Is your spine slowing down your running?

photoIf back or hip pain is hindering your running performance and fitness goals then here are some facts to help put a spring back in your step writes Brighton chiropractor Amy Pease. Staying fit helps to prevent aches and pains, however various factors come in to play when pounding the pavements that could put you more at risk of injury. Pain in the low back or hips can arise from inflamed muscles, ligaments, nerves, discs or spinal joints. Injuries can range from mild muscle strains to more serious conditions such as a disc herniation; a chiropractor will be able to tell you the cause of any discomfort with an examination.

Injuries occur because of underlying dysfunction

When you run, 2-3 times your own body weight is transferred from your feet into your ankles, knees, hips, pelvis and spine every time your feet strike the ground. This process should not be painful when repeated regularly providing you have a good running posture and healthy function in your joints and muscles. However underlying muscle imbalances and stiff or unstable joints could eventually cause problems; this may not be noticeable until you increase your mileage or training frequency. For more information on two common muscle imbalances below.

3 Top Running Tips…

  1. Build up your mileage slowly – this gives your muscles, ligaments and joints time to adapt and build endurance to the increased workload, reducing your chances of injury.
  2. Strengthen your hips and core – weakness in these areas are often associated with a poor running posture and back pain. Strengthening these areas will help to stabilise your back and pelvis protecting your spine. The chiropractors and physiotherapists at our clinic can give personal advice on what exercises you should be doing. Alternatively Pilates or yoga may be useful.
  3. Get your shoes fitted by a professional – unstable arches or over-pronation when running often need rebalancing with a suitable trainer and/or a foot orthotic (a specialised insole). Trained staff at a running store should be able to advise you on choosing the right shoe. Additionally at Sundial we fit Superfeet orthotics.

If you think the topics raised in this article may apply to you, give us a call to make an appointment.

Weak hip abductors, unstable pelvis
Weak hip abductors, unstable pelvis


When you think about it, running is simply an uninterrupted series of jumps from one leg to the other. The hip abductors are an important group of muscles that stabilise the pelvis when standing on one leg.  So when one or more of the hip abductors are weak (usually the Gluteus Medius) the pelvis will drop on one side. This drop places increased forces through your low back and pelvis often causing stiffness or discomfort.  A recent study on 300 people found that people with low back pain had significantly weaker hip abductor muscles than those without. It is also common for the hip abductors to weaken after an ankle sprain on that side.



Weak abdominals, tight hip flexors
Weak abdominals, tight hip flexors


Weak abdominal muscles allow the pelvis to tilt forward; this overloads the joints in your low back often causing stiffness or discomfort. To compensate for this weakness your hip flexors will work harder. Interestingly the main hip flexor (Iliopsoas) connects to your spine and pelvis, and can be the root cause of low back pain when aggravated. Your deep abdominals (obliques and transverse abdominus) along with your back muscles work together like a brace to protect your spine when performing bending or twisting movements, learning how to control these muscles is essential to a healthy back.

Amy Pease