Should people with upper back pain run?

Should people with upper back pain run?

Did you know that upper back pain affects the lives of many people across the globe? Well, believe it. According to a study , nearly 60% of participants reported to have upper back pain at some point in their lives. So, if you are among those experiencing upper back pain, we hope you can find assurance in knowing the fact that you are not alone. Now, we understand that many people are hesitant to continue their runs or even walks when the pain kicks in. Let us reassure you that a successful running program is still well within your reach. Let’s discuss this topic more in this blog.

Understanding Upper Back Pain

Upper back pain is when you experience discomfort, stiffness, or pain from the base of your neck to the bottom of your rib cage. It is quite prevalent and can make simple tasks challenging and affect your overall well-being. As per a study that focused on thoracic spine pain, approximately 15% to 19% of individuals suffer from chronic lower back pain. 

Some of the common causes of upper back pain are:

  • Poor Posture: When you slouch or sit for long periods with incorrect posture, the muscles and ligaments in your upper back can become strained, and this often leads to discomfort.
  • Muscle Strain: Overdoing physical activities or sudden movements can also strain the muscles in your upper back. This can cause pain and stiffness.
  • Injury: Accidents or trauma, like falls or collisions, can result in injuries to the upper back, which can further lead to pain and discomfort.

When you’re out for a run, one of the top reasons you might feel upper back discomfort is because of slouching or having bad posture. Your thoracic spine, which is basically the middle part of your back between your neck and lower back, takes the brunt of it.

Now, for runners, the good news is that you can still carry on with your favourite workout routine even if you do experience upper back pain. You will just need to make a couple or two tiny adjustments, which we will get to later in this blog. 

Social media can be a great platform for personal trainers and online fitness instructors to share tips, connect with clients, and showcase their expertise in addressing posture, muscle imbalances, and overall fitness goals.

Incorporating the expertise of a personal trainer can be immensely beneficial for runners experiencing upper back pain. A personal trainer or even online zoom classes can offer tailored guidance and exercises to address specific issues related to posture, muscle imbalances, and overall strength and flexibility. By working closely with a personal trainer, runners can receive personalized recommendations and adjustments to their workout routines, helping to alleviate upper back pain and prevent future discomfort.

Running and Back Pain: Myth vs. Reality

Myth: Running worsens back pain

Many people believe that running exacerbates back pain, but this isn’t always the case. In fact, experts suggest that, for some individuals, running can be part of the solution rather than the problem.

Reality: Running can strengthen the spine

Research indicates that regular running can have positive effects on spinal health. Studies have shown that long-term runners tend to have better spinal characteristics compared to non-exercisers. This suggests that running doesn’t just maintain spine health—it can actually enhance it.

According to the experts, running isn’t just good for your cardio; it can also do wonders for your back, especially if you’re dealing with mechanical back pain. In fact, Dr Earl J Kilbride, M.D. of Texas Orthopedics in Austin, suggests that those with this type of back pain often have a weak core, both front and back, and running can help strengthen these core muscles.

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Benefits Of Running For Upper Back Pain

According to a study conducted at Deakin University in Australia, researchers found some surprising results about the benefits of running for spine health. They studied 79 participants and discovered that running doesn’t just benefit our muscles but also strengthens our intervertebral discs, which were previously thought to be unaffected by exercise.

Moreover, in a recent article on the Spine Universe, Dr. Earl J Kilbride points out many benefits of running that can help with back pain. Let’s take a closer look at some of them:

  • Strengthens Your Core and Back Muscles: Weak abdominal muscles might be the reason behind that persistent lower back pain. Running works wonders for your entire body, giving those crucial core and back muscles the workout they need to support your spine.
  • Helps You Stay Fit and Trim: Struggling with extra pounds can strain your spine and joints, adding to your daily discomfort. Regular exercise, particularly aerobic activities like running, is your ticket to maintaining a healthy weight. By keeping those pounds off, you’re also giving your spine a much-needed break from unnecessary stress.
  • Triggers Feel-Good Endorphins: Ever heard of the “runner’s high”? If you’ve ever experienced that blissful feeling after a run, you’re no stranger to the magic of endorphins. These hormones are released during running, lifting your mood and leaving you with an overall sense of happiness and contentment.

Read more : Can pull-ups cause lower back pain?

