Apr 26 2016
Are you a runner? No matter if you huff and puff your way through a mile on the treadmill at your local gym or regularly put in big miles to ready yourself for races or marathons, running is one of the most rewarding and beneficial exercises we can do – but can also lead to common injuries.
Why do running injuries occur?
Our bodies are naturally equipped to handle the shock and strain from running, but when our mechanics are out of whack or something is out of alignment, subtle imbalances can lead to overcompensation and eventually, big injuries. Likewise, most running-related injuries are also related to over-stressing our supportive tissues, like muscles, tendons, fasia, and ligaments. Some of us have genetic conditions – like flat feet – that exacerbate injuries, and our sedentary lifestyles sitting at a desk at work make us even more prone to hurt something once we hit the pavement.
The good news is that with a little know-how, smart planning, and practice, we can eliminate the conditions that cause injuries and strength and prepare our bodies to be more resilient.
Tips for preventing running injuries:
Take heed of what your body is telling you. If you are feeling persistent pain, tightness, or a disruption of your gait while running, you may be facing an injury that needs to be addressed, or will be soon as the body overcompensates.
The majority of runners stick to one terrain and surface like roads, trails, treadmill or beach, etc. But it’s important to both rest and strengthen your body by changing up the surface you run on at least a couple times a week.
If you’re running along the beach or on an uneven trail, try to run on the most even part of the terrain as possible – like the sand closest to the beach, and change direction to balance out the uneven strain on one side of your body.
Get tested at a specialty running shoe or athletic store to see what kind of sneaker is best for you based on your type of foot and gait. To avoid wear and tear on shoes that can impact your body and cause injuries, buy two pairs of your favorite shoes and switch them up a couple times a week when you run, just like you’d alternate the tires of your car.
Loosen your hands, fingers, wrists, neck and shoulders as you run. Too often we squeeze them or exert tension unnecessarily, and even a little strain will be magnified throughout the body. Think of holding a potato chip in your hands that you don’t want to break in order to keep them loose.
Maintain good upright posture and concentrate on an even, fluid proper running form as you stride.
It’s probably not just running that contributes to injuries, but how you’re sitting the rest of the day. If you have an office job, sit at a desk or drive long hours, the muscles in one side of your body may lengthen while the other side may shorten, and that causes tightness, which your body then will compensate for once you start taking strides. Focus on correct and even posture at work, get up and walk around, vary the way you sit, make sure you’re not leaning into your computer or bowing your back, and do some simple stretches or loosening exercises throughout the day. You could even try sitting on a stability ball, which will help you strengthen your abdominal muscles and core.
Over-training or trying to increase mileage or speed too quickly is a huge reason why runners get injuries. As a rule of thumb, only add a 5-10% increase in distance every week, or less if you’re just starting out or not running daily. Time yourself and try to beat your time by small increments only so you don’t feel the urge to start sprinting or running too fast, which will cause an unnatural stride that your body isn’t yet equipped to handle.
If you do encounter nagging pain, minor injuries or discomfort from running, remember the RICE principal – Rest, Ice, Compress and Elevate.
Warming up and stretching:
One of the worst things a runner – or any athlete – can do is to go through their regular workout without warming up properly first or stretching throughout or afterwards. Failing to do so puts a tremendous strain on the muscles, ligaments, joints, and tendons, and may be the leading cause of injury.
Here are some tips on proper warm-ups for runners:
-Make sure to warm up the hips and spine, moving them in big circular and rotary patterns. You should also do dynamic movements to warm up the glute medius – or outer muscles of your buttocks – which will help keep your pelvis stable as you run.
Warm up for about two minutes, doing 10 reps of each of these exercises from a standing position, making sure to reverse direction and use both legs and arms.
Diagonal leg swings
Pelvic rocks or swings
Of course runners focus on warming up the feet, legs, buttocks, back, and pelvis area, but don’t forget to take time to loosen the shoulders, arms, back and especially your neck.
You might be tempted to start stretching before you go for a run, but you never want to do that. Stretching “cold” actually de-activates the very muscles you’ll be using to propel you forward during you run, increasing the risk of injury.
But you should ALWAYS stretch after a run. The good news is that it doesn’t need to be the moment you stop running, but feel free to stretch any time within an hour or so after your run, or throughout the rest of your day.
You’ll want to stretch:
Piriformis and low back
Stretch for about 30 seconds on each side for each movement, without bouncing. You should feel some discomfort but stop if you feel pain.
If you send me an email I’ll be happy to explain these stretches and recommend a warm-up and stretching routine that’s great for runners.
Common running injuries:
The most common running-related injuries include:
Foot and lower leg injuries
Plantar fasciitis and other foot problems
IT Band Syndrome
Patella (knee) tracking problems
Runner’s knee (Patella Femoral Pain Syndrome)
Strengthen your core and other training:
Too often, runners put in scores of miles every week but neglect to work and strengthen their whole bodies. While the legs, feet, and back may take most of the pounding when you’re out there running, it’s crucial that you strengthen the muscles that stabilize the body, especially your core and pelvic musculature to prevent injury.
Make sure you balance out your training schedule with core stability and strength training exercises on a regular basis. By cross training and using yoga, pilates, swimming, biking, weight training, mobility work and other core-centric exercises, you’ll help your body absorb the rigors of running, stay injury free and increase performance.
How chiropractic helps runners prevent injury and improve performance:
Chiropractic care will help the body move efficiently, easing the stress and strain of impact from running and relieving any blockages, imbalances, or misalignments that occur. With those out of the way, the body can return to its normal optimal function allowing it to heal, strengthen, and grow as intended.
Chiropractic will also help you fend off pesky injuries by identifying and alleviating muscle imbalances, joint restrictions and other issues associated with the wear and tear of running, so you’ll be able to stay out of the MD’s office and out there running instead, where you belong!