Running with a back injury


At WHEN, we are often asked by clients and patients if it is safe to run with back pain. Our answer is often not a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ It will depend on several factors, including the nature and cause of the symptoms, as well as the stage of injury (acute or chronic).

Whilst you may be capable of running, the impact this may have on your joints and discs could be harmful. We would always recommend low impact exercises over something like running. However, if your back injury or condition is in a stable state and you find much enjoyment in running, then it may be a suitable option for alternate sessions. By this we mean that should you choose running as an exercise, try to mix the weekly sessions up with some non or low impact exercise (eg pilates, swimming), and limiting yourself to approximately 1-2 impact sessions per week. Monitor any increase in symptoms - and seek advice or review if you do so.

Remember that you should be able to hold a conversation when you are performing cardiovascular exercise. Running at your previous pace, or running at all whilst also being able to talk will likely be a real challenge. The point at which you find running is no longer comfortable or feels safe, will be different for everyone. It is best to listen to your body, and be guided by specialist advice.

If you choose to run with a back condition or pain, just be aware of the amount of force and strain you are putting your joints, ligaments, tendons and muscles under. Once ligaments and tendons stretch, unlike muscles they do not recover as well. At the time it will probably feel fine, but the long term effects are unknown. Gradual / incremental running drills are a good and safe way to commence and progress slowly if you remain feeling good.

Finally, remember that there are lots of other great alternatives that will be safer for your back.

  • Swimming

    • can be undertaken independently at your local pool or with a therapist during a hydrotherapy session.

    • Some clinics run specific spinal hydrotherapy group classes. 

  • Clinical pilates

    • with a physiotherapist or appropriately trained senior pilates instructor

  • Stationary bike

  • Cross trainers

  • Yoga

    • although check with your physiotherapist or doctor if doing yoga - depending on the cause of your back issues some movements may need to be avoided or modified

  • Deep water running

    • see the ‘Exercises’ section on this website for a full deep water running program


  1. Almeida M, Saragiotto B, Richards B, Maher CG. Primary care management of non-specific low back pain: key messages from recent clinical guidelines. MJA. 2018; 208(6):272-275. doi: 10.5694/mja17.01152

  2. Foster, N. et al. (2018). Prevention and treatment of low back pain: evidence, challenges, and promising directions. The Lancet. 391. DOI 10.1016/S0140-6736(18)30489-6

  3. Booth J, Moseley GL, Schiltenwolf M, Cashin A, Davies M, Hübscher M. Exercise for chronic musculoskeletal pain: A biopsychosocial approach. Musculoskeletal Care. 2017;15:413–421.


Millie Shield & Dr. Rhea Psereckis