Preparing To Run with Upper Back Pain

Before you begin your run, it is important to take a few moments to stretch your muscles thoroughly. You should focus on hamstring and quadriceps/groin stretches to alleviate tightness and reduce strain on your back. Plus, paying attention to your calf muscles can contribute to overall muscle flexibility, even though they may not directly connect to your back. Remember, every muscle in your body plays a role in your running form and overall comfort.

Even after completing your run, continue your stretching routine to help relieve any tension that may have occurred during your workout. Try ice therapy to reduce inflammation and reduce any post-run discomfort.

Running Safely With Upper Back Pain

With upper back pain, there are certain adjustments that you will have to make if you want to continue running. Let’s quickly take a look at some of them:

  • Start Slow and Gradual: Avoid the temptation to push yourself too hard from the get-go. Instead, adopt a “low and slow” approach, gradually easing into your running routine. Set realistic goals that account for your current fitness level and any recent return to running. Progressive increases in distance and speed are key to preventing injuries while also allowing your body to adapt gradually.
  • Try Cross-Training: Cross-training is an excellent way to give your body a much-needed break from the repetitive impact of running while still maintaining your fitness level. Consider activities like swimming, biking, or weight training to complement your running routine. It’s important to avoid overuse injuries and maintain well-balanced and strong muscles by varying your workouts.
  • Choose the Right Gear: Invest in appropriate gear to support your back and enhance your running experience. Select shoes, braces, and orthotics that suit your foot anatomy and running style. Visit a specialty running store for a foot strike analysis to ensure you choose the right shoes for your needs. Also, consider using a neoprene back belt for added support and heat therapy to keep your low back loose during runs.
  • Listen to Your Body: Pay close mind to signs of discomfort or any pain during your runs. If, at any time, you begin to experience back pain, slow down and take breaks to stretch if needed. Don’t hesitate to adjust your workout or even abort it if necessary to prevent exacerbating your back pain. Rest along with recovery are crucial for allowing your body to heal and preventing further injury.

Read more : The Benefits Of An Online Personal Trainer

Treatment For Upper Back Pain

To effectively address upper back pain, a comprehensive treatment plan should always include mobility, strength, and movement. Here are some key components for you to consider:

  • Exercises and Stretches for Upper Back Pain Relief: First off, it’s crucial to understand that different back injuries call for tailored approaches. Whether you’re dealing with acute strains or disc issues, there’s a range of exercises and stretches that can offer relief. For some, gentle range of motion movements within pain-free limits might do the trick, while others may benefit from more robust stretches and full-range movements.
  • Considerations for Arm Swing: Proper arm swing while running is incredibly important for maintaining balance and minimizing strain on the upper back. Always make sure that your arms swing naturally and rhythmically, and definitely avoid excessive tension or crossing the body midline.
  • Strengthening Exercises for the Upper Back: Strength training plays a quite vital role in supporting your spine and improving overall back health. Try to go for exercises that target the muscles of the upper back, shoulders, as well as core. Choose a variety of exercises that suit your injury level and avoid any movements that cause pain.
  • Warm-Up and Cool-Down Strategies: Before your run, do a thorough warm-up to prepare your muscles as well as joints for exercise. Include dynamic stretches and aerobic exercises to increase blood flow and mobility. After your run, cool down with gentle exercises and stretching to promote recovery and prevent stiffness.
  • Choosing the Right Running Footwear: Invest in properly fitting running shoes that support your individual biomechanics and foot anatomy. If possible, try to visit a specialist to assess your gait, arch height, and pronation to find the best shoes for you. Also, replace worn-out shoes regularly to maintain proper support and cushioning.
  • Improving Running Form: Focus on maintaining good running form to minimize stress on the back and reduce the risk of injury. Keep your chest upright, shoulders relaxed, and arms swinging naturally. Take shorter, faster strides to lessen the impact and avoid overstriding.
  • Commit to a Smart Running Program: Avoid overtraining by limiting your running frequency and gradually increasing distance or speed. Include cross-training and rest days in your schedule to prevent overuse injuries. Remember to always listen to your body and seek medical attention if back pain persists despite these measures.

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To Sum It Up

People with upper back pain can still run, as evidenced by many studies. Don’t let any shortcomings slow you down, especially when they involve something you love and your health. There is always room to make a few tweaks so that you can shoulder on. Hopefully, this blog helps you, dear runners, see the benefits that come with running, even with your upper body pain.

Before we sign off, we would like to advise you to seek the guidance of healthcare providers or professional fitness trainers before you decide to start running after you experience any back pain. 

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