Realising you need to get more active is hard, and starting is even harder. Maybe you returned to a sport that you excelled at in your youth but were shocked at how much harder it seems? Did you ask yourself, why does my hip hurt? Or was it your knee?
When you have made it over all of the life hurdles to get started in the first place, then it is incredibly frustrating when injury stops you. It is humiliating and disheartening, and a dark thought creeps into your mind, maybe exercise isn’t for you? So many people will give up at this point. You don’t have to!
I’m going to share with you my story, where I started experiencing pain from running. But first, let’s cover the basics of ageing and fitness.
The accumulation of age and lifestyle are culprits for injury.
Our bodies deteriorate with age, but this can be slowed drastically by remaining active. Even if you spend some years being sedentary, you can still turn back the clock by getting active. The problem is that what we have, or haven’t been doing, has changed the way our bodies move and respond to exercise.
The old saying that children “bounce” when they fall has some truth to it. When we are young and still growing, we are far less prone to injury. Our bones are slightly soft and bendable, and our muscles are far more flexible not to restrict the growing bones. As we age, our muscles and tendons become stronger and tighter, and our bones become harder. Put under enough tension on an unnatural angle, and an injury is likely.
Adding to the changes from age is the development of poor posture. Although there are some postural genetic problems, poor posture is far more likely to be caused by lifestyle.
Stand up straight!
Many of us repeat the same patterns of movements each day in our homes and the workplace. Things, like crossing our legs when we sit, holding a child on one hip, and sitting in a chair with one hand on a computer mouse, can cause imbalances. Additionally, slouching, standing or seated and wearing impractical shoes, driving with one hand on the steering wheel and one foot on the accelerator and even lifting incorrectly. These are just a few of the movement habits causing imbalances in our posture.
I remember watching a manual handling training video from years ago encouraging people to “lift like a toddler.” You can view the preview of it here. Unfortunately, in the workplace that I watched that video injuries were high, even though the average lifted weight was low. At the time, I felt that that workplace was isolated in its high incident rate; however, I now understand that every workplace is facing the same issue:
An ageing workforce that feels the pressure of time within their working day and doesn’t find the time to remain fit and active outside of work hours.
In the ideal world, we would all stretch regularly to slow the tightening process and even out the imbalances of everyday activity. Many of us coasted through our 20’s on the residue of a youthful body and then spent our 30’s onwards focusing on career and family. The issue is that we didn’t continue the active practices enforced throughout our school years. Too few of us have found the time to dedicate to exercises like yoga or pilates.
There comes a moment, where, suddenly you realise just how important your health is.
You decide you need to get active. A couple of weeks go by, and you are surprised at how hard it is. You feel sore; however, you are enjoying the process of progress. Then something doesn’t seem right. You experience strange twinge that feels different from normal muscular soreness. Despite having a few days rest the niggle returns when you resume exercise.
Are you going to give up?
In theory, with perfect posture, you would be almost invincible.
oints are complex structures with a pre-determined natural range of movement. Apply resistance to a joint on the wrong angle compromises the structure. This is what happens when your posture is incorrect. Tendons that are designed to slide in a particular groove in the bone can slip and be damaged, pockets of fluid can burst, muscles can tear, or smooth surfaces can start wearing away.
If the niggle you feel was new when you started exercising again, then the chances are that what you are experiencing is minor. It probably hasn’t caused permanent damage. It is likely a symptom of a poor posture or a rectifiable pattern of movement.
Why does my hip hurt when I run?
At the age of 29, running became a daily habit for me. I experienced a strange pinching in my hip and pain in my knees. The pinching in my hip made my eyes water and was enough to stop my run.
At the time, I was seeing a chiropractor regularly for some back pain. I mentioned my symptoms to her. She checked me over and found that one leg was quite a bit longer than the other and that my pelvis was tilted and twisted. It is normal not to be quite symmetrical, but this wasn’t normal.
My poor posture was likely caused by an accumulation of repetitive movement in my job combined with other poor movement habits. I didn’t realise just how bad my posture had become until I started running.
Pelvic asymmetry impacted my running in two ways. My longer leg was striking the ground harder, which caused my femur to load more pressure into the hip. The pain was my femur pinching a nerve. The foot on my short leg was twisting outwards so that the ball was striking the ground first, loading extra pressure on the knee.
