Spring is here and summer is coming. That means more people from all over Greater Vancouver are about to lace up their running shoes and hit the local tracks, trails, pathways, and seawalls to free their minds from the day-to-day while burning some calories in the process.
Even though running/jogging is a fantastic form of cardiovascular exercise, far too many runners are sidelined because of chronic pain and/or some underlying condition that makes an otherwise pleasant experience, unpleasant. However, you don’t have to give up your favorite pastime and fitness activity, not when physiotherapy is here to put you back on track. Today, we take a look at how making physical therapy a part of your normal health and wellness regime will have you up and running all year long.
4 Ways Runners and Joggers Can Directly Benefit from Physical Therapy
1. Physiotherapy Can Treat and Prevent Common Running Injuries
Awhile back we delivered an article on injuries common to runners. The following expands upon the list, and includes reference to these ailments along with links to some our treatment options:
- Plantar Fasciitis
- Shin Splints
- Patellofemoral Stress Syndrome (PFSS) – This is pain in the front part of the knee that occurs due to abnormal motion or pressure between the kneecap and thighbone.
- Piriformis Syndrome – This is a condition in which the piriformis muscle (located in the buttock region) spasms and causes pain. The muscle condition can also irritate the nearby sciatic nerve and cause pain, numbness and tingling along the back of the leg and into the foot.
- Iliotibial Band Syndrome
- Stress fractures – An acute fracture typically occurs as a result of a fall. Alternatively, a stress fracture develops from growing strain on the bone, and commonly occurs in the foot or in the shins. Because it begins as minor pain, it often goes ignored, but then gets progressively worse as you run.
- Hamstring strain – When you experience hamstring strain, chronic aches and tightness will force you to slow and shorten your running stride. As the condition progresses, the pain becomes more sharp, and can have you stop mid-run. Any further attempt to take long strides, or overextend your legs can strain your back thigh muscles. Simply put, attempting to go too far, too fast, and/or on too much of a gradient when your muscles are too weak and tight can strain the hamstrings.
- Achilles Tendinopathy – This condition is often the result of overuse, and caused by repetitive energy storage and release with excessive compression. The worst case, is a runner’s greatest fear – an achilles tendon rupture.
The above list is by no means all-inclusive. There are numerous injuries that can occur when your muscles, tendons, tissues, and ligaments are not strong or flexible enough to manage what you intend to put them through in the weeks and months ahead. Physiotherapy will not only treat all of the above common runner ailments, it can provide you with a suite of preventative exercises, routines, and measures (custom orthotics included) to keep you from falling victim to them all.
2. Physiotherapy Improves Balance
By definition, balance refers to the neuromuscular skill of activating the muscles and adjusting your body alignment to keep yourself upright. While often taken for granted as an important skill required for running, research shows that improved balance is directly related to greater running speed. In addition, when a runner/jogger develops better awareness of the foot, ankle, calve, and all around lower extremity positioning relative to the ground and other obstacles, there is a reduced likelihood of sprain based injury.
Physical therapy can help you improve balance (and therefore running performance) by improving your Gait with custom orthotics, provide vestibular rehabilitation (where applicable), and work to improve your core muscles.
3. Physiotherapy for Better Breathing
Proper breathing techniques help you run better. While people may not visit a physiotherapist for respiratory health, there is certainly a connection between physical fitness and proper breathing. For instance, breathing is essential to posture and core stability. A professional physical therapist that offers core fitness as a service, will help restore and ensure proper breathing mechanics to help improve lumbopelvic stability, decrease pain, and enhance motor control.
Think of it in this basic sense – a physical therapist is a body movement expert. Considering that breathing is essentially the fuel for movement, the influence of breathing on patients and in physical therapy treatment cannot be discounted. When you improve your core fitness and better learn to control your body movement and function through physiotherapy, you will invariably improve your breathing, which will serve you well on your future runs.
4. Physiotherapy Can Keep You Running Longer
The heading above doesn’t refer to the literal km’s logged on your next jog, although physiotherapy can indeed help you run greater distances. Instead, we’re referring to lifetime longevity. There does not need to be an age cap on being an avid runner. There is a very long and well recorded history of elderly (80 yrs+) marathoners, those who not only break records in their age category, but darn well put us young folk to shame, while inspiring everyone to stay fit in their advanced years. And while we encourage parents to make physiotherapy an important part of their child’s life (teenagers included), physiotherapy has innumerable benefits for seniors. No matter what age category you fall in as you read this, regular visits with a local clinic will keep you in running shape for the rest of your life.
Before you lace up for your next run, contact our Burnaby, Coquitlam, and Greater Vancouver clinic to schedule a consultation.