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How Physical Therapy Can Treat Repetitive Stress Injuries for Runners

How physical therapy can treat repetitive stress injuries for runners

How Physical Therapy Can Treat Repetitive Stress Injuries for Runners

Running is an incredibly popular sport that is enjoyed by people of all ages and abilities. However, while it is a great exercise for your body, it can also result in repetitive strain injuries on various parts of the body. If you’re a runner and you’re experiencing pain or decreased running ability due to injury, you may benefit from physical therapy at Blue Hills Sports & Spine Rehabilitation.

What is a Repetitive Strain Injury? 

Repetitive strain injury is a broad term that is used to describe more than 20 conditions that affect the musculoskeletal system that occur due to repetitive stress that is placed on the body. Symptoms of repetitive strain injury include pain, numbness, tingling, weakness, and/or decreased joint range of motion.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common repetitive stress injuries that affect runners and discuss how physical therapy can help to treat these conditions.
 

Shin Splints  

This condition is the result of inflammation of the anterior tibialis tendon, which is located in the front of your shin. Common symptoms of shin splints include pain, as well as numbness and burning in the front of your shin. Your physical therapist will evaluate your foot position when you’re lying, standing, and walking to determine if your foot position is causing your comfort. If they notice that it is contributing to your shin splints, orthotics may be recommended to help correct this issue. Your physical therapist will also make suggestions for adjustments to your running routine while your shin splints heal, including resting, decreasing your running time, running on softer surfaces, and avoiding hill work.

Plantar Fasciitis  

This condition results when the plantar fascia, which is a thick band of tissue that runs along the bottom of your foot, becomes irritated and inflamed, leading to pain along the bottom of your foot near your heel bone. Initially, your physical therapist will treat this condition with rest and ice, followed by gentle stretching of the leg and calf muscles, and possibly soft tissue work to the plantar fascia. Again, your physical therapist may evaluate your foot position to determine if orthotics may be beneficial for you.

Iliotibial Band Syndrome  

This condition results when there is repetitive friction to the iliotibial band (ITB), which is a thick band of tissue that runs along the outside of your thigh from your hip to the front of your knee. When the ITB is irritated it can result in an intense burning sensation along the outside of the knee. Initially, your physical therapist will recommend rest and ice to minimize the inflammation, followed by gentle stretching of the ITB. Your physical therapist will also evaluate the strength of your hips and core to determine if weaknesses in these areas may be adding stress to the ITB. If weaknesses are noted, hip and core strengthening will be recommended.

Piriformis Syndrome  

This condition results when the piriformis, a muscle located deep in the hip that helps to rotate and stabilize the joint, is irritated, leading to hip and buttock pain. Irritation of the piriformis muscle can also mimic sciatica as this muscle runs over the sciatic nerve. Your physical therapist will initially recommend rest and ice, followed by a stretching and strengthening program for the hip and legs.

Patellofemoral Stress Syndrome  

This common condition occurs when there is improper tracking of the patella (kneecap) in the grove of the femur, leading to pain around the kneecap. This condition can be caused by a variety of factors including weakness of the thigh and/or hip muscles, and tightness of the iliotibial band. Initially your physical therapist will recommend rest followed by gentle stretching and strengthening. Your physical therapist will also perform a gait analysis of your running style to ensure there are no biomechanical issues that are contributing to your condition. If these notice issues on the gait analysis, they will work with you to correct these issues before you resume your running routine.

Conclusion

The good news is that while not all injuries can be avoided in runners, many of the common repetitive strain injuries can be. If you’re a runner, having a physical therapy assessment at Blue Hills Sports & Spine Rehabilitation is one of the best steps you can take to ensure that you maintain adequate strength and flexibility of your body. This will help you minimize your risk of suffering some of the most common repetitive strain injuries that commonly impact runners.

 

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