LOWER BACK PAIN
Back pain is extremely common in runners. Poor biomechanical factors especially can subject the lower back to an increased and uneven load. Muscle imbalance, poor running technique, regular training on hard and uneven surfaces, and running in ill-fitting or worn0out footwear can compress the intervertebral discs (jelly-like structures with a tough outer membrane). As a result discs may become inflamed or bulge (known as a “slipped” disc), and press against the nerves of the lower back (sciatic nerves), causing sciatica. Older runners are more susceptible to disc degeneration and stress fractures of the vertebrae.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
You will usually feel stiffness and pain in the lower back that spreads to your buttocks, back of the thigh, and groin and is worse when running or immediately afterwards. You may also experience symptoms after sitting, walking, standing, or lying down in the same position for long periods. If you have a shooting pain down the back of one leg, especially if you bend sideways, and “pins and needles”, numbness, or weakness in your legs, you may also have sciatica.
WHAT IS THE TREATMENT?
Stop training, but continue with your normal activities if pain is very severe,you may need to rest in bed for one to two days. The affected disc may protrude from your spine initially, but should in most cases eventually shrink back as the inflammation is reduced. Apply ice and take pain-relief medications as necessary. If self-help treatment fails, seek medical advice. Your doctor will consider your medical history and carry out a physical examination. If the symptoms are mild, you may need to visit a physical therapist to treat the spine and help restore normal movement. If pain is more sever, muscle relaxants or stronger pain relief may be prescribed. Blood tests, X-rays, and MRI scans may be recommended to rule out any serious structural damage. Rarely, surgery is required.
WHEN CAN I RETURN TO RUNNING?
Depending on the cause of your lower back pain and how you respond to treatment and rehabilitation, recover may take from a few weeks to a few months. If surgery is required, you will not be able to run for up to six months.
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