Lower back pain when running: Why you’re feeling it and how PT can help

Running is one of the most common forms of cardiovascular exercise. However, you may have more difficulty going out for a run if you know that, like more than 20% of runners, you’re going to experience lower back pain. 

Fortunately, learning about the possible causes of lower back pain when running can help you start addressing your pain. In addition, there are many physical therapy techniques that can help you treat and even prevent your lower back pain

4 problems that may be behind runners’ lower back pain

There are a variety of problems that can trigger lower back pain when you’re running. A few that you should be aware of include: 

Core muscle weakness

Lower back pain when running can be caused by weakness in specific groups of muscles. For runners, the group of muscles that is weak and may be the root of their lower back pain is their core muscles. 

Your core is the stabilizer of the body. This role means that your core is involved with movement in almost every part of the body. For instance, your core muscles help keep your upper body properly aligned while you’re running. 

However, because many runners do not strength train or condition their core muscles, this group of muscles may be weak. And that means that running for long periods is more likely to overwork your core muscles. This can be a problem for your lower back because your lower back muscles are part of the core muscles, and overworking them when they’re weak can lead to stiffness and pain. 

Physical therapists can use sports performance physical therapy to help runners address and reduce lower back pain. One way this type of PT can help you is by helping to strengthen and balance out muscles in the core and other muscle groups you often use when running.

Muscle strains

A runner may have a muscle strain in the lower back or lumbar region from overworking the area. Your back muscles are also more likely to be strained if you’re using poor form while running. 

Physical therapists can help you treat muscle strains in several ways. These specialists can provide information about your injury. They can also help you learn specific exercises intended to help strengthen and stretch the strained muscle(s) once your initial healing period is over. In addition, physical therapists can help you improve your running form. 

Herniated discs

Another common cause of lower back pain when running is a herniated disc. This condition happens when the soft center of a spinal disc pushes through a crack in the disc’s tougher exterior casing. This often results in the pinching of a nerve in the spine.

You may have a herniated disc if you’re experiencing:

  • Weakness, typically in one leg. 
  • Muscle spasms and weakness.
  • Pain that increases when you walk, run, or bend backward.
  • Pain that radiates from the lower back into your buttocks or legs.
  • Sharp pains or pins and needles in the lower back, buttocks, legs, and even feet.

Physical therapists can help you treat herniated discs that are affecting your running. They can use techniques such as soft tissue manipulation to help reduce tension in muscles around the injured disc. This reduced tension can lead to less pain. 


An exaggerated curvature of the spine, or hyperlordosis, can also be a cause for lower back pain when running because of the pressure that is added on that area when you run. Hyperlordosis can cause the stomach and tailbone to stick out, making an S shape in the spine. That S shape in the spine can make running uncomfortable and painful because of the pressure that running puts on an already abnormal spine. 

Hyperlordosis symptoms can be reduced with the help of a physical therapist. These specialists can build you a customized exercise program for your condition. Such programs can help target weak muscles that contribute to hyperlordosis such as the rectus abdominis, internal obliques and external obliques. 

PT techniques that can help runners reduce lower back pain

Physical therapy can be a great option for relieving lower back pain because a physical therapist can:

  • Give you tips on how to improve your running form.
  • Diagnose and treat the root cause of your lower back pain.
  • Help you learn how to prevent lower back pain in the future.

Sports performance physical therapy is a type of physical therapy that can benefit runners. It can reduce tightness that may be happening in the legs and lower back. It can also ease back pain and help you strengthen muscles that you use a lot when running. Some techniques that are often included in sports performance programs include:

Lattimore PT offers effective treatment for runners’ lower back pain

At Lattimore PT, we offer PT plans that are customized to each individual. This means that we can help you address the specific issues that’s causing your lower back pain when running. Our custom PT plans can also help reduce your lower back pain and cut your risk of feeling it again in the future. 

Are you ready to get our help with your lower back pain? Contact our team today for more information about our back pain treatment services or to schedule an initial appointment.

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