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2500 Views 4 Replies Latest reply: Jun 9, 2011 10:43 PM by Shuan
Shuan Rookie 2 posts since
May 16, 2010
Currently Being Moderated

Jun 3, 2011 8:32 PM

How to deal with a back injury right before a half marathon

Hi everyone,

I made the mistake of over-doing yard work last weekend and ended up with severe lower back pain this week, to the point that I could barely move. The trouble is, I have my first half marathon next Sunday. I've been training for it for months and have been doing really well. My last long run was a 10-minute per mile 14 mile run, and I was doing a lot of hill and speed work. I was finally feeling confident about my race right before my back injury. I've been icing and stretching my back aggressively, and my back is much better today, and I think I can try to run again tomorrow. But I've lost the last week in running and am not even sure how much I can handle on my run tomorrow. This next week should be my taper week but I'm afraid that I've lost too much stamina and strength this past week of not running and wonder if I should have a less relaxing taper. I had planned on three middle-distance runs (4-7 miles) Tuesday to Thursday, then no running for 2 days before the race. Assuming my back is able to handle the training, how hard should I train this next week? Any advice with regard to my next week of running as well as caring for my back would be much appreciated.

  • JamesJohnsonLMT Legend 1,291 posts since
    Aug 23, 2009

    Unless you have a history of documented back injuries, I'm not so  sure it was your back that was injured. Yard work can be extremely  taxing on all core muscles, particularly the group that holds the top  and bottom halves of your body together, which are the gluteals and  quadratus lumborum on either side of the pelvic crest. The pain feels  like it is coming from somewhere in the lower back because it is, if you  count these muscles on either side of the lumbar and sacral spine.


    I  once signed up for a 15k and hurt my "back" the week before the race. I  could hardly get up from bed at first, and progressed only to being  able to stand up half way. I could not stand up straight, and saw a  massage therapist at the expo the day before gun time. I plunked down 30  bucks and asked if she could fix me. She said she was only supposed to  do light work, but said she would try. She worked the area above and  around my sacrum until my eyes teared up. I got up feeling beat, but  stood straight the next morning. and ran my race without a problem. The  pain had vanished.


    I was impressed enough by the  experience that I now do the same kind of work for a living. I see many  "bad backs" each day, and I can tell you that 9 out of ten times, there  is core muscle instability going along with it. Either the hip flexors  (from too much running or sitting), glutes (sitting, standing), abs  (from too many situps), or hip rotators (sitting, laying wrong and  various causes), or Quadratus (pulling, reaching, raking), are likely to  be involved. Unfortunately, x-rays show none of this. Even when spinal  irregularity is seen, the lower back pain often stems from these muscle  groups, without which the back has no support at all.


    I  wouldn't fear the week off. Many times people overtrain for their events  anyway. The rest may actually speed you up. Unless you have prize money  at stake, I wouldn't risk aggravating any of these tired, possibly  overtrained muscles with anything more than your normal taper. You can't  get back the value of work that you lost by sacrificing your recovery.  As long as you get some attention paid to that back problem, and don't  leave your race in your training shoes, you should do just fine. Worked for me!

  • rocdoc50 Legend 240 posts since
    Oct 4, 2007

    Shaun, at this point you probably have done more than enough training for the half marathon.  Ease back into the running, don't force the issue.  Don't worry so much about putting in long miles this week, just focus on your posture, running form,etc.  The half is more mental than physical (to me) and once you get started, I think you will be able to do ok.  Get into a good running rhythm, don't try to set any PR's for this race.  Your main goal should be to COMPLETE the race (then get a nice MASSAGE).


    Good luck!  P.S.  I guess you would have finshed the race by the time you get this message but good luck anyway.

  • Damien Howell Legend 312 posts since
    Feb 27, 2008

    In my experience rarely is back pain caused by running.  A frequent story I hear from patients "I ran a marathon and my back went out".  I ask how did you do in the marathon, and the answer is I set a personal record, but when I got out of the car after the 6 hour car ride home my back went out.  It is not running that contributes to back pain is what you do after running.  The most frequent contributing factor for back and sciatic pain is sitting.  Back pain is a sitting injury.  Pay attention to how you sit, sit less.  Guidlines for treatment of back pain is to encourage walking early.  Get on your feet stay off your butt.  Take a look at this short article Pain in the Buttock.

    Damien Howell PT, DPT, OCS -

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