Injuries happen in sports. No one is invincible. As much as we attempt to reduce the risk of injury, we can’t prevent everything. Where things can get frustrating, though, is some people seem to be constantly injured and others rarely get injured. It is not uncommon for me to hear, “I want to run, but my body just isn’t made for it,” or “My doctor told me I need to stop doing _____ if I want to stop hurting myself.”
As humans, our bodies are made to move, to run, to lift, to carry, etc. Our bodies are made to function in our everyday endeavors as well as our recreational activities and sports. Unfortunately, our bodies are great at adapting and compensating, which is where the problems begin. With the years of sitting, poor posture, habits, etc., our bodies forget how to move properly.
The other issue occurs because we don’t train the smaller deep muscles that support our joints. This creates instability in the joints which results in injuries or pain. To go along with these two causes, many times when I see someone experience injury after injury and they have been going to therapy or physicians, it tells me the wrong area is actually being addressed, that the root cause of the problem has not been treated yet.
So let’s talk about how to change this!
Many injuries come down to how we move our bodies through space. This is no fault to you, it is what your body knows due to the compensations it has made over the years from the different postures and positions you have maintained on a daily basis. It moves how it feels natural to move.
Many of the back injuries I see from lifting, both with pulling from the floor as well as with squats, is due to not knowing how to fire the glutes properly, so the spinal muscles take over to perform the work. The spinal muscles are significantly smaller than the glutes, so eventually they fatigue, especially under heavy load or high reps. This fatigue can result in a muscle strain, a disc injury, or a pinched nerve to name a few things. Whatever the injury is, it is not fun and can take you out of your normal activities for a while.
The beautiful thing about running is you don’t need much equipment – just clothes and shoes – so it is easy to start up and do anywhere. When you start to run, you run how your body wants to move. We assume that the way the body moves naturally is the best way for it to move. I was one of those people years ago as well. Eventually after a number of stress fractures and years of knee pain, I began looking into what was really going on with my body.
When talking about running injuries, much of it comes down to running technique. A number of common issues exist that contribute to these injuries, including overstriding, landing hard on the heel with a straight leg, and a delayed pull of the foot off the ground. Many others exist, but those are the biggest issues that I see regularly. Correct the technique faults that are present and many of the injuries begin to go away as well.
Our bodies have two different categories of muscles – mover muscles and stabilizer muscles.
The mover muscles are the ones we typically train when working out. These are the large muscle groups, essentially – hamstrings, quadriceps, gluteus maximus, deltoid, biceps, triceps, etc.
The stabilizer muscles are the deeper muscles that tend to be left out, often because people don’t know they need to train them and they don’t know how to train them.
Why does this matter? Because many issues are caused by weakness in stabilizer muscles. These muscles protect and support the joint. When they fatigue, two things happen: the joint becomes unstable and the muscles tighten up in order to protect the joint as well as it can. This results in pain.
If you start taking time to train the stabilizer muscles through accessory work, you will begin to notice you become stronger overall with all your lifts and movements and that you are experiencing fewer injuries.
Addressing the Correct Area
The other big issue I see, especially if someone has been going to a physical therapist or a chiropractor, is the wrong area is being addressed. Yes, sometimes the actual issue causing the pain is where the pain is at, but many times the driver of the problem is somewhere else. For example, issues in the hip and back can cause pain in the lower leg and foot.
Spot treating the symptoms is great to get you back to functioning again, but unless the actual driver of the issue is addressed, it will always return. Along with that, if the driver is never addressed, other issues can develop as well.
If you have been getting treatment and continue to experience injury after injury, this is something to think about!
Do constant, chronic injuries tend to interrupt you training, competitions, or races? Email me at [email protected] to let me know what is going on.