Four of the most common running injuries are :
Patellofemoral syndrome – pain on the front of the knee, near or under the kneecap
Iliotibial band syndrome – pain at the outside of the knee and sometimes the side of the hip
Plantar fasciitis – pain at the bottom of the foot, or in the heel
Achilles tendonitis – pain at the back of the leg, near the heel
These injuries occur due to muscular or movement imbalances, compounded by overuse, especially in runners who complete over 20 miles a week.
One of the most important attributes for runners who want to avoid injury is the ability to effectively rotate around the ankles, hips and spine.
My understanding of the mechanisms involved is this –
Gravity is the major force acting to pull our skeletal, muscular and connective tissue structures downward, while there is an equal reactive force from the ground every time our foot lands, which our bodies need to dissipate.
When we run our bodies move through three planes of motion – side to side, in rotation and forward and backward. Moving the legs forward and backward with simultaneous arm swings creates rotation in the torso, enabling movement in the legs, hips and spine. These movements also help us absorb shock.
Muscles absorb shock by lengthening under tension when the foot hits the ground, and transferring the force through the body and creating energy for subsequent movements. If the muscles are not healthy, flexible and strong other structures must work harder, such as ligaments, tendons and fascia. Overuse of these structures leads to dysfunction and injury.
Rotational movement during running is described as more important than either side to side or forward/backward movement, as it is less hindered by the pull of gravity, and driven by momentum. Big muscles such as latissimus dorsi, gluteals and obliques that wrap around the body, control rotation, absorb shock and store energy whilst reducing stress on the spine and torso.
Ensuring that the major joint structures in the body can rotate and the muscles are strong and flexible to allow it will help decrease the likelihood of injuries developing.
Next time I will describe some rotational exercises for the ankle, hip and torso which help in preventing or dealing with injuries like those mentioned above.