It's that time of year again (finally) - the sun is shining, the flowers are blooming, and it's finally warm enough to ditch the snow boots and break out the
running shoes. As we begin the transition from the winter hibernation period to the more active months of summer, it's important to be mindful of the potential risks that come with sudden increases in activity levels. Many of us will be dusting off the running shoes after a long winter indoors, others will be trading in the monotony of treadmills for the thrills of running on trails and pathways. The last thing anyone wants is to end up sidelined with an injury, unable to partake in the activities they love.
Some of you may be wondering what the heck a chiropractor knows about running and running based injuries. The truth is chiropractors are experts in musculoskeletal injuries, and our training goes well beyond the spine as many people consider us the doctors of. I pride myself in a diverse profile of continuing education, many of which were courses on the evaluation and treatment of runners and their associated injuries. But enough about me, lets dive into some of the research and discuss some of the biggest factors we can address to mitigate our risk of injury this summer!
First and foremost, one of the biggest factors the contributes substantially to risk of injury is training volume. More specifically, sudden increases in training volume are a massive risk factor to tendon based injuries such as the achilles tendon, patellar (knee) tendons, and shin splints. According to research by Sibermagel et al. (2007), our bodies are highly adaptable to the demands we place on them, but we must give them time to properly adapt. This means gradually increasing our weekly mileage, limiting volume increases to no more than 10% week over week. So, if you're running 15km this week, aim to increase to no more than 16.5km the following week. Large spikes in training volume, which is incredibly common in these early spring/summer training months as we dive back into the training routines we left behind last fall (i.e. "I didn't run all winter and now I'm adding 30+km/week from 0km/week") overloads our body's ability to adapt to the demands of running, and will quickly start to produce aches and pains and eventually lead to you spending more time resting and rehabbing than you do actually running!
The second factor to consider is rest and recovery between sessions. Our bodies need time to recover between bouts of exercise, and it's important to prioritize rest and recovery in order to avoid overuse injuries. Rather than squeezing all your runs into a few consecutive days, try to space them out throughout the week to allow for adequate recovery time. Additionally, don't forget to hydrate, eat nutritious foods, and get enough sleep to optimize your recovery. And for those who need a little extra help with recovery, consider coming by the clinic for a recovery session where we incorporate assisted stretching, joint manipulation and manual therapy techniques to address areas of concern and also offer some fantastic recovery technology such as Normatec compression boots and Hypervolt percussion massagers- I can attest these tools wll have you going from limping into our clinic due to tight and sore less, to feeling like your floating on clouds when you leave.
Lastly, addressing previous injuries is crucial to avoiding re-injury or compensatory injuries in other areas of your body. Accord to Jill Cook's search on tendinopathy (Cook, 2009), a comprehensive rehabilitation program focused on progressive loading is essential to long-term recovery and injury prevention. This means fully rehabilitating the injury through a progressive strengthening program to restore proper function of the injured area. It's important to work with a rehab professional if you're not well-versed in injury rehabilitation yourself. Professionals such as a chiropractor like myself, or one of the many physical therapists colleagues in my office can provide you with the tools and education needed to stay on top of these injuries and not only help prevent them from returning but get you back to performing better than you were before. It is very common to stop doing the prescribed rehab once your pain is gone, but be wary of this as pain is a poor indicator of the general health of the tissue. Ensuring full function as been restored to the affected area through various tests (i.e. hop test post achilles tendinitis) is paramount to ensuring these old injuries don't rear their ugly heads and return with vengeance this running season.
By being mindful of these risk factors and taking the necessary precautions, you can help prevent running injuries and tendinopathies and keep yourself on track to achieve your running goals this summer. And stay tuned - we'll be sharing more tips and insights on how to stay healthy and injury-free as you hit the trails this season.
References: Sibermagel, S. et al. (2007). Training-related risk factors in the etiology of overuse injuries in endurance runners. Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, 47(4), 415-425.
Cook, J. L., & Purdam, C. R. (2009). Is tendon pathology a continuum? A pathology model to explain the clinical presentation of load-induced tendinopathy. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 43(6), 409-416.