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Proper Running Technique to Avoid Back Pain

Going for a run is a great way to get exercise, especially during the warmer months when the weather allows more frequent outings. I see many patients who are eager to get back to running after fully recovering from surgery. Because running is a repetitive action that can cause stress, I like to remind them that proper running technique is key to avoid unnecessary pain and injuries. Whether you are just a beginner or a full-fledged marathoner, these basic tips will help improve your form and avoid injuries.

Getting the right shoes is the first step in running with great form. Recently, the once popular barefoot running shoes made waves, but have  been forced to drop claims that they reduce injury and impact on joints. Shoes that provide cushioning and proper arch support are best to reduce the risk of injury. I recommend visiting a specialty running store that performs gait analysis, or spend time with a running trainer.   A good evaluation like this can help with footwear choice, and give you tips on how to improve technique.  Custom orthotics can be helpful for arches that require a little extra support, too!

One of the most common problems for runners lies in their heels. Striking down on your heels can hurt your knees, legs and lower back. The foot should strike down mid-foot and roll forward to propel the next stride.  This involves using the hamstrings more during the running motion, and leaning slightly forward.

Another source of pain can be weak hips and knees. When runners have weak hips, they have difficulty keeping their knees in line with their hips for duration of their stride. This puts added pressure on knees, which will often collapse inward under the weight. This bad habit can cause pain in the knees, hips, and lower back. Avoid this pitfall by practicing hip strengthening exercises like squats and yoga.

A tense upper body can also cause significant pain for runners. When pushing through a hard run, it’s easy to tense up and grit your teeth. However, it’s important to keep your face, shoulders, and arms relaxed to avoid unnecessary injury. Keep your shoulders dropped and back, with elbows at 90 degrees, for a strong stride. Keeping your core strong and tight will also help reduce pressure from your shoulders and back as you run.

And, of course, don’t forget to take time to rest. After any strenuous activity, your body needs time to heal and repair. Give your body time to recover after a few days of running. Remember to cross-train and work other muscle groups to stay strong and in top shape.