Running shouldn’t lead to injuries

Running: It’s a form of exercise that doesn’t require spending money on fancy gear, and can be done anywhere, alone or with friends. Some scientists say it can even make you feel happier and live longer.

Best of all? You only need the right pair of shoes to get started. But, whether you’re a seasoned runner or just working up to your first mile, it may not be as simple as lacing up your running shoes. While research shows that runners’ joints and bones are actually healthier than the average person’s, some runners do get injured. A growing number of doctors and physical therapists (including myself) believe people can prevent running-related injuries by fixing how they run.

Evaluating how you run can help identify the root cause of an injury or identify a bad habit that may lead to injury. For example:

  • Runners with long strides tend to develop knee pain.
  • Runners with a narrow gait are prone to shin splints and IT Band syndrome.
  • Runners with an excessive bounce are prone to Achilles tendonitis and plantar fasciitis.
  • Muscle weakness is another frequent cause of injury. For example, weakness in your hips may lead to pain in your knees.

A physical therapist can perform a professional running assessment, which usually takes place at a hospital or sports center and lasts about an hour.

During a running assessment your physical therapist will analyze your readiness to run, injury history, running goals and training and race schedule.

The therapist can also assess your form by looking at balance, strength and flexibility as well as how your joints move. To do this, the therapist may take a look at how the small joints in your foot move while sitting and what changes when your foot bears weight as you stand, walk or run. Is your foot stiff, flexible, flat or high-arched? Do your toes have enough motion when pushing off? How does the ankle joint move when you squat?

The physical therapist may also record your running with a high speed camera to collect information about your gait. The therapist slows the footage down to study your movement closely, looking at the runner from head to toe to make any necessary corrections. By slowing the video down, the therapist has a detailed view of the different running stages at various angles and can see what could be triggering injuries or affecting your running efficiency.

A video evaluation can also help runners find the right shoe with the right support. The physical therapist can look at your current running shoe and wear pattern to see how they fit to give suggestions and a plan that works for you.

If you experience pain while running or want to improve your form and efficiency, a professional running assessment can really help. Running shouldn’t lead to injuries.

AAMG Physical Therapy’s Running Program offers running gait assessments at most outpatient rehab clinics. To schedule your exam with a physical therapist, call 443-481-1140.

DSC_0054By Dat Quach, PT, a senior physical therapist at AAMG Physical Therapy and supervisor at the Bowie Pavilion clinic.
Originally published June 22, 2016. Last updated June 4, 2018.

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