Just a Quick Thought for Female Runners Over the Age of 25

by Jeff Samyn, PT, OCS, CSCS
Physical therapists, and most medical professionals for that matter, often see fluctuations in patients seeking care for certain problems.  For example, we might not see a patient with TMJ problems for 3 months, but then we suddenly have 4 referred in a week.  I had just that experience lately with female runners between the ages of 25-40.  Much of this advice is true for male runners as well.  

The runners had a common thread between their cases.  
•    Most were runners in high school and college.  
•    They stopped running for several years because life got busy, or, in a few cases, they had children.  
•    They resumed running because they missed it and/or they thought it was the best way to get back in shape.
•    Their bodies didn’t cooperate with them.

Two had hip bursitis, one had SI joint pain, and the other 3 had patellofemoral pain.  So why did these women develop problems in various joints, and what ties them all together?  Even though they had all run for many years without injury, why did jumping back into it cause a problem?

The answer is that after periods of inactivity or times of significant changes in our body (like pregnancy), things change in our musculoskeletal system.  Ligaments can get looser, muscles can tighten up and/or get weak, and because of Wolff’s Law, our body tissues aren’t ready for the stresses involved in running.

In all of these patients I’m describing, they started back doing a few miles per day and few days per week.  They had pain in their respective joints, figured that it would go away if they pushed through it, and a few months later were still having problems.  

Without making this into an entire book, these women started running before they were strong enough to do so.  If they would have started with 4-6 weeks of stretching and/or strengthening, they likely would not have had pain when they started their running programs.

We have two ways of addressing these patient’s problems in physical therapy.  If an individual is actually having pain, they can call to schedule a free consultation with one of our clinicians or they can ask their doctor for a physical therapy prescription.  If you haven’t started running yet and want a conditioning program to get you ready to hit the road, we also offer 360 Assessments.   One of our physical therapists or certified athletic trainers will assess your overall fitness level and your sport-specific performance using video analysis and functional fitness testing.  From the assessment, they will develop a plan and help you set goals for you to improve your fitness and performance.

That’s all for now.  If you or someone you know is having trouble hitting their stride after a break, we can help you put your best foot forward.  Ok.  No more puns.