How to Keep Your Runner Patients Running
It’s hard to quantify the amount of runners in the UK but there’s no doubt it’s on the rise. From The Guardian’s running section to the countless running memoirs popping up in bestseller lists, it seems as though every second person regularly laces up their trainers and heads out the door.
Over two million people around the world take part in Parkrun too, with thousands participating every Saturday here in the UK. Running is no longer for ‘runners’, it’s clear that it’s for pretty much everybody.
But, as with any exercise trend (and I use the word trend to describe an upward-trending activity, not a fad), injuries inevitably follow.
There’s no doubt that running is good for health and can help prevent other injuries or conditions in our often sedentary lifestyle, but with so many people new to running, it’s important runners understand how to deal with injuries.
Physiotherapists across the UK are no strangers to seeing running-related injuries hobble through their doors but research shows that the oft-given advice of, ‘rest, don’t run’, might be completely wrong.
If you have patients with running related injuries, it’s important to understand the best course of action to not just help them recover, but to allow them to keep running.
Common Running Injuries Seen by Physios
From ankle twinges to tendinitis, it’s often the case that the same running injuries turn up in patients time and time again.
Common running injuries include:
- Sprain ankles
- Patellofemoral pain syndrome
- Ankle tendinitis
- Quad tendinitis
- Plantar fasciitis
- Shin splints
- IT band injuries
Many common running injuries are caused by muscle imbalances and weakness meaning rest isn’t going to cut it. Getting to the fundamental heart of the reason for injury is crucial as the patient can recover and prevent future injuries.
Old ‘Rest’ Advice
Traditional advice has often been to rest the injured area and not run again until the pain has gone entirely. While it sounds sensible, resting may not help after the initial appearance of pain and may even make the situation worse.
Back in 2007, a study from the University of Delaware, published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, found that an exercise regimen of tendon-loading rather than rest showed significant improvements in rehabilitation of Achilles tendinopathy.
Runner’s World (Dec 2019) reports that another study concluded that patients who continued to run in conjunction with strength training also recovered faster than those who only used strength training.
When a runner ceases the sport to rest an injury, it’s not just the injury site that stops moving, it’s the whole body. This reduction or cessation of exercise has a knock-on effect on general fitness and muscle strength, potentially creating further problems when they return to running.
Some running injuries do require rest, of course, such as stress fractures. But applying the ‘rest’ prescription to every injury is potentially foolhardy. If a weakness or imbalance contributed to, or caused, the injury, it will still be there upon the return to running, ready to cause more damage.
Creating a Common Injury Running Plan
Physiotherapists are usually well aware of the detriment of pure rest and are specialists in exercises to keep effected parts of the body moving smoothly in a manner conducive to recovery. But running injuries are common and often complex.
Injured runners need specific guidance that will allow them to retain as much of their strength as possible, continue running (albeit at an easier pace or smoother terrain) and to correct the root cause.
This has become such a common issue that there are numerous specialist running physiotherapists. Adding a running injury specialism to your existing training can be a brilliant step for physiotherapists and builds upon existing expertise.
Studies have shown that patellofemoral pain syndrome can specifically be alleviated by resistance band training, something that will come as a relief for many running patients. Understanding how resistance band training and foam rolling can specifically aid runners and keep them running, will make for a popular physio.
To help your patients deal with running-related injuries in a way that doesn’t force them into unnecessary rest, you can start building regimens that focus on specific, common running injuries. This will help you easily spot and treat running injuries as well as giving your patient a focused plan to follow.
Advertising a running specialty is particularly useful as many runners won’t know that their injury even requires the advice of a physiotherapist. Many will assume they should simply rest for a few weeks, potentially to their detriment.
By expanding the awareness of running injury rehabilitation, you can attract more runners to your practice and offer them better guidance.
Stand Out with a New Specialism and Keep Your Runner Patients Running
Running as a hobby is hugely beneficial not just for overall physical health, but mental health too. As more and more people take up this free form of exercise, physiotherapists will inevitably get more runners through their doors.
Keeping abreast of the latest running recovery research will help you keep your runner patients on their feet and in tip top shape. If you’re looking for the best physio tools for the job, we’ve developed our own resistance bands which are durable rubber and cotton and provide different levels of resistance without needing multiple bands.
Get in touch to find out more about our resistance bands and other essential physio accessories and equipment.