This is a guest post from Kevin Wentz, PT, CSCS. Kevin is the Founder and Co-Owner of Catz Physical Therapy Institute and Sports Performance Center in Pasadena, CA. He has been a leader in the sports medicine field since 1994 and has rehabbed the likes of Oscar De La Hoya, David Beckham, and Adrian Beltre. I have had the good fortune of working with him at Catz since 2007.
Physical Therapy Management of Running Injuries
Running marathons, half-marathons and numerous other distance events seems to be back more so than ever. With increased numbers of runners along with increased mileage comes increased risk of injury. Running injuries differ from other sports in that they are almost always over-use type injuries and need to be properly managed. Over-use injury management needs to take into account numerous factors, such as how long the athlete has been running (novice vs. experienced veteran), do they do any strength work and cross-training, do they have proper foot-knee-hip mechanics, etc. These are only a few of the factors that need to be addressed and therefore it is necessary that a physical therapist have adequate experience with the running population.
If you’ve just began having pain and are in the acute phase of injury, the goal is to reduce inflammation and normalize range of motion if it is impaired. Modalities that PT’s typically use are ice, ultrasound, electrical stimulation, cold laser, kinesio-tape, etc. However, hands-on therapy in the form of soft tissue mobilization, joint movement and gentle, progressive exercise helps reduce inflammation and is absolutely critical to minimizing the recovery time for runners.
Once inflammation, pain and swelling have subsided, the real work begins for both PT and athlete. The PT can now assess muscle imbalance, weakness and lack of mobility throughout the kinetic chain and give corrective exercises and running-specific strengthening activities (functional strength). A key component at this stage is to address the neuromuscular system in the form of coordination, strength and flexibility since impairments here will also give you clues as to the cause of the original injury. An experienced PT understands that even minute faults or deficits become amplified with mileage, so impairments that may seem minor in basic functional movements can actually be major culprits as mileage and repetition increases. Hands-on therapy is still vital throughout the program as complete tissue healing is necessary to begin the final phase of the recovery.
The final phase consists of specialized training in the form of speed, power and muscular endurance that not only gets the athlete back on the road to their goals with running but goes a long way towards preventing re-injury. The goal of running rehab at Catz is to make a better, more efficient runner that is resistant to the normal over-use injuries associated with the sport. Whether it’s a first time injury or one that keeps recurring, seek out a professional that understands the injury, the sport and the athlete.
Follow Kevin on twitter @kevinleewentz