As Spring bursts forth with its promise of fabulous weather, don’t let running injuries spoil the fun! Whether you’re a warm weather Weekend Warrior, or transitioning from indoor to outdoor activity, the mileage and terrain soon starts to add up. This extra toll shows up in the form of various aches and pains in our hips, knees and ankles.
Why Do Roads Bring On Running Injuries?
Running on the sidewalk or road is very different that running on a track or treadmill. The added stress on the body makes a hard surface unforgiving, it can magnify any issues that are already happening in the body.
Poor training habits can be the overarching problem, but physical issues we may not have realised we had tend to come to the forefront when we get back outside.
Any lack of symmetry in your running form, old injuries you thought had healed, or even new injuries that seem insignificant at first, such as a slight twist from an uneven surface, can all have an effect on the body. Left untreated, they can lead to significant pain.
From a biomechanical point of view, the most common areas where a runner’s body can break down are the hips and the feet, even though the pain may be felt in other areas.
Running Injuries Can Initiate In The Hip
Many injuries we see in patients who run regularly start in the hip.The hip is an important part of running as it is designed to take the bulk of the impact when we land, and is also where the energy that moves us forward is generated.
Hip-related injuries typically stem from muscle tightness or weakness, hip and lower back stiffness, or a functional imbalance in strength or structure. Any of these issues can change the mechanics of how the joints lower down the body move.
Typical Running Injuries Of The Hip:
IT Band pain
The IT (or Iliotibial) band is a band of connective tissue that starts on the outside of the hip, and stretches down the side of the thigh, ending at the top of the shin. It plays a role in stabilizing the knee and assists with the inward rotation of the leg. In runners, inflammation of the IT band often starts with an injury or strain in the hip, yet commonly causes pain in the knee.
Patella-Femoral Syndrome, also known as Runner’s Knee
Pain in the front of the knee around the kneecap (or “patella”) is common in runners. Overuse can be the aggravating factor, however hip stiffness or a chronic misalignment of the hip and lower leg are often the underlying causes.
The Plantar Fascia is a tissue that attaches from the ball of the foot to the heel. It can become very painfully inflamed when the arch of the foot collapses and the space between the ball and heel increases, stretching it beyond a comfortable capacity. Although ice and massage can help, correcting the issue for good requires strengthening the hip and ankle to re-establish the foot’s arch.
As you can see, hip stress can be the source of a variety of painful ailments from the lower back to the buttock, knee and all the way down to flat feet or “over-pronation”. Runners who have symptoms of any of the above conditions should have their hip function assessed by a physiotherapist to avoid the pain becoming chronic.
Overcompensation Is A Natural Response To Injury
The human body works like a chain, with links between systems that are able to compensate for faults at other points in the chain. We have become very good at changing movements and using different body parts to get to the same end goal.
When you have a hip weakness or misalignment as a runner, the joints below the hip are forced to compensate. Running a few times a week, with the added stress of a hard or rugged outdoor terrain, can overwork these interconnected systems and lead to joint aches at first, followed by chronic pain and injury in the muscles and tendons of your hips, knees and feet.
Diagnosing A Hip Injury
A physiotherapist will be able to give you a thorough assessment of your hip function in your first visit. They will:
Look at the alignment of your hips, legs and feet
Test your functional mobility
Palpate the area
Test joint strength at various points
Measure your range of motion
Assess your gait from all angles, both walking and running
Once your assessment is complete, your physiotherapist will share their findings and give you some options for correcting any issues that are tailored specifically to your case.
Physiotherapy Treatments For Hip injury
Taking into account your goals, resources and abilities, your physio will put together a plan for you that includes functional movements related to running and non-running activities, and if necessary one of the many specialised treatments available:
Resistance training exercise at the clinic
Specific movements to do at home or at the gym
Low impact exercise such as swimming
When it comes to pain caused by dysfunction or misalignment in the joints, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. However by working together with a professional at your own pace, you can realign your hips and look forward to running again!
The team at Life Force Physio
Life Force Physio is a local physiotherapy clinic serving Etobicoke and Mississauga (Toronto). Our team of Physiotherapists are passionate in their level of care, and believe better health is an achievable goal for everyone. We run a Physiotherapist Supervised Gym Program designed to support your healing, rehabilitation and ongoing fitness safely and at your pace. Located at Burnhamthorpe Rd and The West Mall.