No one wants to be sidelined by an injury. For a runner, not being able to run equates to a sort of living hell. But so often we wait until and injury is…well, just that an injury before we get help.
Last week I saw my physical therapist preemptively. I was experiencing tightness and extreme soreness in my gluteus medius in my right side. It had developed over four weeks of running: a persistent tightness that wouldn’t go away with stretching and foam rolling.
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It has been my experience that chronic tightness (that isn’t resolved with tissue manipulation or stretching) is the result of a muscle doing more than it should: in other words compensating for a weaker muscle. Optimal movement happens when every muscle is carrying the load it should.
A quick biomechanical assessment from my physical therapist showed that the deep gluteal muscles that control hip rotation (piriformis, gemellus) were not “turning on” when I shifted weight onto my right leg, resulting in an internal rotation of the femur which the gluteus medius was trying to correct-thus working much harder than it should be.
It was interesting to learn that my RIGHT side was weak, considering the fact that last year I was working to strengthen the deep gluteal muscles of my LEFT side because my hamstring was chronically sore and tight due to compensating for my weakened glute. It just proves that so much can change during pregnancy, leaving your postpartum body much weaker than you might expect.
She gave me a series of exercises to perform to help strengthen that muscle and retrain the mind-body connection so that I “turn on” those muscles with each stride I run. During my runs over the weekend I tried to visualize using those deep glute muscles as “drivers” of my stride. It often meant running at a much slower pace so that my mind and body could make the proper connection. But even in just a few days I’ve noticed increased strength, increased awareness and a decrease in the soreness and tightness of my gluteus medius.
If you’ve experienced chronic soreness or tightness chances are your body is telling you something: there is weakness or imbalance somewhere than needs to be corrected. A preemptive assessment from your PT could yield some helpful information that may prevent you from being sidelined for a prolonged period of time.
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Sarah is a certified running coach with the RRCA and USATF. She and her husband Mark Canney, CPT CSCS collaborate in coaching clients of all ages and abilities to help them reach their running goals. You can learn more about their coaching services HERE.
I love connecting with readers! You can find me here:
Email: RunFarGirl [at] gmail [dot] com
Daily Mile: dailymile.com/people/scanney
I am not a physical therapist, doctor or medical professional. The information expressed in this article is information I have gleaned from my own experience. If you have a running injury please consult a medical professional.
I’m reading this as I sit in my chiropractor’s office so I can definitely relate. I’m 13 weeks postpartum and think I pushed the pace a bit too much in several runs last week and something in my hip feels out of alignment. I’m so much better now at being able to recognize niggles before they turn into something bigger and take the necessary precautions (rest, etc). Your post is a great reminder to do just that!
So easy to push through those little aches and not really listen to them. But glad you’re getting it taken care of, we totally have to take precautions even if we don’t think they are totally necessary.
Awesome that you went to PT and arrested the problem before it results in an injury. I went to PT today and got some great exercises for the glute muscles. It’s amazing how strong glutes help runners immensely,
Hope you are feeling good this week!
Strong glutes and hips are the key to good running!
Natalie Tate says
YES! I experienced similar problems while training for my first half marathon last year. It isn’t always enough just to run — cross training, stretching and strengthening are so important. I’ll have to see if I can dig up some of those isolation exercises from my PT last year. My tight hips + weak glutes = no fun! Thanks for the injury prevention reminder!
Those PT exercises are great to keep around for when little nagging tightness comes back.
Dr. J says
I like to say I’m either injured or ready for further punishment, lol Seems that time has healed me from more injuries than anything else. Sure I do the exercises and stretching and ice and etc, but in the end, time is probably the true healer.