Is Running Good For You?
Running has been the primary form of exercise in my life over the past 21 years. When I first moved to Eastern Oregon, I would get many strange looks while out running around the valley. Many people would ask if someone or something was casing me, or if I needed a ride. People would tell me, “I was wearing my joints out.” Since those early days of running in Eastern Oregon, running has become a more popular form of exercise in our area. Experienced runners have moved to the area, and novice runners have become more serious. We still get the occasional strange looks from the farmer passing us on a country road.
Running is becoming more popular with the middle age bracket. The average age of a marathoner is 38.8 years old. As a physical therapist, I have observed an increase in running injuries with this new popularity. Novice runners are training harder and quicker, leading to a significant increase in tendon related injuries. A recent study reported an injury rate of 3-4 injuries per 1000 hours of running. The problem is not running, but poor running. Runners are a strange breed, and I can say that because I am one. Runners typically don’t seek professional help until months into an injury. Runners usually attempt to self-diagnosis and self-treat, which can be may effective for some but may also lead to a condition called tendinosis. Tendinosis is different than tendonitis, because natural inflammatory cells have vacated the injuried area leading to a prolonged and irritating condition. In many cases these conditions can only be treated with re-starting the inflammatory process. Examples of treatment for these conditions are: ASTYM, soft tissue mobilization, and dynamic stretching. A physical therapist can help determine the most effective treatment approach.
As I said earlier, running is not bad for you, but bad running is bad for you. Long-term studies have been performed to determine the effect of running for health and exercise. Studies have found there is no significant difference between long distance runners and sedentary individuals in the incidence of developing knee osteoarthritis. There was however an increase in osteoarthritis with occasional runners, people that are seasonal runners or “once a week” runners. The main reason for this increased incidence of osteoarthritis is poor running form and weakness in the ankle/hip running muscles.
There are two primary reasons for injuries with runners. First, excessive and repetitive impacts that the body is not prepared to absorb, and second, excessive or prolonged pronation. The first problem can be resolved by improving ankle and hip strength, and being smart about the amount you are running per week. Most studies recommend between 40-50 miles maximum per week for runners. More than 50 miles per week has a 70-75% annual injury rate. The second problem can be addressed by improving ankle and hip strength as well, but may also involve running mechanics. This can be observed with video analysis to breakdown the components of running. Baker Valley Physical Therapy will be adding video gait analysis to the physical therapy services, and plan to begin running clinics in the near future. For questions, please contact Dr. Blake Marlia at Baker Valley Physical Therapy.
Blake Marlia, DPT