Upper Back Pain When Running

How to Prevent Upper Back Pain When Running

Even though most runners experience injuries and pain in the legs, hips, and lower back, you may be surprised to hear that many runners experience upper back pain when running.

While not as common as other areas of the body, upper back pain while running can cause you a lot of grief and affect your technique.

In this article, we show you how to prevent upper back pain when running and show you how to avoid it altogether. So, if you are someone that struggles with pain or discomfort regularly in the upper regions of the back, keep reading.

What Causes Upper Back Pain During & After Running?

Upper back pain during and after a running session is usually the result of poor posture. The back pain usually starts when runners get fatigued. This causes them to relax and slouch their posture, causing the head to tip forward. the forward tip of the neck then causes straining and tension to the upper back, resulting in pain and tightness.

Other causes of upper back pain include running technique. If you run constantly with your shoulders raised and tense, it will cause more stress on the neck and start to affect your upper back muscles. When this happens it can cause the person pain after a long run or intense training session.


How to Avoid Upper Back Pain When Running

If you are experiencing upper back pain when running, you should first find the cause of the problem. Is it your running form? poor posture? Does your upper back start to hurt when you are fatigued?

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All of the above questions can help you find the root of the cause.

Alternatively, if you know the back pain starts during the later parts of your long run, it would most likely be caused by fatigue.

To help combat this issue, try reducing your long runs to the point where the is no fatigue in the back. Then slowly build up the duration of the run by 5 minutes at a time. Doing so will allow your upper back and surrounding muscles to adapt to the increase in mileage.

If this doesn’t help, we recommend you start doing strength exercises to help strengthen the upper back, as well as the neck muscles.

Alternatively, you may need to visit a sports doctor, physiotherapist, or coach to look at your running technique. The gait analysis will help you see how your upper back reacts when you run at different speeds. It will also help you to find any technical errors you may have. It may also help you find out if you tension up too much in the shoulders and neck when you run.

Upper Back Exercises For Runners

Upper Back Exercises For Runners

If your upper back pain isn’t caused by your posture or gait, you may need to strengthen your upper back muscles.

Below are some upper back exercises for runners to help them strengthen the shoulders and back.

Renegade Row
The renegade row exercise helps strengthen and work the trapezius, latissimus dorsi, teres major/minor, rhomboids, biceps, forearms, and rear deltoid muscles. It can also help stabilize the core.

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To do this exercise:

1. Start in the plank position with each hand on a dumbbell
2. Engage your core and squeeze both your glutes and quadriceps.
3. Take your right arm and lift the elbow while pulling your shoulder blade backward. Bring the dumbbell up towards your body and then slowly lower the dumbbell to the ground. Remember to keep the muscles engaged, both when lifting the dumbbell and lowering it.

Lunge Position Shoulder Press
The lunge shoulder press works the Deltoids, Glutes, and Quadriceps muscles. It also helps to work the core muscles as a stabilizer.

To do this exercise:

1. Hold a dumbbell at shoulder height. Either with the left or right hand.
2. Step forward into a lunge position.
3. Engage your core muscles and press the arm with the dumbbell upwards.
4. Lower the dumbbell back to shoulder height and repeat multiple times. Make sure your core is activated and stabilizes the trunk throughout all the movements.
5. Once multiple repetitions have been performed. Revert back to a standing position and change sides. Make sure each side is right arm/right leg, left arm/left leg).

Pushup with Protraction
The pushup with protraction is another good exercise for the upper back. It works the Pectoral, deltoids, triceps, serratus anterior, and core muscles.

To do this exercise:
1. Stand up straight with your arms at your side.
2. Activate your serratus anterior by squeezing your shoulder blades together, and pushing them slightly back.
3. Then perform the opposite movement by opening up the shoulder blades. Make sure you feel them spreading apart.
4. Perform this movement several times so you understand the process.
5. Then move into the plank position and engage your core glutes and quadriceps.
6. Lower your body into a push-up.
7. Press the body back up into a plank position and spread your shoulder blades.
8. Repeat this 8-10 times.

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One Arm Kettlebell Swing
The one-arm kettlebell swing helps work the deltoids, latisimus dorsi, pectorals, hips, glutes, hamstrings, and abdominal muscles.

To do this exercise:

1. Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width while holding a kettlebell in your left arm.
2. Engage your core muscles and make sure your back is in a neutral position.
3. Bend your knee slightly and raise the kettlebell up in front of you.
4. Repeat multiple times on both sides.

While there are many more exercises to help prevent upper back pain while running, these are a few good ones to get you started. First, try to introduce these 1-2 times a week for the first month and then expand them out to 3 times a week. During this period, make sure you keep your long run to a minimum and make sure you focus on good technique during each exercise. If you are unsure how to do the exercises, reach out to a personal trainer or coach. they can help you to learn the correct movements.

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