Updated: Dec 8, 2021
Running is a regular exercise for many, and one that is often practiced on a daily basis. It is a natural, repetitive and complicated movement and for these reasons, statistics show that 82% of all runners suffer a running related injury. There are many factors that may contribute to running injuries. These factors can lead to compensations, breakdown in form and technique, overload and eventually injuries.
Here are 6 ways your physiotherapist can help you run longer and stay injury-free by aligning, balancing and centering the body.
1. Increasing Mobility
Physiotherapists understand how a person’s individual physical limitations play a part in contributing to injury. Mobility may be limited by restrictions in specific soft tissues and joints due to previous injury or poor posture and movement patterns. Some factors that need consideration are excessive spinal curves, short and tight hip flexors, ankle joint and big toe joint stiffness. Reduced mobility in any part of the body can lead to compensations in gait and running form. Optimizing soft tissue extensibility, muscle balance, joint release techniques, teaching correct posture and movement would be a way a physiotherapist would approach this.
2. Muscle Activation
Physiotherapists know the optimal posture, alignment, body mechanics and muscle activation patterns that should be applied to the human body. Often times, poor muscle recruitment and timing, as well as muscle imbalances and strength deficits contribute to injury. Physiotherapists can prescribe the correct exercises and training drills for each individual to address specific areas of weakness.
3. Increasing Stability
Physiotherapists understand what is needed for individuals to have proper stability. Runners present with common issues, such as inadequate trunk, pelvic, hip and ankle/foot stability, especially in lateral and rotational directions. The runner’s specific stability issues can easily be resolved with specific balance and stabilization exercises. This will allow the runner to adapt better to varying terrain and be able to maintain good form and technique even when tired. Good core stability positively influences running efficiency.
4. Proper Technique
Physiotherapists have the clinical reasoning ability to relate the non-optimal structure, alignment, mechanic that is found during assessment to the injury and make the right corrections. Poor running technique leads to excessive ground reaction forces, poor shock absorption, excessive muscle activity, uneven loading and inefficient force generation. Physiotherapists can advise on the proper technique to minimize undue stress on your body while improving your performance efficiency. Knowledge of the proper running technique, footwear, running surfaces, individual structure and styles of running help physiotherapists tailor a plan specific to each runner.
5. Proper Training
Physiotherapists know the proper training regimen the body needs and common errors that can contribute to injury. They can suggest if rest is needed, how much, for how long and any cross training that can take place without disrupting the healing process. They can also advise on how much training is the right kind and amount for the individual to allow positive adaptation while preventing tissue breakdown and re-aggravation of an existing injury. Runners that choose to push through the pain may be training too much, too soon, and not allowing the tissues to recover and heal from micro trauma caused by over-training. The proper application of a physiotherapist’s suggestions can help determine the kind of cross (cycling, swimming, rollerblading) and physical training (flexibility, strength, stability) needed in addition to running.
5. Genetic Factors
Physiotherapists can offer the skills to determine and address specific deficits e.g. mobility, muscle imbalance, core stability, ankle-foot control that are contributing to the problem. Certain genetically inherited, structural factors (e.g. overly flat feet or high arches, bowed legs, knock knees, wide hips) are non-optimal for running and can predispose to injury. By recommending the right amount of running for the individual, improving alignment, mechanics, muscle control and prescribing orthotics for those who need them, it is possible for most people to enjoy running injury free, despite their genetic predisposition.