By Chad McCann, 3Dimensional PT
For runners, there are a million stories about how pain starts. Usually, “it just kind of started one day while I was running. I thought it would get better on its own, but it keeps getting worse.” Plantar fasciitis, shin splints, achilles tendinitis, IT band pain, knee pain, hip pain - they’re all very similar. No specific incident, no clear reason. Just pain. And it’s getting worse. And now I can’t run.
It’s my job to figure out exactly what, and why, and what do we do about it.
When I ask a runner what they do for exercise, the answer rarely varies. They run. “Anything else?” I ask. Some say they do squats, lunges and or heel raises, but only to help with running.
I think I’m fooling myself in hoping that someday I’ll hear what I want. I’d melt if a runner told me about all the work they’re doing to make sure their hips are strong.
The problem with running, as it relates to injury, is that it’s entirely repetitive and it works muscle in only one direction. Always. Little variation. So do squats, lunges, and heel raises.
Unfortunately, your body doesn’t move in only one direction. Your joints move in multiple directions with every movement. And every single time your foot hits the ground, a chain reaction of shock absorption, stability, and propulsion is set off with very little conscious input - the multiplanar movement known as pronation and supination. Over the course of a typical 4 mile run, that chain reaction occurs about 4,000 times per leg. The muscles that control that multidirectional movement get tired, losing a bit of control every time.
So… why does your knee/shin/hip/foot hurt? Well, simply put, you put more force on your body than it can control. You need to be stronger. And the most important muscle group to strengthen is the gluteals. The gluteals control all three planes of motion and do so better than any other muscle group. They have to be strong enough to control the entire leg with each and every step. If they break down, you break down.
To maximize efficiency, impact control, propulsion power, and to minimize form-based injury, maximize gluteal strength. Use hip abductions, clamshells, resisted monster walks, and single leg bridging to strengthen. A strong runner is a healthy runner. Plus your pants will fit better.