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After I sprint (usually 100m) for about an hour with breaks, I tend to feel tightness in my mid-to-lower back around the spinal cord. I am wondering if this is a symptom of a weakness (if so, how do I go about self-diagnosing?) and how I can strengthen that area in particular with regard to sprinting?

I'm in good health otherwise, fairly strong and not overweight.

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    How much core work do you normally do? Lower back tightness can also be an indication that the lower back is doing more work to support weak abs/obliques. And what kind of workouts are you doing, that you do 100m sprints for an hour? – JohnP Jun 11 '18 at 14:30
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Though I'm not a sprinter, on long runs around an hour (especially on flat, straight roads) I often find that my low back is also tight. Assuming you are doing your sprints on a track or other flat, even surface, the cause may be the same.

Similar to how your back or legs may ache after sitting in the same position in a car/bus/plane for a long time, while running on a flat surface your back is being held in a fairly constant position -- with the added stress that many of the muscles may be contracted.

To alleviate this, I find it helpful to pause every 15 to 20 minutes (or when waiting to cross the road) and do two simple exercises:

  • Squat down all the way to the ground so that my knees and hips go through a full range of motion
  • Standing up straight, bend forward at the waist as far as I can, adding a slight knee bend as necessary for my low back to go through a full range of motion

I'll do each of these, slowly, once or twice. I find that this releases some tension and keeps me from feeling so sore at the end of the run.

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How tight/lose are your hammies and hips? If you ordinarily spend a lot of time sitting down, your hip flexors become exceptionally tight... unfortunately, running doesn't loosen them up. If your hammies and hips are tight, look into doing yoga.

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I am not a physical therapist by training. However, I do know that musculo-skeletal issues (pain) like this is becoming more and more a problem. I believe that your back issue is from an imbalance in your muscles. Look at the problem area:

  • The pain in on the posterior side of the body
  • The surrounding muscle group is the back extensor group.
  • In this case the flexor group is the hip abductors and adductors

In a movement such as a sprint the hip flexors are used in the pushing motion off of the ground. And the extensors are the agonist.

If you want your back to feel better you need more neuromuscular connections in the hips. Do stretches like a low squat while pushing out on your thighs with your elbows. This will help you to be able to engage and disengage in an effective manner,the extensor group. In other words you need to strengthen your hips to pull the weaker extensors into an even balance.

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