Runner’s pains: Why do they happen?

Hey Everybody!

Many of you reading this are runners.  You may not consider yourself a “runner” and be active in your local running community, but most active individuals go on a jog on a fairly regular basis.  What most of you DON’T do is proper maintenance on your bodies regarding this hobby.  Runners, especially those who are truly passionate about it, sometimes stretch and occasionally foam roll if something hurts. That’s not enough! Most all of these discomforts are absolutely preventable with proper maintenance. What kind of pains am I talking about?  Here is a little list:
-tight hamstrings
-back/SI joint pain (discomfort in the middle of your low back or off to one side)
-hip bursitis (pain on the outside of your hip)
-IT band tightness/pain (pain on the outside of your thigh, anywhere from your waist to your knee)
-Shin splints
-knee pain
-knee crepitus (snap, crackle and popping when you bend your knees)
-ankle instability
-achilles tendonitis/calf pain
-plantar fasciitis (pain/burning sensation on the bottom of your foot in your arches)
-morton’s neuroma (pain usually between the 2nd/3rd or 3rd/4th metatarsals- the bones before your toes)

Many people believe that each of these conditions are local, meaning that if your knee hurts, its something in your knee that is the problem. That is NOT the case.  The body is a system of systems and often that knee pain can be traced to issues elsewhere like the quads, calves, and hips. Here’s how:

These lines represent fascial system and it is the image on the cover of the book Anatomy Trains, a FANTASTIC read that anybody curious how the body works must read.  The main concept of this book is very simple: muscles start somewhere, cross 1 or 2 joints, and end somewhere else.  Their fascia, the protective covering of muscles, do not.  Fascia creates connections with other muscles and/or ligaments to make the body move more effectively and make your body act as a spring and work as a unit.  Each of the lines on the body in the previous image are fascial lines that work together to make your muscles function effectively. 
 If any of you have ever played team sports, you know that many times you could have a good team overall but a few players that weren’t up to par with the rest of the team.  They stunk!  When they are on the field/court the other players have to pick up their slack to make up for their lack of ability.  These fascial lines do the same thing.  When one muscle or ligament in the system isn’t functioning properly or is in the wrong position due to the skeleton shifting, the muscles connected to it pick up the slack and help perform the tasks the hurt muscle was meant to do.  When you have a teammate who played poorly, the other players work harder to make up for them and sometimes this wears them out, causing them to “stink”.  This also happens with the muscles. Muscles that are overworked and under-cared for will be come riddled with scar tissue and trigger points, causing dysfunction.  Many times the area you are having pain isn’t always the real source of dysfunction.  Often it is somewhere else in the system!  Bad knees are often due to bad quads, or tibialis anteriors. Plantar fasciitis could be partly caused from tight achilles and calf muscles. A bad back could be from overstretched hamstring and tight hip flexors. When a problem arises somewhere, check out it’s neighbors!
This same concept can also be applied to the skeletal system.  Poor skeletal positioning will effect other parts of the body.  For example, collapsed arches in your feet can cause ankle/foot pain, knee pain, hip discomfort AND back pain.  Once the arch falls, bones shift to other positions to accommodate the problem and before you know it your body is a wreck.  Bones shift, muscles tighten, nerves become entrapped, blood flow is reduced and pain sets in.  As this condition snowballs, it becomes more and more difficult for the average Joe to fix this themselves, so start to maintain your body while it’s still functioning!  Once you’re in a pain pattern long enough, you will need a skilled professional with proficiency in how your body works to undo your problems.  Chiropractors are excellent in this regard, and if you find one who knows a thing or two about rehabilitation you’ll be set.  Good luck and happy foam rolling!