Running and Chronic Pain

Have you ever wondered why you experience pain either during your run, following your run or maybe during the first 10 minutes of your run? You may say or have been told that you are over training or that your shoes are worn out or maybe that you need orthotics. Those are good points, however, more times than not I have had clients come to my office and say those exact things to me. Most of those clients have already taken time off from running to let the body heal. They have also spent countless dollars on different types of inserts and orthotics for their shoes and on new running shoes. Why do they still have pain? The answer lies in one basic fact: muscle imbalances. If your body has muscle imbalances these imbalances will create skeletal misalignments. Once your body is put in to motion these skeletal misalignments cause incorrect joint motion. Faulty joint motion causes compensated movements. These compensated movements cause premature breakdown and pain. This includes conditions such as fasciitis, tendonitis, bursitis, meniscus tears, ligament sprain/strains, nerve pain and many other types of hip, knee, ankle, pelvis and spinal injuries. As an analogy, let’s say that you are driving your car down the road and feel the car pulling off to one side. You compensate by turning the steering wheel off to one side to make your car drive straight. After a month or two you notice the tires are wearing out. At this point you have two options: you can buy new tires every couple of months or you can have your car realigned. Most people are going to opt for the realignment to save money and to protect their car from other potential breakdown. With most current health care protocols they address the tire not the alignment. The tire is the symptom. In order to fix the symptom you will usually get a brace, a shot, pain meds or other “fix the symptom” strategies. Until you address the muscle imbalances your body will not be able to heal properly. If you continue to run you are essentially strengthening the muscles and compensated movements that are the cause of your pain. Yes, sometimes the pain may get better using the “fix the symptom” strategies but the body did not heal properly. In this case you feel better but a different symptom may appear shortly down the road due to compensated movements. To summarize - If you fix the muscle imbalances you will properly address the skeletal and joint misalignments. And in return take the stresses off of your body which will allow proper healing and prevent future injuries.  

Try these two tests below to see if you have any lower body misalignments. Close your eyes and march in place for 10 seconds. (Do not do this after a couple of cocktails!) Stop when you get the 10 second mark and open your eyes. Look down at your feet to see what position they are in. Look for these deviations:

1. Is one foot positioned in front of the other?

2. Is one foot turned out more than the other?

3. Is one arch of the foot collapsed in more than the other?

4. Does one foot feel heavier in to the floor?


If you notice any of these deviations, your body is out of balance. Now try to correct them by standing with your feet in alignment with each other and slightly turned out. (8-10 degrees of turn out only) How do you feel with the feet in proper alignment? Does your body feel different to you? If your body does feels different to you while in the “proper alignment” then your body has developed a faulty posture that thinks it’s correct.

The second test is to demonstrate weaknesses in your lower body. Stand in front of a mirror so you can see your entire lower leg. Make sure you are wearing shorts so you can see your knees. Stand on one foot while lifting the other knee to about a 90 degree angle. Can you balance on the one foot? Now try it one the other side. Is there a strength and balance difference between both legs? Try both legs again but this time watch the knee on the straight leg. Does your knee point inward? Switch legs and compare. Does one knee point in more than the other? If the knees point in then you have hip and pelvis muscle weakness. You can try again but this time watch what your upper body does. Does it lean over to one side more than the other? If so your upper body is compensating for the lower body weakness.

This single leg test directly applies to your running. With running and walking you will end up on a one leg stance. If you noted any weaknesses with the tests then your running will demonstrate the same weaknesses or worse because running is much more dynamic than a static position.

These tests are only demonstrating a compensation of your lower body. When looking at your body and figuring out how it correlates with your pain it is imperative that one (health care practitioner) looks beyond the area of pain. Often times the pain will be in one area of your body but actually originating from a different area. A pain in the foot could be originating from a weakness in the hip. Someone that has been diagnosed with plantar fasciitis in the foot has probably been given a series of stretches. Stretches are important for the tightness in the calves but what about the importance of the gluteal muscles which have a direct impact on the position of your feet. Try this -- If your feet collapse in try squeezing your buttocks together while standing and feel how the arches of your feet will actually lift up.

I hope this article has helped you understand some of the reasons for your pain. For solutions check out our pain relief programs. Get going so you can start running pain free again!

Rachel Jenkins