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How to beat running pain

Male runner holding his hurt ankle

Our bodies are anatomically designed to run pain free, and yet so many runners suffer from foot, ankle, leg, knee, hip, pelvis or back pain! What’s going on? To find out, we need to look at the design of the human body.

Your body is designed to have a certain structure or posture, in the same way that a building, car or bicycle does. With a bicycle you have two wheels, and it’s essential that those two wheels are in their correct position or alignment. If the wheels and the frame were slightly ‘wonky’ and out of position then that bicycle wouldn’t ride very smoothy. There’d be excess strain and wear and tear, and eventually that bicycle would develop a problem.

Your body is the same, but instead of having two ‘wheels’, it has eight – the ankles, knees, hips and shoulders. What holds and positions these ‘wheels’ are muscles. When your muscles are balanced and healthy, your structure and posture are aligned as in the picture below, and you’re more likely to be able to walk, skip, hop, jump and run pain free.

Front and side view of ideal body alignment

For your muscles to stay balanced and healthy they need a certain amount of work each day. Our modern lifestyles don’t give us this as from a very young age we spend so much time sitting down at school behind a desk or now on our sofas and desks. This can create imbalances in your muscular system, and thus your posture or ‘wheels’ can go out of alignment. Perhaps one hip is higher than the other, or the knees are rotated or your feet don’t point straight ahead.

When this happens there can be excess strain through your muscles and joints just like with the bicycle. This eventually can lead to a condition, such as bursitis, shin splints, patellafemoral pain syndrome, bunions, tendonitis, ITB syndrome, a muscle strain etc.

It’s not your age, as there are plenty of people your age who run and don’t have your pain. It’s not the running because there are plenty of people who run (and run more than you) and don’t have your pain.

Remember, running is not the problem, it’s the body you bring to the running!

So what’s the most effective solution?

If you want to stop a leak, you don’t continue to put paper towels down to collect the pooling water; you fix the pipe! This is why painkillers, massage, surgery, braces, general strengthening exercises, orthotics, altering your running pattern or shoes and many therapies often won’t help in the long-term because they only focus on the symptom (the ‘water’), rather than the underlying root cause (the ‘pipe’). Eventually the pain returns in the same location or nearby.

For a permanent solution you need to get your posture back into balance.

This can’t be done through you consciously trying to sit, stand or run in a better position. Remember, you can focus on form as much as you want but if the underlying musculature is not in balance, then you’ll compensate in ways which could lead to strain.

The best way I know how to balance your posture is through the use of gentle but targeted posture correction exercises. Doing these over time will help get your muscles back into balance which will help get your ‘wheels’ back into alignment so you can run the way you were designed to – pain free.

You can sign up to my free newsletter to get some exercises to start this process by clicking here.

Take care.

Ameet Bhakta BSc, DipHE
Posture Correction Specialist in London
Egoscue Institute Certified

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