Ultra Training Diary: Running with Back Pain

running with back pain

Running with back pain is not fun.

After a 4 mile run on Tuesday and 40 lunges, I decided it was time to do some squats. BIG MISTAKE. I felt my lower back tense as soon as I went into the squat. I stood up gently but knew my friendly L3 and L4 in the lumbar region of the lower back were giving me a lovely little reminder that they’re there.

It’s on ongoing issue for me and when it comes to running, it’s meant I had to not do the Rotterdam marathon in 2015 and had to defer my place at London last year.


This is how the story goes…

Running with back pain
The good run on Tuesday before my back went!

I gave the pain in my back about 15 hours before calling the physio. I didn’t sleep well due to pain every time I moved. I was in denial and hoping it would go away. An appointment that day. I was going to try running. I was meeting up with a running buddy. We got as far as 2.5 miles – her blisters giving her grief but to be honest, I was grateful.

The pain wasn’t bad but it was there. Tying my shoelaces in the morning had been an issue.

Off to the physio I went. A painful soft tissue massage, then the hip/spine manipulation. I heard my back go crunch. He asked me to turn over and I could barely move. But over I went for further manipulation and then the taping. I love a good bit of taping!

My first question: when can I run again? He said leave it a few days. I know from experience that I need to trust his advice even if I don’t like it. He gets me and he gets the running.

My second question: will I be OK for the 50k? You’ll be fine.

So off I toddled and now back to running. Not as energetic as I’d like – it’s feels as though my hip joints are bruised, but all good.

Now to stick with the core and stretching.



How did it come to this…

September. Seven years ago. It had been a week from hell, the worst of my professional life. At the end of each day my jaw would ache and my shoulders would be up near my ears. It was shit.

I woke on the following Monday and could barely move – shooting pains in my lower back on the right hand side. The pain was so intense tears sprung to my eyes. But soldier on I did and into work I went. In the meantime I found myself a physio and made an appointment for that evening. Sitting, standing, walking, being on the bus – no matter what I did it hurt.

Later that day, off to the physio. The diagnosis – a slipped disc. I saw him 3 more times in that week. On the Friday he used acupuncture. An hour pain free – I still vividly remember the joy of that hour.

The pain was unpredictable and there was little to control it. I can’t take anti-inflammatories as I’m what they call ‘hypersensitive’ – not allergic but they can made me very ill stomach wise and you don’t want to be throwing up with a bad back. So there I was on codeine – feeling like a drugged out zombie and in no way enjoying it.

It took a good couple of months to be able to get about my daily life pain free.

Fast forward to 2015 and it happens again. I’d had a brilliant club run the night before and had gone home and done stretches – it felt a little tight around the base of my back.

I’m having breakfast on my sofa with a dress on for work and I stand. I see stars in front of my eyes and my ears are ringing – I feel nothing. I had a mat out from the night before and lie down. I’m terrified because I think I might be having a stroke.

After a few minutes I stand again. I go to my bedroom to get my stockings. I look at my feet, I look at the stockings, and realise it’s not going to happen. Then the pain hits. I cry with the shock and the pain. My hearing returns and the stars in front of my eyes disappear.


Phone call number 1 – to work, I won’t be in

Phone call number 2 – crying to my physio, I need to see you

Phone call number 3 – my GP surgery, again crying, securing an emergency appointment.


Work OK with it.

My physio confirms a slipped disc.

Locum GP who listens about not being able to go onto anti-inflammatories and my hatred of codeine puts me on 3 days of diazepam and a neuropathic drug (a 1980s antidepressant which is often now used for chronic pain) designed to act on the pain receptors in your brain.


Strangers on the street see me and how I’m walking, ‘It’s your back isn’t it?’ Clearly a shared pain among many.

On and off since then, I’ve had issues with the facet joints that sit around the disc. Once I was vacuuming the stairs and ‘click’, not a sound I wanted to hear. While the pain is not nearly as intense as a slipped disc, it does limit what I’m able to do. I can’t bend -thankfully while I like the place being tidy, if I can’t do the floors, I can live with it. My main concern is always that if I don’t address it, my disc will have another hissy fit.

It’s my physical weak spot that I have to learn to manage.


The big lesson

The main thing I’ve learned from my back issues is how grateful


  • that this is not a chronic condition. I could not imagine living with pain day in and day out. I have real compassion for anyone who has a chronic pain condition


  • I have access to a physio


  • that my physo is a workaholic and starts appointments at about 7am with the last appointment often around 9.30 pm. This means I can generally get an appointment quickly. And


  • that I’ve worked with understanding managers who might not be happy but are OK with me working from home.


I know this might all sound pretty annoyingly Zen. Like everyone, I don’t like pain, it’s not nice, it’s not fun. But it is a useful reminder that we’re human and our bodies are fallible. The fact I’m still running puts a big grin on my face!


And on we get to the fun stuff, the ultra training


Training recap with 4 weeks to go

So I’m not where I’d like to be at this stage. I am where I am.


Monday – rest day; core and stretching


Tuesday – 4 miles; 40 x lunges; back issues when I started doing squats


Wednesday – 2.6 miles; physio (plan was for 10)


Thursday – enforced day off; core and stretching (plan was for 4)


Friday – rest day


Saturday – 10 miles as per plan; AOK but very hot so a fair bit of walking. Hips hurting.


Sunday – 8.1 miles as per plan though mainly walking through the woods. Repeats of walking up and running down hills.


TOTAL – 24.7 miles
running with back pain







8 thoughts on “Ultra Training Diary: Running with Back Pain

  1. That’s a really cool combination between describing the pain in the neck agony of back pain…..with some biology and tips 👍👍👍

  2. I can certainly relate as you know from my blog…I’m still out but as far as I can tell it is improving and is not a disk issue…but it’s taken 4 chiro sessions and 3 deep tissue massage sessions to make it tolerable and running is probably still at least 2 weeks away…hope it clears up for you quickly and you can get back to everything…you’ve done an amazing job dealing with this injury and i hope it doesn’t get you down again…best of luck, cheers!

    1. Thanks James. The main thing for me is this has now happened on numerous occasions. The only benefit is I now know what to do rather than wait to see if it gets any better – it will only get worse if I do nothing. It seems a lot better now but it’s pretty much a permanent weak spot which I have to manage. I really hope your back is feeling much better soon – for me when it’s bad it really messes with my head space. Wishing you well and that you’re back to running pain free very soon!

  3. Running is indeed good for our health, but sometimes it has to be avoided for example while suffering from back pain or any other kind of body pain. For a quick recovery from back pain a chiropractic therapy should be considered. Its expert a Chiropractor as well can tell in detail whether you should start running or not.

    1. Thank you! As soon as I have any back issues, I see my local physio and always take his advice on whether I can run or not. He understands that I’m eager to get back to it but will tell me when a break is needed.

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