A blog by runners. For runners.

Physical therapy for runners

physical therapy for runners

As a physical therapist, I often get asked questions about pain, injuries, and discomfort associated with running. And while you're probably aware that physical therapy can help you recover from running injuries like sprains and torn ligaments, there are a plethora of other conditions PT can treat.

These conditions, include, but are not limited to:

  1. Pelvic floor dysfunction and incontinence/ Running is a high-impact sport, and as a result, many women that run during pregnancy — or soon after — can end up with damage to the pelvic floor muscles if they have not properly strengthened these muscles. In addition, incontinence can occur as a result of a weak pelvic floor. Physical therapists can help treat this condition with exercises, stretches, and by adjusting your training schedule to decrease the impact on these muscles.
  2. SI joint dysfunction and muscle imbalance. The Sacroiliac or SI joint is located at the connection of the pelvis and the spine, and this joint can be too tight or too loose due to weakness and muscle imbalances. The back pain associated with this condition is usually one-sided and is coupled with buttock or hip pain. A physical therapist can determine the cause of the imbalance and help you find ways to correct it with hands on treatment, exercises, stretches, and modalities.
  3. Hip, knee, ankle and foot pain due to gait abnormality. Most people start running by, well, running. Not much thought is put into how to do it. But discomfort, pain, and injury can occur at any joint in the legs when running gait is abnormal. A trained physical therapist can analyze your running gait and determine asymmetry that may be causing problems. Video analysis can identify areas that need strengthening and stretching, and also help retrain running gait.

How to find the right physical therapist

To get the most out of your physical therapy appointment, you need to make sure you find a skilled therapist with a knowledge and interest in runners. How do you know if you've found a good one?

  1. They perform a full body evaluation. In order to determine what is causing your problem, a skilled physical therapist will not just look at the part giving you pain. They will evaluate your entire body for areas that need improvement.
  2. They have the appropriate equipment and tools. Upon your first visit to a physical therapist, scan the environment. Do they have equipment that is in good repair? Is the environment unique and filled with products that you use to keep yourself in shape? When they prescribe exercises, are they given to you in a format that is easy to understand and accessible? If you're answer is no to any of these questions, you should consider seeing someone else.
  3. They understand running. A knowledgeable physical therapist will be able to explain the mechanics of running and how it relates to your particular problem. They will advocate for getting you back to the sport, and come up with a plan to ease you back into running safely and efficiently. What they won't do is have you sit on the sidelines for months.
  4. Personally, I love being a physical therapist. It is rewarding to see people returning to a sport they love without pain. Visiting a physical therapist can be helpful for many complaints associated with running, but finding a good one is key. Feeling confident that you have chosen the right physical therapist will give you hope of running even better than before you sought help.

Written by Danielle Bressoud. Danielle is a licensed physical therapist, practicing for 7 years, and running addict living in Massachusetts with her husband and son.

Prevent injuries before they start. Read about staying injury-free all year long (i.e., more time to run).