Are you getting ready to re-up your running program now that winter is turning to spring? Or are you thinking of starting one? For many people, that’s a great idea. Running is an inexpensive, accessible form of exercise with great health benefits.
Get moving, properly
“Studies support that most runners are in better health than individuals who do not exercise regularly,” says Shane McClinton, P.T., D.P.T., Ph.D., a physical therapist and assistant professor at DMU who is board-certified in orthopaedic physical therapy and a Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Manual Physical Therapists. “For example, in a systematic review that included 114,829 people, only 3.5 percent of recreational runners had hip or knee arthritis compared to 10.2 percent of individuals who were sedentary or who did not run.”
Dr. McClinton also serves as director of DMU’s Running and Cycling Clinic, which provides individualized assessment and treatment of running and cycling concerns including performance and pain or injury associated with movement.
“As physical therapists, movement analysis is what we do,” he says. “With patients, we do a thorough history and look at their movement, mobility of their joints, integrity of their soft tissue, signs of muscle strain and inflammation. Usually, multiple interconnected factors are involved.”
Listen to your body
The biggest risk factor for a running-related injury (RRI), Dr. McClinton says, is a history of a prior injury. “Therefore, it is important to listen to your body and take care of any injuries you have. The longer you run on an injury, the longer it will take you to recover from it.”
Training errors are the second most common factor for RRIs. Changing any variable too quickly – such as increasing the number of miles run in a week, altering terrain or changing shoe style – can cause problems.
“The good news about this risk factor is that we have the most control over it by making smart choices and progressing slowly when initiating running or making changes to our established running routine,” he says.
We can help
For runners who require treatment for pain or injuries, physical therapists can offer noninvasive treatment. Johnston, IA, resident Cathy Knoepfler, 58, a runner since high school, was experiencing pain in her back, glutes and hamstrings after running. Her son, Jackson, had been treated by Dr. McClinton when he was in high school, so Cathy turned to him.
“He is so knowledgeable and thorough,” she says. “He watched me run so that he could identify the true issue and also look for long-term solutions. His treatments are all evidence-based.”
Dr. McClinton used dry needling on Cathy, a technique in which physical therapists insert a very thin needle into problematic muscles. “Right away, I felt so much better,” she says. “But I kept going back to him because obviously I had issues that caused the original problems.”
Dr. McClinton identified ways for her to adjust her running movements and gave her stretching and strengthening exercises. In addition to enabling her to keep on running, his treatment allowed her to avoid taking inflammatory medications and muscle relaxers.
“Honestly, he knows the body so well,” Cathy says. “He’s my go-to person.”