Running is an intense exercise that gives us a good physical level with little training time. Maybe that’s why it’s so popular. Going to a pool or gym requires a trip and spend more time. Putting on some slippers and opening the door to start running is easier. But what happens when we have a back injury?
Let’s see the peculiarities that have run for the back:
Muscle power: When we run, we move the entire weight of our body pushing with our legs as if we did many jumps in a row. This certainly requires a good muscular power, the bigger the more weight we have to move. It may seem like we just need good legs to push and run. The back participates in the balance, in the cushioning and in the impulse in each stride to be the central axis of our body. It is very common for someone who starts running to have as many stitches in the abdominals and oblique as you can have in the muscles of the legs.
Impact: On the other hand, after rising in the air comes the “landing” when our body falls to the ground and we break it with the opposite leg. This impact against the ground absorbs it in our bones and joints with the help of muscles. The joints that suffer the most impact against the ground when running are the knees, hips and lumbar spine (lower back). If we run barefoot on the asphalt all the impact absorption will fall on our joints. The way to distribute the impact energy would be:
Wear suitable shoes that have a good cushioning. There are many shoes on the market and very good specialized brands within the culture now called “running”.
Run on soft ground that absorbs some of the energy of the footprint. In this sense it is advisable to avoid asphalt and run on dirt or grass. Athletics tracks are also cushioned.
Body weight: The kilos that we have above influence directly on the two previous points. The more weight, more impact on the ground and more muscle power to propel us, absorb the impacts and maintain balance in our back. If we have gained ten kilos during an injury it is necessary to take it into account when returning to training.
We already know the factors to take into account; let’s see the process to follow after a back injury:
Let’s start from we have had our back operated or we left a low back pain or sciatica strong that has left us out of combat a few weeks. Our desire is to run again. While we are weak, is it the best option? NO. Running is an intense exercise and requires recovering some minimal physical conditions. Therefore we must begin the recovery with exercises without impact. In the aerobic terrain the best option is to start with the static bicycle or swimming.
When can I start running?
Before answering I want to clarify that starting again in the race is not the same as running as we did before. Below I explain the process of preadaptation. After this nuance we are going to talk about some generic terms that are going to vary in each person depending on other factors but they serve us to give us an idea. Keep in mind that
After a normal low back pain (from 10 days to 3 weeks of duration) the ideal is to postpone the race until 6 weeks. Up to that time to train with bicycle and elliptical for example.
After a herniated disc surgery we should not run before 3 months and ideally it should start after 6 months. In this type of surgery must be taken into account that the variability is enormous in terms of evolution and neurological damage due to hernia. That’s why I insist that these dates are only a clue to what we can expect but our doctors will always be the best indicated to guide us in our personal case.
In patients operated by a lumbar arthrodesis should not start a race before 6 months and the convenience or not of re-running will depend on each particular case to agree with the specialist in charge of your case.
How do I start running?
Let’s discuss the recommended method of preadaptation to the race:
People who are fond of jogging often perform long workouts of 30 to 60 minutes when they are healthy. The most difficult part of the rehabilitation process is to convince us that we have to start at the beginning (no matter how ridiculous the initial training looks like) and that these times cannot be completed until the preadaptation is over.
Pre-exercise warm-up: We should walk briskly for 7-8 minutes and then stop for general stretching of the lumbar region and both legs. Once this is done, we begin with the exercise. Stretching is done after heating, not before.
Phase 1: The first day that we start to run we must take suitable slippers and go preferably to a field of land or grass that is flat. We started walking light and we made 10-step pranks and kept walking. Between trot and trot a minute passes. If we are tolerating it well we can complete 10 minutes. Most of these minutes have been made by walking.
Before continuing, comment on the training frequency. No two people are the same as we can see in the post about muscle training, but we should not run two days in a row ever when we’re dating a back injury. This is to make sure that the muscles of the back have recovered correctly from the effort.
Then I have to evaluate myself. Has it hurt me during the jog? Have I found myself worse in the afternoon? Did I wake up the next morning with more pain? The answer to these questions will mark what we will do the following days. If we have had pain, we let a few days go by and we try again.
When we perform this mini-training without problems, we can repeat the sequence two or three times more (every other day as we have discussed).
Phase 2: Then we move on to the next phase which is to do one-minute jogs. We also went for a walk, and then we jogged for a minute and walked another three, so 3 or 4 times doing a total of 12 to 16 minutes (in which we have run 3 or 4 minutes).
Phase 3: After surpassing the previous phase without pain we began to increase the minutes of continuous race. When we run less than ten minutes in total, we can do training in two batches. If we exceed ten minutes we already do a single training session at home.
Final phase: Progressive increase of the trotting time. Week by week we increase the minutes that trots. The final objective depends on the age, the injury we have and the life we want to take but, if we have chronic back problems, I do not advise to exceed the 20-30 minutes of continuous running in a workout.
If you do not have a special interest in running, you have to keep in mind that this sport has more risks for the back than other sports that are not impact. If we are only looking for exercise to stay in shape, it is advisable to perform an activity that we like (if not in the medium term we will leave it) and, within the options, choose those that have less impact on our back. In this sense, running is not the best option.
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