Let’s face the facts. Runners are one of the most injured group of athletes. Some studies suggest, as much as 70% of runners this year will suffer an injury that will either limit the runner’s mileage,or stop them from running completely! The complications of running arise primarily from overuse.
Now I don’t want to paint a picture that running is bad for you, because it isn’t! There are tremendous health benefits to running. The problem is that most runners like to push their limits – often coming very close – several times a week. This is where injuries start.
Runner’s knee, IT band syndrome, plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, sound familiar? These are all examples of overuse injuries. These don’t develop after one run but after miles and miles of pounding the pavement. Generally, the problem isn’t that we run too much, so much as these, are often the result of biomechanical imbalances and deficits which lead to added stress on muscles, joints, and other tissues.
None of us want to stop running or have pain. Wouldn’t it be nice to know what is causing our current pain and problems? Or better yet, wouldn’t be nice to know if we were at risk for a specific injury? Fortunately we do have these things! Below are 5 at-home assessments that can test and assess for some of the most common running injuries!
Ankle dorsiflexion may be the most important assessment for a runner. The feet and ankles are our foundation! Plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, shin splints, and eventually stress fractures can all be caused by limited dorsiflexion.
To test this start by standing arm’s length away from a wall. Place one foot close to the wall with the big toe touching the wall. Place a ruler along the lateral foot. While keeping the heel on the ground, bring the knee to the wall. Continue to slide the foot back and bring the knee to wall until you can no longer get the knee to touch the wall without the heel coming off the floor. Normal range is 5-6” and anything short of this makes you more likely for any running injury!
Reduced knee flexion directly leads to one of the most frequent injuries for runners – Runners knee.
To try this assessment, stand upright. Grab and pull an ankle until the heel comes into contact with the glute on the same side as the ankle. Anything short of pulling the ankle to the glute is placing you at higher risk for Runners knee.
While the hips are not given the label of the most commonly injured sites for a runner, a lack of hip flexion can lead to bursitis, IT band syndrome, muscle/labrum tears, and other problems downstream of the hips.
To test hip flexion, start by lying flat on the floor with the legs straight in front of you. Try to bring the knee to the chest while keeping the opposing leg flat. The front of the thigh should be flat against the chest. Test the other side the same way. Any pinching in through the front of hip, in the groin, or lateral hip is also a positive test and putting you at risk for injury.
Hip Extension is another assessment that has a direct role in stride length. Limited hip extension shortens the stride. When putting in the final kick to finish our race, we can’t be held back! By altering our stride, hip extension can cause any issue in the low back, hips, or knees directly.
To test this assessment is a little trickier and may require a partner. Start by getting into a lunge position. Lean as far forward as you can on the hip while staying upright. There should be no forward lean! Place a ruler under your back leg – this is the side we are assessing. Then find your ASIS – it is the bony part in the front of your hip. Place a level or a plumb line directly against the ASIS, directly over the ruler. Where the plumb line or level hits the ruler is your measurement. Note symptoms as well. Test both sides. Normal range of motion is 11-13” for most people although it can get much more. Pain with this movement, inability to stay upright, or any measurement short of 11” is a positive test.
The toe touch is an “all-inclusive” assessment. The toe touch is one of the most basic, functional movements anyone who is an active runner should have. Inability to touch the toes, shows reduced mobility in the low back and hips putting you at more risk of any injury, including low back pain.
Hopefully, you found all these assessments to be in normal range, but I’m guessing a few of you out there found some tests that were a little short or painful.
So why don’t you have the mobility? The two most common reasons these movements are restricted are due to adhesion and joint shape issues.
Adhesion is a buildup of scar tissue through overuse in the soft tissue like muscles, ligaments, or around nerves. This is the most common dysfunction in the human body, but also the most commonly misdiagnosed condition. The good news is that it can be easily fixed by a professional trained to diagnose and treat it! When present adhesion restricts range of motion, decreases strength, and causes pain.
Joint shape issues are either genetic or degenerative. This is not nearly as common as adhesion is, and degenerative joints are often the result of years of bad soft tissue, use, and abuse.
So what can you do?
If you find yourself falling short in some of these assessments but were pain free, start a routine of some stretching and mobility. Stretch and foam roll the restricted areas daily to try to get within normal range.
If you currently find yourself in pain, or any of the assessments painful, it’s too late! You need to seek out a healthcare professional to get examined. Find one that is trained to break up adhesion and properly evaluate these movements. If you chose to continue to run with these restricted movements and pain, it is not a matter of if, but when, more significant injury will happen!
If you live in the Cedar Rapids/Iowa City area and struggling with any of these tests, call our office today at 319-423-0925! At Thrive Spine and Sport we specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of overuse injuries caused by adhesion.
Pain and injuries are a part of running, just like any other sport, but that shouldn’t be the reason they stop you!
Thanks for reading!