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Chronic Low Back Pain And Running

by Joe Zucco, PT, DPT, FAAOMPT, and Allie Hufford, SPT, NovaCare Rehabilitation

Chronic Low Back Pain (cLBP) is pain in the lower back and/or bottom, which may or may not travel down the leg(s), lasting three months or longer. This pain produces decreased core stability leading to increased stresses on the lower spine, pelvis and leg joints and ligaments. The stress and perception of pain produce abnormalities in the activation of two important muscles that help stabilize the spine: the transverse abdominis and the lumbar multifidi. When stressed, the muscles no longer turn on at the appropriate times, making it difficult to perform tasks, such as walking and running. This dysfunction also produces:

  • Decreased hip and knee strength and activation

  • Decreased neuromotor control (how the nerves and muscles work together to control movement and posture)

  • Decreased diaphragmatic breathing (belly breathing)

  • Decreased back and leg muscle mass

A multidisciplinary approach to cLBP has been shown to have significant results in pain, function and quality of life. Physical therapists are movement specialists and trained to treat multiple sources of cLBP. Physical therapy and adherence to a home exercise plan decrease pain, increase function and enhance quality of life. Even with improvement in symptoms and function, patients should perform a combination of prescribed exercises to manage symptoms. A myriad of exercises are performed in physical therapy that target the following muscles:

  • Transverse abdominis

  • Lumbar multifidi

  • Gluteus maximus

  • Quadriceps

  • Gluteus medius

  • Diaphragm

Returning to running too soon can be more detrimental toward your diagnosis and health. Therefore, a return to running regimen is highly recommended. NovaCare Rehabilitation can help runners of all abilities improve performance, reduce risk for injury and achieve the highest possible level of success. We create a running program specific to each individual beginning with a comprehensive one-on-one examination of your gait led by licensed physical therapists who have been trained in running analysis and injury prevention. Using slow motion video analysis of your gait and a full musculoskeletal system screen, we examine your strength, flexibility, stability and balance, as well as running form. Don’t let cLBP or running injuries keep you from crossing the finish line. Contact NovaCare Rehabilitation today at injuryhotline@novacare.com to speak with an athletic trainer or to schedule a complimentary injury screen.


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