Triathlons and Low Back Pain.  

If you have low back pain, you are not the only one! Over 80 percent of people will experience low back pain at some point in their lives. Low back pain is the most common musculoskeletal condition in adults and is very common in athletes, particularly triathletes. Symptoms include pain and stiffness in the low back area and can have several contributing factors.

As a triathlete, you are training not only one but three different events that require you to use your body in different ways. This can put of lot of stress on the low back and the muscles in the area, so training them properly and managing them pre- and post- training is incredibly important when addressing low back pain. While preparing for an event with long term training, athletes may develop low back pain, even if they are following a proper training program. As you prepare for the event and continuously engage these muscles, this may cause pain through the lower back.

Triathlete riding a bike

Triathletes should have good mobility and stability to complete the event comfortably and successfully with minimal low back pain. Having good range of motion through the spine, paired with the strength in the relevant muscles, will provide a good foundation for the triathlon.

It is important to be aware of the mechanics of the lower back and know that it doesn’t work independently. It is heavily influenced by the lower limb including the foot, ankle, knee and hip joints and the muscles in these areas. The lower limbs work as a chain, and it is a domino effect up the chain if there are inconsistencies or weakness at any point. While you may be feeling the pain in the low back, it may be stemming from an underlying factor lower down the chain and focusing on this may be the solution. Addressing foot, knee and hip mechanics, range of motion and tightness through the front and back of the leg, will likely have an effect higher up through the lower back. Additionally, activating the core muscles and using your glutes correctly will likely take the pressure of the lower back joints and muscles when swimming, cycling and running.

Common causes of low back pain in triathletes

When it comes to training for a triathlon, the repetitive movements that are required in swimming, running and cycling may put stress on the joints and spine. With poor form, this increase in stress can cause pain in the lower back.

Tight hamstring and hip flexor muscles are a common cause of low back pain in triathletes, as they are prone to tightness in these areas. Tightness in these muscles will affect the position of the pelvis, which can cause pain in the lower back.

Without adequate mobility in the spine, the lower back can remain hyperextended during the swimming leg. This can put extra strain on the lower back if you do not have the adequate mobility within the spine to do these repetitive movements.

Your seat or handlebars may be set at the wrong height, which may put unnecessary strain on your back for the duration of the bike leg.

Weakness or imbalances in the lower back and core muscles can result in low back pain in each part of the event.

How can we help at 13th Beach Health Services?


Treatment with our osteopaths involves hands-on techniques to target the muscles, joints and connective tissues in the lower back and surround structures. They will also treat other areas including the upper back and lower limbs, as these may be contributing to your low back pain. Osteopaths can help improve mobility through the lower back to create more movement on race day. Soft tissue techniques may be aimed at decreasing tension and tightness through associated muscles in the low back, hip, knee and calf.


Our physiotherapists can identify and address any weakness or imbalances in and around the low back, hips and legs to prepare you for the event. They may provide you with a specific warm up to target the low back and muscles activations to target your areas of weakness. They can also help you with core strengthening, as it is important to have a strong foundation through the core to stabilize the spine. If needed, they can provide you with feedback and advice on your running technique.


An appointment with our podiatrists will involve assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of any foot, ankle, and lower leg conditions, that may be contributing to your low back pain. They can provide advice on footwear for the race day, as well as assist with foot and ankle flexibility.

Remedial massage

Treatment with our remedial massage therapists will involve techniques that are personalised to your specific injury, which may include remedial massage, gentle stretching, and dry needling. They can assist with relieving tension in the muscles that stabilize and support your lower back and hips.

If you are experiencing low back pain, you don’t have to tolerate it and push through it when training or on event day. Come into the clinic to see our experienced practitioners for treatment leading up to the event, and don’t forget to pop by afterwards for some recovery treatments too.



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Call or make an appointment to have your questions answered by friendly, knowledgable professionals, we look forward to meeting you.