Reducing back pain when running


For Back Care Awareness Week, we asked Louise Humphrey of Studio 44 Pilates to give us some essential advice for looking after your spine health and relieving back pain during and after running. 

Did you know:

  1. In 2021/22, the ‘back’ was the most common (42%) body area affected by work-related musculoskeletal disorders.
  2. In 2020, low back pain (LBP) affected 619 million people globally and it is estimated that the number of cases will increase to 843 million cases by 2050, driven largely by population expansion and ageing.
  3. Lower back pain is more prevalent in women.

Scary, isn’t it!

As runners we consider ourselves fit and healthy, but how many of you at some point have struggled with back pain?

I know from experience if I do a longer run, I get tired and my running form collapses, then my lower back starts to hurt.

Why do we need to protect our backs from pain when running?

Well, let’s look at the spine in a bit more detail:

The spine, or vertebral column, is a vital part of the human skeleton consisting of a series of vertebrae stacked on top of each other.

These vertebrae are grouped into five regions: cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacral and coccygeal. Intervertebral discs between the vertebrae act as shock absorbers.

The spinal cord runs within the vertebral column, serving as a communication pathway between the brain and the body. Spinal nerves branch out from the cord, facilitating sensory perception and motor control.

Various ligaments stabilise the vertebrae, and facet joints enable movement. Bony projections, like spinous and transverse processes, provide attachment points for muscles and protect the spinal cord.

The spine plays a pivotal role in supporting the body, maintaining posture, and facilitating movement while safeguarding the spinal cord and nerves. A healthy back is essential for maintaining a high quality of life, preventing pain and injuries, and supporting overall physical and mental wellbeing. Incorporating good back care practices, such as regular exercise, proper ergonomics and a healthy lifestyle, can help you enjoy the numerous benefits of a healthy back. For runners, it is vital that we have good range of movement and support from the spine.

How Pilates can transform your spine health

Pilates is highly effective for your spine health due to its emphasis on core strength, flexibility and posture improvement. By engaging and strengthening the muscles surrounding the spine, Pilates helps to alleviate back pain, reduce the risk of injury and improve overall spinal health. The controlled, low-impact movements in Pilates exercises target both the deep and superficial muscles of the back together with the core,  promoting stability and proper alignment. Additionally, Pilates promotes body awareness and encourages mindful movement, enabling individuals to better understand and address the underlying causes of their back issues. With regular practice, Pilates not only provides relief from back discomfort, but also enhances overall strength and mobility, fostering a healthier, pain-free back.

4 Pilates exercises for a healthy back

Shoulder Bridge

The Shoulder Bridge is a great way to mobilise the spine; a more mobile spine helps you walk, run and stand without limitations.

Swan Dive

The Swan Dive helps your posture; with so much time spent at desks or hunched over a laptop or screen, it’s taking its toll on our spines, backs and posture.

The Swan Dive takes you into an extension, helping strengthen the upper back and open the chest area. Great for your running posture but also your breathing.

The Plank

The Plank is great for core strength, but it also engages the whole body. A strong core is essential for your back care, especially when running, stabilising the pelvis and reducing the risk of injury.

Calf Raises

Calf Raises are a great way to bring balance into your sessions as well as strengthening an area that takes a lot of pounding when we run.

In this movement you need a strong core to help your balance, which in turn helps improve balance and coordination, reducing the risk of falls and injuries.

Final thoughts

Pilates is a powerful tool that can enhance your running, keep your spine healthy and protect your back, reducing those risks of injury. Not just for your running but in everyday life too.

Don’t wait until it’s too late and you already have a back issue; protect and support your body with just 10 minutes of Pilates 3-4 times a week and notice the difference in your running form.

Louise is our Pilates expert for Run Mummy Run Community Run Club; to find out more, click here. She is also the founder of Studio 44 Pilates, an online Pilates for Runners membership providing 100s of 10-minute Pilates videos for runners, live classes and 1-2-1 sessions. Find out more at or contact Louise on [email protected]

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