Whether a recreational or competitive runner, injury prevention is critical to your longevity in the sport. In order to understand how injuries occur, it is necessary to know a bit about human physiology.
Body tissues adapt in a very predictable way and they change in response to levels of physical stress. When tissues are exposed to the same stresses over and over, they maintain their current structure and function and are in a state known as homeostasis. When these tissues are exposed to a slight or gradual increase in physical stress, they change their structure and function (after an initial period of break down) in order to be more tolerant for that type of future stress.
They now have a new level of homeostasis which is more durable for a specific type of stress. However, if a stress is increased too much or too quickly, the tissues are damaged to such a degree that they cannot recover after the initial period of breakdown. They are now unable to reach a state of homeostasis and slowly degenerate. All running overuse injuries occur from this pattern.
The opposite is also true, if the levels of physical stress are reduced, the tissues adapt in the other direction and have a new homeostasis at a lower level of durability.
This homeostatic system not only causes overuse injuries but also protects us against them. When slowly increasing mileage, the tissues adapt and are greater able to withstand this stress in the future. This is why experienced runners who are on a relatively regular training schedule suffer less from overuse injuries than beginning runners.
By following the three rules below, you will decrease the likelihood that you will suffer from overuse injuries from running.
- Increase mileage slowly. Do not increase your weekly mileage by any greater than 10%. By following this rule, your leg tissue experiences manageable amounts of stress which can be adapted to before your next run.
- Listen to your body. Everyone’s body is different. The 10% rule may not work for everyone and if you have a pain that is getting worse with every run, you need to cut back. Never ignore your pain. When you develop a sore spot, reduce your running to a level where the pain goes away and then slowly begin increasing your mileage. If necessary, stop running for a few days and let your body repair itself.
- Be consistent. Research has shown that running injuries are more likely to occur during periods of increasing mileage than they are during steady mileage (even if the steady mileage level is high). Of course, “high mileage” is a relative term. A general rule is to avoid letting your weekly mileage fall below 50% of your peak weekly mileage. If your heaviest training week during the year is 50 miles, try not to run fewer than 25 miles per week at any other time of the year, except for a brief off-season break.
By following the above rules, you will prevent overuse running injuries and actually increase your body’s strength in the long run.
Dr. Max and his staff at Irving Park Chiropractic are experts at treating running injuries and can help you get out of pain and back to what you love doing, faster. Call Irving Park Chiropractic today for a routine chiropractic adjustment or sports injury treatment.