Exercises and Treatment to Help Prevent Lower Back Pain in Athletes

Endurance athletes such as long-distance runners place huge strains on their lower backs. This is because, for much of the time, the body is in a vertical position. Where core muscles are weak, the whole support system can collapse, and injury is likely. Core muscles are important as they support the spine and lower back and work alongside the hips, glutes, and hamstrings to form a very efficient stability mechanism. When athletes are training seriously, there is a tremendous strain on the body and this will expose any weaknesses or injuries.

Not all athletes are training at the top end of the game. In fact, many club runners may be new to the sport and starting to build up their fitness levels. They certainly won’t have the same coaching available and so, it’s easy to over-use muscles or damage the joints. Many people forget their core muscles, not realizing the importance of stability. Shoulders tend to slump, and the athlete leans forward as core muscles slowly give in. Lower back pain and injury are almost certainly likely to follow. If this is the case, then pain control may be required.

These high-value core exercises can strengthen the whole support system and prevent injuries.

The Plank

The plank is performed from the standard push up position, but the weight is supported on the forearms instead of the hands. A straight line should be formed from the shoulders right down to the ankles. The abdominal muscles should be squeezed in with the position held for a set period. This may be for 30-seconds, to begin with, and will be gradually increased. There are many variations of this core exercise.

The Plank for Lower Back Pain

Reverse Hip Raises

This exercise is performed by lying face down on a bench but with the hips off the bench. The goal is to squeeze the glutes, raise the legs and pause before lowering. As the name suggests the opposite can be done as well by lying on the back instead of the front.


The Cobra

The cobra is a yoga pose which offers great flexibility to the spine. Lie down on the floor with legs straight and arms to the side. The head, chest, and arms are then raised from the floor. Note – the hips remain on the floor. The elbows should be bent outwards and the legs must not contain any tension. It is usual to hold these poses for approximately 30-seconds and then repeat. Of course, all exercise should be built up slowly over time.

These types of exercises performed overtime can help maintain strength in the core muscles and improve performance and reduce lower back pain.

The main issues that athletes face with lower back pain are muscle spasms and this can feel as if the back is locking. It is certainly painful at times. A shooting pain running down one or both legs is usually nerve-related, and this too can be severe. If there is a general feeling of overall achiness across the lower back this can often be associated with some form of arthritis and this needs to be checked.

To prevent lower back pain then all the stability functions must be strengthened by working the core muscles on a regular basis. Interventional pain management is used to help any sufferer with acute or chronic pain and epidural steroid injections can help where sciatica or nerve compression is present. This can provide some months of pain relief. Facet joint injections, medial branch block or, radiofrequency ablation can all help ease the pain for any sports injuries. Pain management is important as is adjusting any training regime if this is the reason for pain. Ultimately, receiving a medical diagnosis is important as there are many options for recovery.