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Jog to good health without hurting your spine

Updated: Aug 13, 2021

It is important to protect your spine from injury while running. Learn how.

Jogging is one of the best ways to stay in shape. A good pair of shoes, some open space and away you go. Here are some tips to keep you running for many years pain-free, especially in your spine.

Warm up – Getting the body warm before you jog is important. It gets the blood from your center out to your working muscles. It also warms up the joints getting them ready to move. Warm hips and shoulders move more freely putting less stress on the muscles of the back. Dynamic warm up puts the body through a range of motion that mimics the motions you are about to perform. For jogging they include:

  1. Gently swing your leg forward and backward at the hip. Try to get the largest range of motion possible. Perform 10 swings on each leg.

  2. Gently swing your leg side to side at the hip. This gets the hip abductors warm. These are the muscles that keep you hips level as you jog. Perform 10 swings on each leg.

  3. While walking, kick your heel to your buttock. This movement warms up the hamstring muscles – the muscles in the back of the upper thighs. Take 20 steps.

  4. While walking, bend your knee and lift it up as high as possible. This targets your hip flexors – the muscles that bring the whole leg forward. Take 20 steps.

  5. Walk on your toes for 20 steps. The calves on the lower, back leg will thank you. Take 20 steps.

  6. Walk on your heels for 20 steps. The shins on the lower, front leg will feel it. Take 20 steps.

  7. While walking alternate swinging your arms up over you head to get the shoulders warm. Perform 20 repetitions.

While jogging – posture is a huge part in preventing pain in the neck, upper, and lower back.

  1. Head up – keeping your head level puts less strain on the muscles of the neck. The more the head is tilted forward at the neck, the heavier the head, and the more pressure is put on those cervical muscles causing them to tighten up and cause pain. Solve this by focusing your eyes – not tilting you head forward - at least 10 to 15 feet in front of you.

  2. Relax your shoulders – tensed shoulders can cause them to raise up toward our ears. This puts pressure on the muscles of the upper back. Take a deep breath and shake out your shoulders to relax them.

  3. Pump your arms – keep the elbows bent 90 degrees and close to your body to improve efficiency.

  4. Keep hands relaxed – your hands should not be clenched while jogging. This causes tension in your arms, shoulders, and neck muscles. Imagine you are holding raw eggs!

  5. Tighten your core – keep your pelvis and low back stable by drawing in your belly button toward your spine. This helps stabilize your center which supports your spine.

Cool down – static stretching helps by elongating and relaxing worked muscles. A flexible muscle moves more easily and does not pull on other structures such as the spine as much as a tight muscle. Do these stretches after your jog.

  1. Quad stretch – in a standing position, bring your knee to your buttock. Hold :30.

  2. Hamstrings stretch – in a standing position, put your heel on a raised object in front of you while keeping knee straight then lean forward chest to knee. Hold :30.

  3. Calf stretch – put your hands on a wall and step back with one leg. Keeping that heel on the ground, and that knee straight learn forward until stretch is felt behind lower leg. Hold :30.

  4. Chest stretch – interlace hands behind your low back. Roll shoulders back and stick your chest out. Hold :30.

Following these steps should allow you to jog for many years while protecting your spine.


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