Compiled by our Senior Physiotherapist & Running Coach Paul White. To book an appointment with Paul, or read his Meet the Team profile CLICK HERE.
I normally see injured runners. I see runners that have a problem that is stopping them from running. They want the problem fixed to allow them to return to running. Kind of simple.
My job is to find that problem. This is also where you have large variances in what the problem is.
I say that running (and lots of other movements) is your body's way of solving a problem. What's the problem you ask? How you get from point A to point B. Moving your body, your limbs in a certain way produces movement that allows your body to move towards point B.
Is your problem an injured calf muscle? Whilst playing touch rugby last week you injured your calf muscle. So now when you go to move your body you have a muscle that cannot produce the required force to help propel your body to run.
Or is your problem a sore back. You lifted a heavy couch up a staircase on the weekend. You then went to run, only to discover that your back hurts when you push through the ground. Hence you have a problem with the relative strength of your back muscles in the running movement.
Running is complex. This is a way I visualize running problems.
You have a whole board to things that can influence your running. You need a minimum amount of strength of the tissues (muscles, tendons, bones). I think everybody really understands this aspect of running. It is easy to understand.
Where the amazing complexity in running is how you coordinate your body to create a running movement. Everybody has variance here. I love seeing how different people move.
But this is also where lots of people's problems actually start. Your body has an amazing tolerance to loading. However there is a limit. I lot of running injuries are created because you have really pushed those tissues. (Muscles, tendons, bursa etc) to there limit. Repeatedly.
What if I were to say that those same tissues appear to have very specific characteristics. Let's keep this simple. Calf strains. Or calf tightness. Why do runners have develope calf tightness? On that complex board of what is causing this running injury, we could say that the individual's calf muscle is not strong enough. That the muscle starts to fail during running because the individual has run too far for the strength of that tissue. Or I could approach this problem in a different way. How does a calf work? What specific characteristics does a calf muscle have? Within the calf, we actually have two muscles, soleus which comes from bone below the knee, and your gastroc (gastrocnemius) which comes from above the knee. Both these muscles attach into your Achilles' tendon.
What is really interesting is that both these muscles have a unique property that gives us a clue as to their specific function. Both have muscle fibres that are arranged at 45 degrees to the plan of force. This implies that there is a specific strength 'zone'. This implies that we should be placing that muscle in the middle of that strength zone to maximise their use. That if you are not in that strength zone, that you would be increasing the likelihood that you would overload that tissue. Is your calf tightness coming from using that muscle in an inappropriate 'zone'. I believe that if the calf is not in the appropriate zone, your body (brain really) then helps to solve that problem by creating more tension to help the run movement. Hence is the tightness in your calf, just a result of an inappropriate way to move your body in the running movement. Is the strain of a calf muscle just a result of loading the tissue in its weak zone. (repeatedly..)
What could look like a calf strength issue, may just be a running movement problem. We really want to know about those problems as then we can create the best plan to address them. If you are not observing the running movement, I believe you will miss a key part of this problem-solving.