For runners, chiropractic can be used for injury prevention because it emphasizes proper alignment of the spine and pelvis. The most common running-related injuries in patients, which range from recreational runners to Marathon winners, are Achilles tendonitis, patella (knee) tracking problems, plantar fasciitis, IT band syndrome and hip bursitis.
Misalignment of the spine can cause unnecessary tension on one particular body part versus an equal distribution of pressure. A chronic IT band problem cannot be resolved without making sure the pelvis is in optimal alignment. Otherwise, it’ll continue to wear, tear, and put strain on that one particular body part.
What Causes Improper Alignment?
Major causes of improper alignment include running in the same direction on the same course every day; running on slanted surfaces, such as a beach; and not replacing shoes every few hundred miles.
Fix these training errors that cause misalignment with a few simple tweaks:
- Vary your running surface—pavement, track, asphalt, grass, dirt, wood chips—a few times a week, and you’ll naturally run on different courses.
- Buy two of the same type of running shoes, and switch between the pairs.
- A job, where you sit in one particular position all day and then go for a run, can contribute to pelvic and spinal misalignments. The muscles are in a state of tightness on one side and are lengthened on the other, and then you go for a run and your pelvis shifts. Switch positions and seats, if possible, every 30 minutes during the day. Try sitting on a stability ball—it challenges your abdominal muscles and allows you to rock your pelvis, which lubricates your joints. Switch between a chair and stability ball, stand, and take short walk breaks if you work in an office. One position for various amounts of time is hard on the spine.
Warm-up and Stretches to Prevent Injury
- Warm up the hip in circular patterns and warm up the spine in rotary movements. Wake up the outer buttock muscles, called the glute medius, in order to keep your pelvis stable when you go for a run. Those are the essentials.
- Diagonal leg swings: Hold on to the wall or a chair for balance. Extend your left leg straight to the side and swing it from side to side in front of your body. Repeat on right leg.
- Hip gyros: Hold on to the wall or a chair for balance. Raise the left leg and, keeping the knee bent, circle the leg inward for 10, then outward for 10. Repeat on the other leg.
- Side lunges: Start with feet together. Lunge to the left, keeping your right leg straight and extended and your left knee bent. Let your weight shift a bit back to keep pressure off your knee. Repeat, and then complete on right leg. This wakes up the glute medius, which helps keep your pelvis level while running.
- Pelvic rocks: Rock the pelvis from front to back and side to side. This lubricates the joints of your lower back.
- Backstroke arm swings: Swing your straightened arms behind you in a backstroke swimming motion. There’s a slight rotation that occurs in the shoulders when running.
- Thoracic twists: Twist your torso to the left, twist to the right, and repeat. This movement activates your rib cage.
Move dynamically before running to prepare the body, and stretch after to ward off injury. You don’t want to stretch before the run because it de-activates the muscles you want active to propel you forward. But it’s hazardous not to stretch. Do it after you run, but it doesn’t have to be immediately after—you can do it later in the day. Stretch the following muscle groups: hamstrings, calves, quadriceps, hip flexors, quadratus lumborum (“hip hikers”), piriformis and low back, and make sure to do so every day that you run. Stretch for about 30 seconds on each side for each exercise. A complete stretching routine should take about five minutes.
Combined, the warm-up and stretches occupy seven minutes—not a lot of time compared to the hours you could spend on injury rehabilitation.