A few tips this week for anyone running with a stiff or bad back, or who wants to avoid one:
First, a relevant little “preseason” story from my days as a pro football Physio…
So, pre-season would come around and the running would commence. And it was customary back then for pretty much the entire first week, if not two, of pre-season to be focused on building stamina and fitness. So the lads would hit the concrete hard. Or the woods of Durham, or the paths of Richmond, depending upon where we were based that week.
And if I could predict two of the most common injuries that I’d see in the first two weeks of a pre-season, it would be “runners knee” (pain on the outside of the knee AKA IT Band syndrome), or a complaint of a “stiff lower back” which would limit a players ability to run as far as everyone else.
(There’s more tips for runners to help them get fit and stay fit, being given away FREE here: www.paulgoughphysio.com/sports-injury)
Here’s the problem:
Most of the time the stiff lower back and the IT Band issue would go hand in hand. If you have a weak lower back not able to keep pace with the miles you’re running, then the first warning sign is usually “stiffness”. The second… a problem else where, such as the outside of the knee.
But an even bigger problem exists, too :
See, for runners complaining of a “bad back”, it’s often the case that it’s not even a bad back causing their pain or problem. There’s such a thing known as “Piriformis Syndrome” that makes you think you’ve got a bad back, even a touch of sciatica, that comes on BECAUSE of a weak back.
What it isn’t, is a bad back.
It’s just ANOTHER sign of a weak one. And it’s often the source of frustration for many pro-footballers at this time of the year (and grassroots runners) who increase their mileage inline with the inviting, nice summer weather which makes it very difficult to resist another run after work.
Here’s what you need to do if this is happening to you:
Stop the running completely.
You can walk, bike ride and do other things like swimming and even the X-trainer, but you need to stop the running. Piriformis Syndrome is the result of a muscle right in the middle of your “bum” having gotten too big (because of all the running you’ve been doing). And it has happened because your lower back hasn’t been strong enough, meaning that the wrong muscles have been working too hard to support you whilst you run.
So when your “piriformis” muscle has gotten bigger, like any muscle would if you worked it hard, it begins to trap a nerve in your bum. And this can make you feel like you’ve got back pain, or nerve pain, and is frustrating because it often disappears as soon or not long after you stop running.
Rest will do nothing to improve it either. You need deep massage and plenty of ice, both applied a few times per day for a couple of weeks. Lots of stretching too. And just as importantly, you need to strengthen your lower back muscles. Do that by following core stability or Pilates style exercises, progressively and daily.
Tip: Once the problem is fixed, don’t make the same mistake as most people do and stop your lower back exercises thinking that everything is now ok. Do that, and I guarantee your “sore bum” will come back. Start the exercises and keep on doing them and your chances of suffering again will lessen greatly.
There’s more tips for runners to help them get fit and stay fit, being given away FREE here: www.paulgoughphysio.com/sports-injury
Specialist Physio Clinics : Darlington – Durham – Guisborough – Hartlepool
Tel: 01429 866771
> This article was written by Paul and printed and publish in the Northern Echo Newspaper on Sat 16th July, 2014…
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