A blog by runners. For runners.

Running may help your back pain


“I have back pain. Should I run?” A question I have asked and, as a physical therapist, have answered many times.

Growing up, I was a competitive figure skater. I sustained many injuries to my low back and SI (sacroiliac) joint from aggressive practices. I remember being 16 years old and not being able to lay flat due to pain. When I began running, I was afraid my back pain would get worse. To my surprise, most of the pain and nerve symptoms went away. To this day, the more I run, the less pain I have.

How can this be true?

  1. Running strengthens your core muscles. During a run, the abdominals, trunk extensors, and glute muscles are firing big time. The more you run, the stronger your core becomes.
  2. Running helps you lose weight. It’s no secret that back pain and carrying too much weight can be related. Running paired with a good diet helps you lose weight, taking pressure off your low back and pelvis.
  3. Running promotes healthy lifestyle changes. You can continue to smoke, drink, and eat fatty foods when you run. However, your performance will suffer. That may not matter as a beginner but once you catch running fever, you will try to adjust all things to make you perform better.
  4. Running improves mood. Endorphins not only make you feel better mentally, they can also change your body chemistry and decrease perception of pain and suffering.
  5. Running causes tight muscles. You read that right — tight muscles. Why would this be a good thing? Often times, people experience pain in their back because of opposing muscle group strength and tightness. Running causes tightness in the hip flexors and hamstrings, which can actually support the pelvis more efficiently. (But to an extent — don’t throw out your foam roller just yet!)

As with any medical information, it is best to check with your personal healthcare provider as each individual is different. What may work for some — including me with two disc herniations and a wonky SI joint — doesn’t work for all!

Have you found running helps with your back pain?

Written by Danielle Bressoud.