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Lower Back Pain-Classical Skiing

Fri, Mar  25, 2011 - By Trond Nystad

Question to SkiPost:

I have been cross country ski racing for 30 years and skiing classic for the last 6 years. I typically do 3 marathons a year and finish the Birki toward the back of the first wave. Since switching to classic skiing I have found that I develop lower back pain within 5 minutes after the start of a race and it usually stays with me the entire race. However, I never seem to have back pain when training. The cause of the back pain isn't clear, but I have different theories from bad technique, starting out too hard, or incorrect pole length. Do you have any recommendations?

Several people experience back pain when classical skiing.  There could be several reasons for the problems, some more severe than others, hence one should always check with a doctor before doing anything to address the back problems.  If in fact the doctor has given you a clean bill of health I would suggest the following "solutions":
Core strength or lack thereof is normally a huge culprit when it comes to back pain.  Try to do core strength (stomach and back) exercises for at least 2x30 minutes per week all year round.  There are several exercises that are good.  I would recommended to try exercises using a medicine ball and a swiss ball.  (There are several good resources on the internet, do a search and take your pick!:

Stretching/Yoga/massage:  Increased flexibility in hamstrings, hip flexure, IT band, hip area, back etc will help tremendously.  Start stretching get a massage once per week and go to a local Yoga center to improve your flexibility.
Technique: Try skiing a little more upright when skiing diagonal. Poles should roughly fit underneath your arm pit.  If the poles are shorter than this, then that could be a source for your problem (although you should then also notice it in training).
Warm up + stretch before a race.  Incorporate some exercises that warm up the lower back area before a race.
Hope this helps..
Trond Nystad
Retired-Swiss National Team Sprint Coach - US Ski Team Head coach