Treadmills.... good or bad? At our office in Kingwood, we often get patients that complain of lower back pain when running on a treadmill. Why is this? Although treadmills are supposed to simulate running outdoors, the fact is you are not really going anywhere and are going to create a greater impact on the spine. We find that many of the patients that complain of lower back pain after running on a treadmill have what is called Lumbar Facet Syndrome. Often on x-rays of the lower back, we will find increased sclerosis (calcium buildup or arthritis) in the joints of the lower back.
So what do we do about it?
First, it is best to switch it up. Get outside and run/walk. This changes up the stress on the spine and allows you to use different muscles that aren't used on a treadmill. Another problem with treadmills is that you are always going straight and never turning. When running outside, because of turns, etc., more muscles get used and thus is a better workout.
Second, incline it! Adjust the settings on the treadmill so that it is at a slight incline (~3 degrees or more). This helps limit the stress and impact on the joints of the lower back by changing the angle of the pelvis when running.
Of course, always get your back properly evaluated by your chiropractor first to make sure it is not a more serious issue. No back pain is normal, so if you have pain while running, make sure you inform your chiropractor.