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Physiotherapy for Runners: Your Best Training Partner

As a runner one of the most frustrating things on earth is getting an injury that not only stops you from enjoying your running, but also causes your hard earned progress to go backwards; in fact, when this happens most of us actually decide to run through the pain until it eventually gets even worse and we are forced to stop for a while!

We understand. We are runners and we’ve been through this cycle ourselves on more than one occasion!

So why would a Physiotherapist be your best training partner? We can keep you on the track, avoiding running injuries that demotivate you and hopefully increasing your performance along the way. What more could you want?

Running Physiotherapy

Physio for runners is an essential part of preventing and managing injuries. There is much data on injuries in runners, with the statistics showing that between 37% and 56% of runners suffer a running injury each year (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1439399/).

This is too high. At Physio Fit we are passionate about keeping runners like yourself fit, healthy and running!

We all understand that biomechanics plays a role in not only our performance whilst running, but also our risk of injury. That is not to say that someone with a ‘good running technique’ can’t get injured and someone with a ‘poor running technique’ is definitely going to get injured, however it can increase or decrease the risk. At the end of the day, I’m sure we would all prefer to have a good running technique with improved performance and a lower risk of injury – so together let’s strive for that!

Following on from this, in order to get a good result from Physiotherapy, you need to work with a Physiotherapist who understands runners and their individual needs. This includes not only a detailed understanding of gait patterns and common running problems, but also a knowledge of the biomechanics of running technique and how to cue and apply this in a real world situation.

Learn more about our biomechanics assessments

The other large component of physio for runners is the combination of load management and strength training. It is essential that we modify your load to a level that your body can sustain in the short term, in order to have you pain-free in the long term. You may have heard of the 10% rule in load management for runners, rest assured that this is a terrible oversimplification of a complex equation with many variables, but we’ll touch on this later!

The other side to your running rehabilitation is strength training. All runners should be completing some form of strength training that is specific to their current fitness levels. There is good research that shows that strength training for runners is effective in dramatically reducing the risk of overall injury when applied correctly in conjunction with a running program. Yes, as runners we should be lifting weights in the gym too!

All runners should be completing some form of strength training that is specific to their current fitness levels

Running Assessments

A running assessment is a great way to learn more about your running technique whilst also finding opportunities for you to improve your performance and decrease your injury risk. At Physio Fit our running assessments include:

  • A detailed history of your running
  • Goal Setting
  • An in-depth video analysis of your running technique on our biomechanics software
  • Assessment of your movement through different exercises
  • Comparison of your strength left to right
  • A plan to improve your performance and decrease your injury risk
  • Guidance on load management

The truth is many people have never seen themselves run and therefore have never had the chance to sit down and objectively look at exactly what is happening at each joint in slow motion. Once we have done this together and understand exactly how you move, then we can create an individualised plan for you to move forwards towards your goals.

Learn more about our Physio Fit running assessments in one of our two Adelaide clinics.

How Physiotherapists can help runners

Physiotherapists can help runners in a variety of different ways. Once we have performed a running assessment session and understand you and your unique issues, we can then start tailoring a plan to achieve the goals that you have set for yourself. 

Education is a key part of our journey together. We will work with you to help you to better understand why injuries occur – most often a load management issue, technique issue, lack of strength or a combination of these. You can’t work on and improve what you don’t know is a problem.

Our team are also experts in strength and conditioning, which means we are also able to work with you to create a tailored strength program which can improve any muscle imbalances or weaknesses that we may have identified in your running assessment.

You can’t go wrong with getting strong – with a huge reduction in running injury risk when appropriate strength training is included in your programming!

Runner In Australia

What to expect in a consult

In a consult, you can firstly expect a thorough assessment of your running style and running injury history. This allows us to get a really good understanding of exactly where you are now, whilst also providing clues as to what may be contributing to your current issue, in fact the number one risk factor for any injury is a similar previous injury. It makes sense right? If you’ve injured your right knee before then there may be some structural weakness that could cause a similar thing to happen again, right? Or commonly, as you have injured your right knee, you return to running a little earlier than you should, favouring your left ‘good’ knee, and after a short period of time you now have pain in your left knee because it’s been taking an increased amount of load. These are all common things we see all the time and will screen for in your initial consultation.

Next we’ll conduct an assessment of how you run, as stated above, in order to better understand your unique movement patterns and to identify any opportunities for us to improve your running performance and decrease your injury risk.

We will also provide any treatment necessary if you are in pain, to begin to get you pain free and moving at your best. This may involve manual therapy and an exercise rehab plan tailored to your unique issue. Our treatments will always involve moving towards active based therapy that you can begin to do at home by yourself, empowering you to become in control of your pain.

