Tips On Running With Back Pain, Knee Pain, and Chronic Fatigue:
Before breakfast, I do a few stretches, some squats, and a half mile run on our back roads. My warm-up stretches for running include these yoga poses and runner’s stretches that can all be performed standing while inside or outside:
For all of these stretches, remember to breathe! I typically hold each stretch for a minimum of 10-15 seconds; the tighter the area, the longer I hold until it starts to loosen up. I may also rest and stretch the tighter areas a second, or even third time if needed.
*Note on stretching – there’s some research coming out that stretching doesn’t help, and can actually hurt. I’ve tried not stretching and it always ends up in injury for me. So this is something you’ll have to decide for your own individual needs!
After stretching I do squats. When I first started running, I didn’t do any squats! I started low with three squats before my run a couple weeks in, after I was able to run a full half mile without stopping to walk. I’ve worked myself up to ten squats before my run, and I’m noticing definite benefits in lower body and leg strength.
I’m currently running 1/2 mile every other day or so. I try to get in at least 2-3 running sessions per week, depending on weather, how I’m feeling, etc. I’m only doing 1/2 mile for now due to risk of knee pain and a recent ankle sprain that still has my ankle very sensitive. I’m hoping that by fall I can increase my distance; however, with the improvements I’m seeing now, I may stick to this regimen a while and see where it gets me.
After my run, I cool down by walking around the property checking horses, watering the garden, and letting the horses out if they’re going to the big pasture for the day.
This doesn’t sound like a lot, but I’m noticing improvements in my lung strength, heart palpitations, leg strength, energy, and more. I’m more convinced than ever that the distance doesn’t matter, it’s the act of getting started and staying consistent that can give you big rewards.
Right now, I run every other day to keep from exhausting myself, and on days that reach over 100*F I usually skip running altogether, opting instead for some light yoga or gentle hand weights to work my arms without stressing my tendons.
Things I’ve noticed improve when I run are:
Running with knee pain is something I tend to avoid. If I don’t, my right knee goes into an inflammatory spiral and will become completely unusable for a few days. Ibuprofen helps sometimes, but not always.
Running with back pain usually works out okay, but only if it’s not significant pain and if I’m avoiding work that will make the muscles in my back sore (compounding the issue!). After years of dealing with this, I’ve found a couple of things that help with severe knee and back pain from running/exercise/farm work:
If you’re an overpronator (turn you foot in) or supinator (turn your foot or roll your ankle out) you’re likely putting more stress on your joints with each step. I’m a supinator and roll my ankle out, putting weight on the outside of my foot and pushing off my pinky toes. This causes intense knee and back pain and used to keep me from running before I found out what the problem was.
I’ve had NO BACK PAIN OR KNEE PAIN since finding shoes that both have a wider toe box and help me to push off my big toe and ball of my foot rather than rolling my ankle. I used to have significant back pain daily, and my knees would swell and become painful (to the point I couldn’t climb stairs) after a short run before making this change in footwear.
I now wear shoes for supinators all the time, as I’ve found that wearing anything else for long periods brings back my knee and back pain.
Strengthening the core can really help back pain by taking some of the strain off your back and relying more on your core ab and side muscles. Usually when strengthening the ab and side muscles, you’re also strengthening the back muscles, again helping with back pain.
To strengthen the core when running, focus on bringing your knees up and using your core. Stabilize with your obliques to keep from shifting from side-to-side with each step, and for pushing off with each step. Your back muscles should also engage and support, keeping your back from arching and adding stress up your vertebrae with each step.
Using your knees helps to keep from over-using your calves and helps with shock absorption. Landing heel first also helps with shock absorption.
Focusing on these areas should help to minimize joint stress while strengthening the important muscles you need to help with chronic pain issues. Along with the correct shoes helping biomechanics, you’re setting yourself up for longevity!
Exercising when I have a chronic fatigue flair has been one of the most difficult aspects when it comes to developing an exercise routine. That said, when I do exercise, especially going for a run, I have so much more energy throughout the rest of my day.
One thing I’ve noticed is that my severe chronic fatigue days are usually related to migraines – migraine medicine is proving to be especially helpful in getting my energy back. Catching the migraine early is necessary if I want to get anything done during my day.
The journey isn’t about pushing through pain, but rather crafting a regimen that respects your body’s limits while gently pushing its boundaries. In doing so, you have the opportunity to reclaim your body, redefine your physical (and mental) narrative, and gradually cultivate the stamina and endurance you once thought were out of reach.
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Medical Disclaimer: The information here is for informational purposes. I’m not waving any medical degrees around, so any tips, advice, or quirky health facts should be taken with a grain of imagination.
Stay curious, stay healthy, and live your best life!