Hi, I’m Dr. Dana Williamson and I’m a chiropractor here in Mechanicsville Virginia. I’m also an avid runner and that’s what I wanted to talk with you about today is about running and back pain. Running with back or neck pain is certainly no pleasure. You concentrate on the pain instead of enjoying your special time. Each footfall sends a nagging jolt into your lower back or neck or between your shoulders. The miles drag by and you keep looking at your watch to see how long you’ve been on the road. It’s no fun at all! There are many causes back and neck pain, especially in the athlete. In some cases you can overcome the problem by yourself. In other cases, you need to seek the help of a qualified professional. How do you know when the self-treat and went to get help? Here are suggestions to follow before you head to the doctor’s office. Work on your form. Running requires the maintenance of correct posture with tremendous muscle exertion for an extended period of time. Be sure to think tall when you run. A forward lean when you run puts extra stress on the muscles in the lower back, which causes fatigue and makes them easier to injure. Keep your shoulders down and relaxed. I see many runners holding their shoulders up around their ears. Strains of the muscles of the neck are a common result of this type of bad form. Finally, keep your chest up and out and avoid that burning pain between your shoulder blades by maintaining the tone of your inter-scapular muscles, the ones between your shoulder blades. Keep your chest thrusted up and it will expand you lung capacity and oxygen intake, which is vital in endurance sports. Work on your flexibility and strength. Stretch your hamstrings. Almost everyone that has tight hamstrings has some kind of lower back pain. That’s because your hamstrings work in conjunction with your lower back muscles to maintain you in an upright position. Gentle daily stretches of the hamstrings and calves may help alleviate your lower back pain. Strengthen your quadriceps. Those are the front muscles of your legs. And strengthen your abdominals. Running doesn’t naturally develop the quadriceps or the spine stabilizing muscles like the abdominals. Do some cycling or lift some weights. Do your crunches. Increase your spine’s range of motion. Gently stretch your neck and lower back in the direction of forward flexion, backward extension, lateral bending and rotation. Roll your shoulders up and back and squeeze the shoulder blades together. You’ll feel a difference in your mid-back immediately. Work on your injuries. Get a massage. A good massage will help relieve pain, increase circulation to injured muscles, break up scar tissue, and speed the healing process. Use ice when it hurts. Ice is nature’s pain reliever and anti-inflammatory treatment. Stay away from hot tubs for a couple of weeks. Heat is one of the components of inflammation and muscles may feel better while you’re in the hot tub, but it’s more like adding gasoline to a fire. Increase your intake of readily absorbed forms of calcium, magnesium, and potassium. They’re nature’s muscle relaxants. Wheat germ oil is a good source of vitamin B complex for repair and healing the muscles. Finally, make sure you’re getting enough rest, both between workouts and at night. Your body will need extra time to heal. you’re healing most efficiently when you’re sleeping. Eight hours a night is ideal. When should you see a specialist? If the pain continues a few weeks after following these suggestions, your injury may be more serious than you can handle alone. You may be suffering from a condition that involves more than just muscles. The health of the spine is dependent upon the individual movement of each of its 24 vertebrae. When one of these joints becomes injured and doesn’t move the way it’s supposed to, it can cause irritation of the nerve that runs between the vertebrae. These nerves control every function of the body, including the voluntary muscles of the spine. When irritated, they cause muscle spasm. Spasm causes pain. The condition, when abnormal function of a joint is interfering with the nerve, is called a subluxation. Chiropractors are doctors who specialize in the relief of this condition without the use of drugs or surgery. Getting your spine check for subluxations may be the key that will break the injury/pain cycle for you. Back pain takes all the pleasure out of running. By following these simple suggestions, you may find relief and once again enjoy a great sport and your special time.