughout the year. I've helped prepare athletes for their NFL Pro Days. I've written articles on running. Finally, those that I work with have less pain and run faster.

Organizations
American Physical Therapy Association- Sports Section

Publications
The 6 Week Workout Program- I'm the author of this book Research Made Simple for Physical Therapists- I'm the author of this Kindle book

Education/Credentials
Board Certified Clinical Specialist in Orthopaedic Physical Therapy Doctor of Physical Therapy BS in Exercise Science NSCA- CSCS and CPT USA Weightlifting Level I NPI- Certified Posture Specialist Total Motion Release Level II Certified Dry Needling

Awards and Honors
National Posture Institute's International Perfect Posture of the Year Award 2011 Clinical Excellence Award- Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions Aegis Therapies Scholarship recipient

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