Thursday 22 August 2013

Why Runners Should See an Exercise Physiologist

I recently managed to finish my first half marathon in a time of 1:39.28. A fantastic effort considering that 8 weeks prior to the event I was struggling with an injury that was causing sharp pain in my right knee and I thought my chances of being able to complete the full distance were shot. It turned out I had Iliotibial band (ITB) syndrome, commonly known as runner's knee. Thankfully I went and saw my friend Unna Goldsworthy, an Exercise Physiologist at Panacea Movement Medicine in Carlton, and within a couple of weeks of following her recommendations the injury was history!

So how did Unna get me back on track for my first half marathon and why would I recommend that every serious endurance runner go to see an Exercise Physiologist? The key is the holistic approach that Exercise Physiologists use to assess each individual.

Previously I had seen a Physiotherapist for a couple of other injuries. He always focused on the injury rather than the root cause physiological issues which were at play. It seemed I was going from one injury to another every couple of months.

It actually turned out that all these injuries were related! Unna's approach was to not only examine the ITB but to look for broader issues by performing a more holistic physiological examination. She observed my running technique and put me through a series of tests to look for the problem which caused the injury in the first place.

What she found was a lack of flexibility in my left hip and a lack of strength in my glutes was causing ITB syndrome in my right leg! My right leg was been overworked during the run cycle to compensate for the deficiency in my left. Because my glutes were not particularly strong they would tire quickly and start causing stress on my ITB.

During a run, it was at about the 12km mark that the pain in my knee would start and quickly become unbearable. It was a stiffening sharp pain and was happening because the ITB had become inflammed to the point that it was rubbing against the femur at the knee joint.

This is actually a common condition amongst runners. Fortunately the fix is pretty straightforward and just requires stretching and strengthening exercises for the core and legs which Unna gave me plenty of. She also introduced me to the foam roller and spiky massage ball, invaluable aids for the serious endurance athlete! Within two weeks I was comfortably running in excess of 12km with no pain and went on to have a successful debut half marathon at Run Melbourne.

So I would recommend anyone experiencing a running related injury or wanting to improve their running technique to go and see an Exercise Physiologist. The good people at Panacea Movement Medicine come highly recommended so give them a go!

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