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How Sports Chiropractors Prevent Injury in Runners

iStock Photo Man in Pain

If you think chiropractors simply "crack" backs, you're not alone. It’s a common misconception I get asked regularly at my clinics.

As a Sports Chiropractor, I am qualified in many different forms of muscle work, such as Active Release Technique (ART), Muscle testing, Kinesio-taping, Dry Needling (Medical Acupuncture). These are probably the best manual therapies for preventing injury and optimizing performance. That's why there's always a sports chiropractor on Olympic and professional sports teams.

For runners, chiropractic can be used for injury prevention because it emphasizes proper alignment of the spine and pelvis. The most common running-related injuries I see, which range from recreational runners to professional athletes, are 

  • general aches and pains including those of joints, muscle spasms and cramp
  • General, acute and chronic backache, back pain (not arising from injury or accident), including Lumbago
  • Uncomplicated mechanical neck pain 
  • Frozen shoulder, shoulder or elbow pain, or tennis elbow arising from associated musculoskeletal conditions of the back and neck

My first step in treating these injuries: Search for misalignment.

Misalignment of the spine can cause unnecessary tension on one particular body part versus an equal distribution of pressure. It’s important to assess all areas which move, attach, push and pull in order for a muscle/joint to work efficient and pain free.

What Causes Improper Alignment?

Major causes of improper alignment include running in the same direction on the same course every day; running often slanted surfaces, such as a beach; and not replacing shoes approximately every 400-600miles.

Fix these training errors that cause misalignment with a few simple tweaks:

  • Be consist with your training
  • Run as close to the water as possible when on the beach, as the sand tends to be more flat there.
  • Buy two of the same type of running shoes, and switch between the pairs

From my experience there is a lot that can contribute to improper spine or pelvic alignment, and sometimes it has nothing to do with running. As humans, we aren’t created to sit and be in one particular position all day and then go for a run. The muscles are in a state of tightness on one side and are lengthened on the other, and then you go for a run and your pelvis can shifts, causing compensation.

Switch positions and seats, if possible, every 30 minutes during the day. Varied posture remains the best posture.

Try sitting on a stability ball—it challenges your abdominal muscles and allows you to rock your pelvis, which allows more movement into your joints. Switch between a chair and stability ball, stand, and take short walk breaks if you work in an office.

Whether you run in the morning soon after rising, or in the afternoon/evening after sitting all day at work, a proper warm-up also helps prevent injury.

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How to Detect a Running Injury 

Warm-up and Stretches to Prevent Injury

After years and years of treating patients for the majority of the same injuries, and recognizing patterns such as not warming up and/or stretching properly, it’s important to  warm-up and stretching exercises.

The best injury-preventing warm-up for runners includes exercises that support the spine, get you locomotive, moving the joints. Your hip socket is a great example—you need to warm up your hips so they can move as freely as possible to respond to slips, quick changes in stride and uneven terrain.

Dynamic Warm-up Exercises for Runners

This takes two minutes to complete; do 10 or so reps of each exercise and move to the next. Start each exercise in a standing position.

  • Diagonal leg swings: Hold on to the wall or a chair for balance. Extend your left leg straight to the side and swing it from side to side in front of your body. Repeat on right leg.
  • Hip gyros: Hold on to the wall or a chair for balance. Raise the left leg and, keeping the knee bent, circle the leg inward for 10, then outward for 10. Repeat on the other leg.
  • Side lunges: Start with feet together. Lunge to the left, keeping your right leg straight and extended and your left knee bent. Let your weight shift a bit back to keep pressure off your knee. Repeat, and then complete on right leg. This wakes up the glut medius, which helps keep your pelvis level while running.
  • Pelvic rocks: Rock the pelvis from front to back and side to side. This gets movement into the joints of your lower back.
  • Backstroke arm swings: Swing your straightened arms behind you in a backstroke swimming motion.
  • Thoracic twists: Twist your torso to the left, twist to the right, and repeat. This movement activates your rib cage.

Be consistent, and Stretch the following main running muscle groups:

  1. hamstrings,
  2. calves,
  3. quadriceps,
  4. hip flexors,
  5. quadratus lumborum ("hip hikers"),
  6. piriformis
  7. low back

Make sure to do so every day that you run. Stretch for about 30-60 seconds on each side for each exercise. A complete stretching routine should take about five minutes.

Combined, the warm-up and stretches occupy seven minutes—not a lot of time compared to the hours you could spend on injury rehabilitation.

If you'd like to arrange a full spinal functional and muscular examination, feel free to call us today

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