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Back Pain After Running on a Treadmill

Can Running on a Treadmill Cause Back Pain?

A treadmill is a great piece of equipment to exercise on, especially for people that can’t get outside easily, or for those that want to continue exercising during the winter months. However, running on a treadmill is completely different from running outdoors and many individuals report back pain after running on a treadmill. This pain can range from mildly annoying to severe. Rather than throwing in the towel and waiting until you can get outside to continue exercising, try to figure out what’s causing your back pain, and make the necessary changes.

Common Cause of Back Pain After Running on a Treadmill

When people experience back pain after running on a treadmill, they usually report that the pain is either in their lower back, upper back, or shoulders. This pain is usually the result of poor running posture, regardless of where the patient feels the pain.

Proper running posture on a treadmill involves standing tall and relaxed with your core tightened, head straight forward and arms swinging loosely at your sides. Any deviation from this posture can stress muscles in different areas of your body, resulting in pain. For example, if you tend to hold the bars of your treadmill while running, you place stress on the muscles of your upper back and shoulders, which can result in upper back and shoulder pain. And if you run leaning forward, this causes the muscles in your lower back to work harder and can result in lower back pain.

Avoid Back Pain When Using a Treadmill 

There are a variety of things you can do to minimize back pain after running on a treadmill, including warming up and cooling down properly, running with proper posture, minimizing impact, wearing appropriate running shoes, watching the incline on the treadmill, and listening to your body.

Warm Up & Cool Down

Start by walking briskly for 5 to 10 minutes to warm your muscles up and get your blood flowing. You can perform some simple range of motion exercises after this to help loosen your muscles up for your run.

After your run, slow your run down or start to walk at a slower pace, rather than stopping suddenly, to prevent your muscles from tightening up. You can follow this by stretching out your lower back, hips, and legs at the end of your run.


Good posture is vital for proper muscle conditioning. Your body has to be in a natural position so that your muscles and joints are being used correctly and efficiently. 


Ensure that the surface of the treadmill has a thick and durable cushioned surface to help minimize impact while you’re running.

Running Shoes 

Invest in a pair of quality running shoes – they may be expensive, but the investment is definitely worth it. There are a few things to keep in mind when selecting running shoes. The first thing is to make sure that the shoes fit properly, and that they’re comfortable. Next, make sure that they are designed specifically for running as running shoes are lighter and have additional support; they are also usually designed to absorb shock so that impact on the joints of your body is minimized. Lastly, regularly check your running shoes for wear and tear. Running shoes tend to wear out quickly and should be replaced frequently.


Avoid steep inclines for extended periods of time when running on a treadmill to minimize your risk of lower back pain as well as ankle pain.

Listen to Your Body 

Start running on your treadmill slowly and increase your time, speed, and incline gradually. The most important thing to avoid injury is to listen to your body – if it hurts, it’s telling you to take it easy, so take a couple of days off and let your body rest.


If you’re experiencing back pain after running on a treadmill, or if you’re new to running on a treadmill, a consult with one of the physical therapists at Blue Hill Sports & Spine Rehabilitation may benefit you. They can evaluate your running style and teach you how to modify your running style. They can also help you select appropriate equipment and footwear to minimize your risk of back pain.