Pain in runners is common across all levels of fitness and demographics. When a runner is beginning to have pain, we start to question everything about our running routine. Am I training too hard, or too little? Should I change shoes? Should I take time off? Among these questions are concerns about our gait mechanics.
The definition of gait is “an individual’s manner of walking”.
Physical Therapists use gait analysis as part of our assessment tool in PT evaluation, so it seems only natural that we assess running gait in an individual whose primary concern is pain with running. Typically when analyzing walking and running gait, we are looking for clues about what may be going on in the body. Asymmetries, poor control, and postural deficits up and down the chain are areas of concern.
Chances are, these factors are more likely an effect of the source than the source itself.
That being said, there are exceptions to every rule, and the every body is different.
Overload with a particular gait pattern, changes in gait with fatigue can certainly stress the tissue, causing inflammatory pain signals to the brain. For example, overstriding with a low cadence can cause excessive load to the shins, hence the prevalence of shin splints in runners.
Pain perception is a complex area of neuroscience. We do know it is the body’s way of telling us there is danger or a stressor to the system.
There is much research in pain science that shows pain is also affected by poor sleep, anxiety, depression, fear and negative beliefs about the pain.
Therefore pain with running is certainly multifactorial, as most of us struggle with one or more of these circumstances.
The answer to the question? It depends, but it is an important piece of the puzzle and can give you and your PT a good idea of what might be contributing factors.
Guidance of a movement professional in looking at form, strength, balance, and mobility is beneficial in putting the pieces together in finding the danger that your body is perceiving.
About the Author:
Dr. Koehl is a Doctor of Physical Therapy looking to make a difference in the health and well-being of the people in her community. She loves to educate patients to empower them in taking control of their health and reaching their goals including those with acute and chronic orthopedic conditions, pelvic floor dysfunction, and neurological conditions.
She provides patient centered practice with focus on one on one care.