With an adjustment from the chiropractor and I was good to go. Except, the asymmetry would return within a week.
Resistance and stretching.
I started doing resistance training at the gym for an unrelated fitness goal. The resistance training strengthened and tightened the muscles, which held me in the right position, and my new stretching program helped with the areas I was tight.
Previously, I had frequented the chiropractor every 4 – 6 weeks, however, my pelvis was no longer an issue, and my back was feeling great. This revelation was the final stone in the path to me becoming a Fitness Professional to spread the word of preventative movement. Six years on I haven’t been back to the chiropractor.
Around the same time, a running friend was experiencing similar symptoms.
Like myself, she didn’t want to remain reliant on regular chiropractic visits. Her investigative journey led her down a different path. Her poor pelvic alignment was a symptom of some issues in her feet. A few podiatry visits later and some lovely new insteps for her shoes, and she was back training for a triathlon.
If you are having issues with niggling injuries when you run, you have a lot of options depending on the severity of your symptoms. You may be thinking that it will be difficult and costly; however, the first few options don’t need a medical referral.
Address your posture.
How you walk and run can be causing the rest of your body to adjust. Getting fitted for the right shoes is a start and the most inexpensive option, and this can be performed at some sports shoe stores. However, Podiatrists can diagnose and get custom insteps made and can find and treat other underlying causes in the feet.
A Chiropractor can manipulate your bones back into the right position. Some use a cracking method while others use a gentle manipulation method similar to that of physiotherapists. They have extensive knowledge of the skeletal structure of the body and can see and feel imbalances through the skin. There are many schools of thought surrounding the long term benefits of these methods; although, what is crucial is that you are comfortable with the treatment, and you trust your practitioner.
Physiotherapists use soft tissue manipulation and movement to correct posture and movement patterns. They specialise in the musculoskeletal system and the way the body moves. Physiotherapists use a few different techniques to help the body to find the correct position. It is usual for them to give you homework, combining bodyweight movement, stretching and resistance bands.
Change your posture through exercise.
Fitness Professionals include Personal Trainers, Exercise Physiologists and a few other occupations. These professionals can guide you through exercises and stretches to redevelop and maintain good posture. Exercise Physiologists have obtained a Bachelor’s Degree; however, Personal Trainers are generally less expensive. PT’s have certification, and some have gained a Diploma. As with other professionals, many will have extended their knowledge far beyond their initial qualification.
Be sure to discuss your symptoms and ask about postural analysis before choosing the right professional. Be open and honest and make sure any professional you consult with understands you as an individual. Ask about having a free initial consultation.
Additionally, you can consult with your Doctor. They can prescribe pain medication and referrals for scans and x-rays to establish if there are any underlying issues.
Address your weight.
Carrying extra body weight influences posture, impacts natural movement patterns and increases the pressure put on joints. For example, carrying excess weight on your stomach pulls your lower back forward, rolling your pelvis forward with it and pushing your shoulders back to maintain a balanced centre of gravity. Extra weight on your chest might move your shoulders forward and tilt your pelvis backwards flattening the curvature of the back and producing a flat butt look as the hamstrings tighten to stabilise the pelvis. Both of these positions make you more prone to injury.
Again, Physiotherapists and Fitness Professionals can assist in weight management. Your injury might have occurred because you are attempting exercise that is too difficult for your current fitness level. An Exercise Professional can help safely guide you through an exercise prescription that works towards what you want to do.
If your current weight is preventing you from exercising safely, then diet modification can help. Dieticians and Nutritionists are specialists in this area; however, Fitness Professionals can also guide you to a better understanding of healthy food.
The light at the end of the tunnel.
As you can see, you have a lot of options to treat and prevent nagging injuries. Just because you are experiencing pain doesn’t mean you need to give up. Don’t feel embarrassed or humiliated if things don’t go to plan. Employ the services of professionals to help you find the right path for you. Our bodies have a fantastic ability to adapt. Anything you have learned to do that is negative for your posture can be replaced with new learning. You are not alone, there are numerous people in the same boat as you and ones, like myself, that have experienced and fixed niggling pain to go on to bigger and brighter things.
And, when you’re ready to run again, try out my 12-week running program.