Finally, we are committed to giving you a plan to achieve your goals. We understand the frustration of going to see a health professional and feeling like they just want you to come back with no meaning or end in sight. That is not us. At Physio Fit we want you to be involved in the planning process, understanding that there is a map for us to follow to achieve your goals. Your role is then to keep accountable to the plan in order for us to be successful on this rehab journey!

Can physio help runner’s knee?

Physiotherapy is the best solution to your runner’s knee, however it is good to note that runner’s knee is not a single condition, but a blanket term given to pain around your knee cap. With this in mind, the most important first step to help you to overcome runner’s knee is to get a thorough assessment by a Physiotherapist. Some of these conditions are:

  • Chondromalacia Patella
  • ITB Syndrome
  • Anterior knee pain
  • Patellofemoral pain

Once we have assessed exactly what is causing your knee pain, we can then work with you to develop a management plan to allow you to return to running pain-free in the shortest possible time frame.

When should I go to physiotherapy?

You can go to a Physiotherapist before you have any issue if you would like to have a running assessment to look at how you can prevent any injuries from occurring in the first place. People get injured when they run because of improper loading, poor footwear, weakness, muscle imbalance and a range of other factors, all of which a running assessment with a Physiotherapist can identify and correct before it becomes an issue or injury that stops you from doing what you love, running!

If you have pain that hasn’t gone away after a couple of days, or something that is bothering you whilst you run then it is most likely time to see a Physio to get a running and injury assessment. Simply leaving an injury until it gets so bad that you are forced to take an extended period of time off is not a great idea, although one that many of us choose way too often! Injuries are much easier and faster to fix when they are minor compared to when we let them brew for months; this is usually when we have to make drastic changes to your weekly load, whereas if we had you come in when the issue began, it could have been only a minor change for a short period of time.

Why do I keep getting injured running?

There are many factors that could be contributing to why you keep getting injured whilst you are running including:

  • Footwear
  • Load management
  • Type of running surface
  • Injury history
  • Running history/experience
  • Body weight
  • Weakness
  • Muscle imbalance
  • Stress
  • Rest periods
  • Nutrition
  • Lifestyle factors

With all of these possible factors contributing to injury, it may be confusing as to what to focus your time and energy on. That is where a running Physio can help to simplify the process with a plan to achieve your goals.

Woman Runner Near Beach

Should I follow the 10% Rule?

Not necessarily.

The 10% rule has been thrown around a lot in the past few years as a way to increase load in athletes through all different types of activities, however there is no strong research to back this theory up and it definitely needs to be taken with a grain of salt when applied.

You see, if you are currently in pain and only able to run say, 500 metres, it would mean that we could only add 50 metres to your run in the first week, 55 metres to your run in the second week and so on. This doesn’t sound realistic in most cases does it? Probably not!

Load management is incredibly important, don’t get me wrong, however the rate at which load should be increased is very individual and should be managed by a physio who understands you, your injury and your running history. Adding 10% each week is a lazy blanket rule that will leave you frustrated at best.

Will running everyday cause injury?

Not necessarily.

Running everyday could cause injury if the load, or amount of running each day, was an excessive amount and your body wasn’t given the appropriate amount of time, nutrition and sleep to recover.

However it also could fit extremely well into your lifestyle if the load was appropriate. For example, if you were to run to exhaustion each day, then your risk for injury would be heightened due to pushing yourself to the limits and the small rest periods between runs would inevitably lead to central nervous system fatigue. On the other end of the spectrum, if you were to run each day at a submaximal level, then the short recovery periods would likely be more than enough and your risk of injury would be no higher.

When you’re wondering about why you are getting injured, refer to all of the dot points above outlining the risk factors for injury and find which one/s may be compromised for you currently.

What is the most common injury in runners?

The most common injury in runners is not simply one injury, it is a range of injuries that fall under the umbrella term – runner’s knee. Runner’s knee is a common issue that many runners will face at some point in their journey, which can be brought on by not only your load or biomechanics issues, but also other lifestyle factors such as stress, rest and nutrition. When we assess your for these injuries, we will always take a detailed subjective history to really understand you as a person and as a runner, in order to find the small bits of information that could be key to your swift and successful rehab.

Whilst runner’s knee is such a common issue that frustrates many runners, it is also an injury that we are well versed in managing through load management, strength training and lifestyle risk factor adaptation. If you are suffering from runner’s knee, it may be time to find a physio near you to help you to become pain-free today!

If you would like to work with us here at Physio Fit, we love working with runners and would be happy to help you on your rehab journey!

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