Running is one of the best forms of cardiovascular exercise. In fact, running for just 10 minutes a day can significantly reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. Though running has the potential to offer health benefits, it can also increase stress in your muscles and joints.
Runners should maintain good posture and alignment because even minor misalignments in the feet, knees, hips, and spine can cause these areas to wear down faster and lead to injury.
This article will explore how running affects the spine, joints, and posture, as well as common injuries that runners may encounter, such as runner’s knee and IT band syndrome. We’ll also discuss the benefits of chiropractic care for runners—such as faster healing and injury prevention.
How Running Impacts the Body
Running is a well-known cardiovascular exercise that can improve a person’s overall health and well-being. However, problems arise quickly when there are underlying postural or misalignment issues. Because running is an activity that involves repetitive stress and impact on muscles and joints, it can strain and wear down vulnerable areas, and lead to bone and soft tissue injuries.
It’s important to understand that even small misalignment, balance issues, and anatomical asymmetries can cause injury and problems while running, resulting in the need for downtime to heal. These issues are commonly the underlying cause of increased muscle and joint wear and tear and affect a runner’s stride.
Many runners seek chiropractic care throughout the year to reduce the negative impact that running has on their bodies and to ward off future injuries. During an initial evaluation, a chiropractor will examine a runner’s feet, knees, legs, hips, and pelvis—as well as the upper, mid, and lower spine—for alignment issues. Natural curvatures of the appropriate size should be present and held in place by a balanced posture.
Head & Neck:Correct head and neck posture allows runners to run more efficiently and comfortably, reducing stress on the body and risk of injury. Runners should look ahead naturally, not down at their feet. A natural gaze will straighten the neck and back, and bring them into alignment.Shoulders:Running requires a healthy posture with normal spinal curvature. Misalignment or “shoulder hunching” in the thoracic area can drive pressure and compression into the lower back. Lower Back:Runners need a healthy lumbar curvature and a torso that is fully centered over the pelvis. The lumbar spine is the driving force behind running and coordination in this region. Misalignment in this area can result in disc problems and joint problems in the spine and lower extremities.Hips and Pelvis:The hips and pelvis should be balanced and have a neutral pelvic tilt. An anterior or posterior pelvic tilt can lead to muscular issues, including IT band tightness. Further, an abnormal tilt can put undue strain on the lower back (lumbar spine).
During a chiropractic evaluation, a doctor will check the function of the knee joint to ensure correct alignment without internal or external rotation. They will also confirm that the knee and patella (knee cap) is properly aligned, as misalignment can contribute to the development of runner’s knee.
Lastly, your chiropractor will rule out potential anatomical asymmetry in the legs, check the function of the tibia and fibula, and perform a foot examination to look for appropriate arches, good gait, and stride.
Common Injuries Caused By Running
The ability to run for many years without injury requires a balanced posture and healthy alignment. Exercise with underlying postural and alignment issues can cause harm to the body, leading to joint, disc, and nerve problems over time.
Common injuries caused by running include:
- Runner’s knee (patellofemoral pain syndrome) – an overuse injury that results in dull pain around the front of the knee. Symptoms include pain, grinding, and even clicking sounds beneath the kneecap. Treatment will require cessation of running until properly healed.
- Iliotibial (IT) band syndrome – This condition affects the iliotibial band tendon, which becomes swollen and irritated by rubbing against your hip or knee bones while running. Activity will cause pain to worsen.
- Hip and knee problems – Hip and knee problems (leading to replacement) can develop over time if a runner’s body weight is unevenly distributed or unbalanced. Every step while running can increase force and stress on one side of the body, contributing to joint degeneration.
- Osteophytes and arthritis – Osteophytes and arthritis can be caused by misalignment, trauma, and overuse of the joints.
- Disc and nerve issues – L4-5 and S1 disc problems are common injuries in runners.
Chiropractic Care for Runners: How To Prevent Future Injuries
When seeking chiropractic care, X-rays are taken as part of your initial examination to help identify misalignment and anatomical asymmetry. During your visit, your chiropractor will walk you through a comprehensive health evaluation and posture check to see what can be done to improve alignment, maintain proper body balance, and help prevent future injury.
Chiropractic treatment for runners can include:
- Neuromuscular education – The brain’s map of its unconscious posture is retrained in voluntary and reflex motor activities during neuromuscular reeducation. It is a method for restoring normal movement patterns and posture without having to think about it. This treatment is required for the body to balance itself properly.
- Spinal traction – Spinal traction restore flexibility to the spine and relieves pressure on compressed discs. This treatment is essential in treating spinal misalignment and is shown to improve running speeds and coordination.
- Stretching and exercise – Stretching improves recovery by increasing muscle blood flow and removing lactic acid. However, recent research indicates that stretching before running does not reduce the risk of injury.
- Orthotics – Orthotics play an important role in keeping injuries at bay for runners that run on hard surfaces. These devices can lift the heels and treat anatomical asymmetry.
- Chiropractic adjustments – When it comes to treating joint mobility issues, adjustments can help treat all the joints in the body. Contrary to common belief, your doctor can perform adjustments on extremities ranging from the hips to the knees to the feet to ensure that they move freely and have mobility. There are 26 bones in the foot that your doctor may be able to adjust. Adjustments in this area can aid in the breakdown of adhesions and reduce pain and inflammation.
- Myofascial release – This is a form of muscle therapy used to help relieve pain by releasing tension and tightness in specific trigger points. It can treat built-up scar tissue in the body—specifically the leg muscles in runners.
PostureWorks — Get Treatment with Chiropractic BioPhysics®
The repetition in stride and the compression packed from running present a significant challenge for runners. Because small misalignments in the knee, spine, and feet caused by repetitive steps can wear down the joints faster, a runner’s spined must be aligned.
In addition to seeking chiropractic care for runners, you can reduce your chances of future injury by running on natural surfaces like grass or sand, which are healthier and can help reduce joint stress. Also, consider increasing your pace; faster running puts less strain on the joints than a heavy, steady jog.
At PostureWorks, our chiropractic physicians provide several treatment options to our patients, which include standard chiropractic adjustments and more specialized treatment, such as Chiropractic BioPhysics®. During your initial consultation, we will evaluate your spinal health using a biometrics analysis, incorporating your personal health goals to provide you with a customized treatment plan that may include postural exercises, neuro-muscular reeducation, and spinal alignment traction to correct spinal misalignment.
Chiropractic BioPhysics®, or CBP, is a deeply researched and results-oriented corrective care technique. CBP-trained chiropractors aim to realign the spine to health and restore optimal function. CBP is conservative, evidence-based, and non-invasive. If you’ve been considering chiropractic care for runners, we can help. Contact us today and schedule your first appointment with PostureWorks!