Jeni Sepe, PT, DPT
Running as a means of exercise is very popular: both for recreation and as a competitive sport. However, the statistics on running injuries are not good. Throughout the course of any year, 65-80% of runners sustain an injury. Some running injuries are so common you’ve probably heard of them: plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, calf pain, medial tibial stress syndrome (shin splints), IT band pain, exertional lower leg pain, hamstring injury … and the list goes on. These injuries are often a result of faulty movement patterns and decreased energy efficiency throughout the body. A licensed physical therapist can identify these movement patterns through a process known as gait analysis.
Gait analysis is a technology-based method of identifying biomechanical (i.e. movement) abnormalities in the gait cycle — in other words, it’s a way of using video to capture and assess the way you walk or run. Licensed physical therapists typically perform gait analyses in a clinical facility. It involves filming you running from three positions — front, back, and side — and analyzing the video footage in slow motion, using still frames and frame-by-frame motion assessment. The video is analyzed to determine how each joint is moving, how specific muscles are working to control joint movement, how one side compares to the other, and how the amount of movement at the joints of your trunk, hips, knees, and ankles compare to normative values.
Your physical therapist will look at your gait analysis and explain any movement problems that have been observed. They will recommend running modifications if need be. The next step is to make a plan about how best to help your body learn new movement habits for running. Physical therapists are experts at guiding you to make new cues and strategies to support new movement patterns. Interval training may be helpful at this stage of the process as it allows you to make gait changes with less fatigue. Usually clients are asked to run for one- to three-minute periods of time, during which the therapist will correct running until the pattern is learned and naturally integrated.
Usually, in addition to modifying your running form, it is necessary to use an exercise plan to strengthen weak muscles, and address stiff joints and muscles. Your physical therapist is vital to this part of the process. For example, if you have weak gluteal and hip muscles your knees might collapse in and cause pain at the knee joint. If your therapist sees this they may cue you to run differently. They may add gluteal and hip strengthening exercises to your therapy program to address the muscle weakness along with the movement pattern.
The licensed physical therapists at Greenwood Physical Therapy have been trained to help you reach your goal, whether you currently have pain with running, would like to improve your running form and energy expenditure, or you’re just starting your training. Nobody knows the biomechanics of movement and gait analysis like we do. If you would like to know more about gait analysis and how it might help you relieve your current pain or help you reach your running goals, reach out to us to schedule an appointment at one of our two locations in Ravenna or Greenwood.