Back Pain When Running On Treadmill?

Do You Get Back Pain When Running On Treadmill?

Many runners complain about back pain when running on a treadmill.
Watch this video to learn how to prevent back pain when running on a treadmill.

7 Deadly Running Training Errors That Many Runners Make & How You Can Avoid Them So You Can Continue Running The Mileage You Want. More 4 Life Physical Therapy, St. Louis MO

What Causes Back Pain When Running On a Treadmill?

Many different things can cause back pain when running on a treadmill, but some of the most common causes are listed below.

Most Common Causes Of Back Pain When Running On Treadmill:

  1. Too Little Hip Extension
  2. Bouncing Vertically When Running
  3. Twisting Your Back When Running

Too Little Hip Extension When Running On Treadmill

A lack of hip-extension when running is one of the most-common causes of back pain when running on a treadmill.

In order to keep your head and spine vertical when running, your hips need to be able to move backward (extend) far enough.

If it's easier for you to extend through your lower back than it is to extend your hips, then this is likely movement pattern that you'll use.

After all running is all about efficiency, and your body will seek out the most energy efficient way to run.

However, this pattern of running isn't necessarily good for your back, and over time, it can cause back pain when running.

So you do, you make it more efficient tor run in a way that's better for your back?

We'll get to that in just a minute, but first you need to understand the two reasons that it may be difficult to extend your hips properly.

Reasons for lack of hip extension when running:

  1. One cause may be the hip flexors being too tight, which restricts movement of the hips backwards
  2. The other issue may be that you have too weak hip extensors, which are responsible for pulling the hips up and back

Solutions to improve hip extension when running include:

  1. Stretching your hip flexors
  2. Keeping your abdominal muscles tight while running.
  3. Strengthening your gluteal (butt) muscles

The combination of these things makes it easier to extend your hips, and harder to extend your back.  If you do these things regularly, you can help prevent back pain when running

Another good tip is to keep to conscientiously push off hard from your back foot in order to get your gluteal muscles to fire while running.

Finally, leaning forward can help keep your spine in a neutral position and prevent back pain when running on a treadmill.

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Bouncing Vertically When Running On Treadmill

Another cause of your back pain when running on a treadmill could be from bouncing vertically too much when running.

In order to take a longer stride, you need more vertical distance between your feet and the ground. (A.k.a. more "float" time where neither foot is touching the ground).

However, when you get higher off the ground, there's more downward force when you land.  this can cause the joints in your spine to jam-together, thus causing back pain when running.

Solutions For Vertical-Bouncing When Running

Firstly, the solutions mentioned for the previous hip-extension problem can be helpful. For example, using your abs and hip extensors, so that you can keep your back straight when running.

However, once proper back-posture has been established, the best way to decrease vertical-bouncing when running is the shorter-steps method:

  1. Focus on taking shorter, quicker steps that don’t put as much pressure on the back
  2. Try to reduce vertical-motion in your steps, and just focus on moving horizontally
  3. When there is less vertical-movement in your steps, you reduce the pressure on your spine's joints
  4. This can also help improve your running performance, by focusing more on horizontal movement rather than vertical, which can be great for long distance runners.

Twisting Your Back When Running On Treadmill

Another less common cause of your back pain when running on the treadmill could be pain from twisting your back side-to-side too much.

This twisting of the spine originates from your arms’ movements from to the left and right when you run. If these movements are exaggerated too much, then your whole body will follow-through with their motion, which will twist your spine.

However, the joints in the back are not really designed for twisting, or side-to-side motion. This motion just causes the joints to jam into one another, similarly to the previous causes of back pain mentioned earlier.

The best solution to this twisting-problem is to just focus your whole body on running in a straight path, and consciously minimizing any twisting-movements in your upper body. If you can minimize these movements in your arms and torso, then you minimize the chances of getting back pain from your spinal-joints.

Bonus Solution #1:
Running Outside

If you only have back pain when running on a treadmill and not running outside, the easiest solution is to run outside when weather permits.

When you run on a treadmill, the ground is moving backward under you rather than you moving forward over the ground.

The effect of this is that you may run more stationary with your spine vertical rather than leaning forward.

Additionally, since you're running in place, you are likely to get more up-and-down displacement.

All of these things can result in back pain when running on the treadmill.

As it's more fun to run outside where the scenery changes rather than being stuck running on a treadmill.  Plus, exercising outside has some good mental health benefits.  You get to enjoy the fresh air and change of scenery, and you get some time for yourself to use for mindfulness.

Bonus Solution #2:
Walking On An Inclined Treadmill

If your back really hurts when running, and you've tried the tips above, walking on an inclined treadmill is a good way to get a good cardiovascular workout, strengthen your hip extensors, and avoid the impact forces from running.

Doing this for a short period of time is a good way for your to stay in shape and allow your back to recover while also helping your strengthen your glutes so that you can get back to running.

Click here for tips to prevent lower back pain & sciatica when walking

But, let's be honest... most runners don't like this option.

Walking on a treadmill is just as boring as running on a treadmill (maybe more).

The same goes for other types of cross training like stationary biking or using an elliptical trainer.

Back pain when running on treadmill? Try using this hybrid ellicptical / recumbent bike instead.

Hybrid Elliptical / Recumbent Bike

Although they're good forms of cardiovasuclar exercise, and they're good for your joints and muscles, they can be a little boring.

Plus, you still don't get to run.

Need Help For Back Pain When Running?

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What Is The Back To Running Evaluation?

The Back To Running Evaluation includes:

  • Running and Injury Review
  • Training Plan Assessment
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  • Strength & Flexibility Assessment
  • Doctor's Report of Findings
  • Therapeutic Recommendations to get you back to running quickly

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