Any serious runner knows that their legs take a serious beating. From joint pain to soft tissue damage, these athletes often see it all. While many seek care from an orthopedic practice, many others look to alternative rehabilitation such as soft tissue repair or joint mobilization to ease their pain and get them running again. Writer and runner Elena Sonnino of U.S. News & World Report shares her experience.
This blog was curated from an article written by Elena Sonnino of U.S. News & World Report. The original article can be found here.
Many runners often suffer from soreness and even pain. There tends to be a cycle of denial and admittance when it comes to injuries; after admitting that the pain is more than just soreness, you talk to your orthopedic surgeon about your options ranging from surgery to rehabilitation. Many runners spend a lot of time in physical therapy trying to rebuild strength and repair soft tissue damage, eventually hitting a plateau.
The desire to get back out to run is why many runners seek alternative rehabilitation plans that include seeing a sports chiropractor for targeted treatments for their injuries. In the case of Elena Sonnino, after two months in physical therapy, her pain was shifting from her hip to ger iliotibial band and psoas muscle. That's when she knew that it was time to try something new if she ever wanted to run again (or even sit for a length of time).
Why see a sports chiropractor for a running injury?
Although physical therapy is often the first line of defense in rehabbing a running injury, many athletes and runners have started to rely on sports medicine-trained chiropractors. While physical therapy can focus on strengthening and coordination, chiropractic care is designed to improve joint mobilization, making sure that all the joints in the body are moving correctly. Hirad Bagy, founder of the United Wellness Center in Herndon, Va., and team chiropractor for the Washington Redskins, Washington Nationals and DC United, believes that sports chiropractic care has evolved to incorporate the best of both worlds of joint mobilization techniques and soft tissue repair, creating a new gold standard of best practices in treatment plans for patients.
Bagy emphasizes that not only do all the joints in the body need to move correctly, but they also need to move in coordination with the soft tissue – a healthy body is one where all the factors are working well together. Runners who decide to visit a sports chiropractor should expect, according to Bagy, a thorough evaluation of biomechanics by their practitioner, including:
- How they are moving.
- How they are standing.
- What the arch of the foot looks like.
- How the knees are aligned.
- How the hips are aligned.
Once an evaluation is completed, sports chiropractors will, as Bagy explains, create the "recipe for the treatment stew" – taking into account the needs of each specific patient to decide between a variety of techniques, each designed to help the body regenerate healthy cells to "activate healing mechanisms."
Four types of chiropractic treatment for running injuries
1. Active Release Technique (ART) is a combination of massage and stretching where trained therapists apply deep tension while they move a joint through a range of motion. ART is used primarily for adhesions deep in the muscle.
2. Fluid Motion Soft Tissue Tools employ a technique that uses handheld stainless steel tools to break down scar tissue-releasing adhesions.
3. Functional dry needling is used for very deep trigger points to release tension in the muscles through deep muscle stimulation provided by the needles. Dry needling can be helpful for injuries involving the psoas muscle, which is a critical hip flexor muscle for runners.
4. Electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) stimulates surface muscles to contract to release tension as a complement to other techniques.
Active Release Technique for runners
After three months of not being able to run, in almost constant pain ranging from her iliotibial band to the back of her hip and psoas muscle, Sonnino was admittedly ready for anything when her orthopedist suggested trying Active Release Technique. According to Bagy, the reason that Active Release Technique can be beneficial – especially for the iliotibial band and hip injuries, is that it combines different muscle work that breaks down scar tissue while also emphasizing correct flexibility. Through Active Release, as Bagy explains, you can actually "elongate some of the muscle fibers making those muscles more pliable and therefore healthier."
Anyone preparing for ART should know that this is not a particularly gentle treatment. Some think that it would be like a deep tissue massage, however, the pressure and work on the muscles are deep and sometimes painful.
How to stay healthy for the long-term
Staying healthy is a constant concern for professional athletes who get constant care from stretching to active release to heat or ice. Most adults or mature athletes, on the other hand, do not make the time every day to use a foam roller, apply ice or heat or keep up with stretching. Runners who have overcome an injury should consider ongoing preventive care, ranging from every two weeks to every six weeks to maintain progress and reduce future injuries.