Injuries in Runners and Triathletes: Normal vs.Common- Part 1: Self Mobilization

I will be writing monthly blogs that I hope will stimulate some questions and offer answers for you in your goals to be a better athlete- and to be injury free. 

Question:  “Is it normal to experience injuries such as ITB pain, plantar fasciitis, knee pain etc? 

AnswerNot normal, but very common.  82% of runners get injured, and one study even notes that there is a 90% injury rate among triathletes.  “Overuse Injuries in Ultraendurance Triathletes,” American Journal of Sports Medicine, Vol. 17, pp. 514-518. I am going to help dispel that Myth and give you the secrets on how to avoid the common injuries that athletes seem to  “get “.

Much of what I am writing about can be found in Jay Dicharry’s book “Anatomy for Runners” A must for any runner – great gift for your favorite runner. Jay is a PT and  educator in the treatment and prevention of running injuries.  His book offers great ways to “treat yourself into better performance” and prevention of injuries. Like myself he has been evaluating and treating runners and has seen these problems as common and preventable.

First off , we know that once there is pain somewhere you want to find out what is causing it. The problem is that almost all injuries of overuse start way before the pain starts….Some of you may say : “But My pain started the day I did my long run on Saturday”.   Yes, that is when you first felt pain, but the problem existed way before that.. In other words, the true source of the problem started much sooner than the symptom of pain.. Hmmm… To find the source can be tricky.  The reality is that it is very difficult to diagnose yourself. Trust me, I treat runners for a living and have raced competitively on a professional level and have had my share of injuries until I started to look and evaluate at a deeper level.  So , how do you find the source?

The time is now  to start to uncover some of those sources before you body starts to break down. (it is never just one thing ) When you can clean up the sources to the pain you can avoid chasing pain every time you start training for a new race. Wouldn’t it be nice to have no pain through your whole training leading up to your next race?  If you are already in this category –I congratulate you . If you do this with heavy doses of Ibuprofen, it may be time to re-think.. Research is now showing us that taking such drugs not only masks the pain but  actually slows down the healing, taking it longer to recover fully from an injury .

 Uncovering the first source : Over worked soft tissues that are not given a chance to heal and scar down.  This month we will look into soft tissue restrictions that lead to injury and how to self mobilize to prevent injury.   self mobilzation pictures part 1   (click onto to view self mobilization techniques)

Why should you self mobilize?  The training of endurance athletes will always lead to soft tissue adhesions from scarring . Training breaks down the body and it takes 11-14 days for the contractile proteins to fully repair the damage. . Most all of you work out more than once every 11-14 days . This means that the training you do day after day , week after week builds up scar tissue ( some of us call it fascia restrictions)  This poor healing leads to poor mobility that then leads to injury and poor recovery and performance.

self mobilzation pictures part 1

Where & How to self mobilize- Self mobilization techniques have been uses for years such as Graston, ART, ASTYM,. The name doesn’t matter – The goal does: Break up that scarred down tissue.  Jay states in his book “Periodic self-Assessment of your body is critical and your responsibility as an athlete. “  And like Jay I agree that if you catch these little issues early , you can prevent them before it turns into an injury.   I call it Scanning your body for those areas of restriction .  When done on a regular basis you can prevent minor problems turning into chronic ones .

The key is to not wait until an area is painful. Find something that is sore or feels “lumpy and stiff” and work it out. Attached are pictures to help guide you.

 Many people use a Lacrosse ball. I have a ball in my office that has nubbies on it that I like and is not as hard.  In some cases you need to just use your hands. ( see attachments ) Remember –running puts a lot of cumulative stress on the body and the body is going to lay down scar tissue to heal it.

There are 3 ways to mobilize an area:

1) Rolling along the muscle fibers -make sure you address the whole muscle

2) Transverse rolling perpendicular to the muscle –

3) Trigger point release: direct pressure for 90 seconds.

  Shin splints are a common complaint in runners .Try the self mobilization technique for this area –find a sore spot? I bet you did! This is one of the areas that gets over worked.  Compressing parts of the body should not be painful!  If it is then It needs work!

So get to work! Next post will be finding source 2 : inadequate stability / strength – Don’t miss it!

Run On !

Cathy Parbst-Accurso PT, CKTP 

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