It could be argued that running is the most efficient and accessible form of exercise, only taking a pair of shoes and a bit of motivation to get started. Contrary to popular belief, it’s even tolerated well by our joints if performed responsibly! Recent research in JOSPT noted that running at the recreational level was linked with significantly lower odds of having osteoarthritis (joint disease) compared to non-runners. Unfortunately, because of the simplicity of the sport, most overlook aspects of healthy running. Three import variables to consider for a runner are training practices, physical fitness and technique. It could be argued that these variables are listed here in order of importance, but all are vital.
Addressing your training is a great way to decrease likelihood of injury and maximize fitness. The body needs time to adapt to the repetitive loading on the road, track and trail. Always increase your running mileage gradually; 10% or less is considered a safe increase. Other factors of training include intensity and recovery. It is a good rule of thumb to run no more than 20% of your mileage as “high intensity” training. Also, recovering with proper rest, diet, sleep and nutrition will make or break a runner.
The 2nd pillar of a healthy runner is physical fitness. Ensure that muscles, tendons and joints are well prepared for the hills, sprints and long-runs ahead. The primary muscle groups to focus on with training include the quadriceps, hamstrings and calf complex. Additionally focusing on the lumbopelvic stabilizers, commonly called the “core”, will help reduce bodily stress and improve efficiency.
As you may guess, lower body injuries are the most common with runners but many manage to develop aches and pains to the back, neck and shoulders as well. Proper technique is essential to avoid over-use injuries; this is often referred to as running form. Good form running can look slightly different from person to person and can even change for an individual throughout their life. Running technique is not meant to be black and white but rather a variable to manipulate when a person develops injury, needs to improve performance or prevent additional stress to a particular area of the body. Physical therapists and running coaches are go to professionals to help you address the complexities of running so that you can avoid and recover from injury, allowing you to focus on your personal running goals.
Written by fellow runner and Doctor of Physical Therapy, Joey Przybyla.
Physical Therapy Can Ensure That You’re Ready to ‘Spring’ Into Action
Now that spring has officially arrived, many people are turning their attention to outdoor activities, whether it’s signing up for local charity walks, joining community cleanups or racing after children on the playground. However, the sudden onset of activity could spell trouble if you spent your winter in “exercise hibernation.” Don’t fret: With the right feedback from a trained healthcare professional, it’s possible to safely participate in the activities you enjoy most. If you’re ready to kickstart your activity level after a long hiatus, your first stop should be physical therapy.
One of the best tools in a physical therapist’s patient toolkit is a movement screen, which essentially means that the PT observes your movement patterns to determine the source or cause of dysfunction—or to identify a small problem that could grow into a bigger one over time. Or as a recent International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy study explains, by observing a patient as he completes a series of movements, the PT can create a “movement profile” of what he is and isn’t able to do.
When looking for someone to conduct a movement screen, it’s important to find a physical therapist who is experienced in movement screens and has either developed their own protocol or is a certified member of a screening system. During a movement screen, a trained PT will examine the mobility, stability and efficiency of your back, hips, core, shoulders, knees and ankles as you perform a series of exercises in order to identify muscle imbalances, tightness, weakness and other factors that could contribute to injury.
Once a movement screen has been performed, the PT will know whether any problems you’re experiencing can be attributed to lifestyle (do you sit at a desk all day?), injury (was that recent tweak to your ankle really a sprain?), or structural (do you participate in a hobby like gardening that requires repetitive tasks?). This information will be helpful in designing a home exercise program that will help you participate in physical activities and sports while keeping injuries at bay. Once you’ve worked with a PT to identify and address any functional limitations and have safely returned to a healthy activity level, take the time to recognize how far you’ve come and try to keep it going by resisting the urge to “hibernate” again next winter. You can visit with your family physician about some of the benefits of physical therapy. Kethley Physical Therapy has 9 physical therapists on staff with two locations in Dripping Springs and look forward to helping you and Keeping Dripping Springs Moving!
YOUR SMART PHONE COULD BE RAPIDLY AGING YOUR SPINE
Chances are that you probably haven’t given much thought to how your neck and back are faring in the era of the smart phone, but studies show that you most certainly should. It’s practically a reflex these days to pull out our smart phones when we’re standing in line, sitting at the airport or riding the subway. And while it’s great that we rarely need to venture beyond our pockets for entertainment, our bodies are beginning to retaliate—and mourn the pre-texting days. So, what exactly are these contemporary conveniences doing to our bodies? A surgeon-led study that published in Surgical Technology International assessed what impact surgeons’ head and neck posture during surgery—a posture similar to that of smart-phone texters—has on their cervical spines. With each degree that our heads flex forward (as we stare at a screen below eye level), the strain on our spines dramatically increases. When an adult head (that weighs 10 to 12 pounds in the neutral position) tilts forward at 30 degrees, the weight seen by the spine climbs to a staggering 40 pounds, according to the study.
How pervasive of a problem is this? According to the study, the average person spends 14 to 28 hours each week with their heads tilted over a laptop, smart phone or similar device. Over the course of a year, that adds up to 700 to 1400 hours of strain and stress on our spines. As a result, the number of people dealing with headaches, achy necks and shoulders and other associated pain has skyrocketed. Trained to address postural changes and functional declines, the physical therapists at Kethley Physical Therapy are well-versed in treating this modern-day phenomenon, widely known as “text neck.”
Over time, this type of poor posture can have a cumulative effect, leading to spine degeneration, pinched nerves and muscle strains. Scheduling an appointment with a physical therapist can help people learn how to interact with their devices without harming their spines. The PT will prescribe an at-home program that includes strategies and exercises that focus on preserving the spine and preventing long-term damage.
Exercise is an important part of taking care of our spines as we age, but what we do when we’re not in motion matters, too. So next time you pick up your smart phone or curl up with your e-reader, do a quick check of your head and neck posture. Your body will thank you for years to come.