Many injuries heal with appropriate rest and care — however they may recur in the future. Research shows the biggest risk factor for injuries is having prior injuries. Even when these injuries occur on different parts of the body, it is likely these injuries were caused by very similar factors if the root of the original problem was never addressed. For example, tight heel cords can lead to injuries in other locations of the body. A person who has tight heel cords may finally get over a case of plantar fasciitis (pain and inflammation of the tissue that runs across the bottom of the foot, connecting the heel bone to the toes) only to develop knee pain several months later.
The question that should always be asked first is, “Why was the runner injured?” In physical therapy, we use movement to help determine this. Many runners often come to our clinic with a variety of different movement problems. Some have too much movement at certain areas of the body, while others don’t have enough. Some have specific muscle groups that are underactive, while others have certain muscle groups that are overactive.
One of the best ways to know if you have a movement problem is to be assessed by a physical therapist. A typical physical therapy evaluation takes about an hour. The evaluation usually involves a full body assessment that looks at overall global movement (e.g., how well someone squats, lunges and balances on one leg) as well as local movement (e.g., how well specific joints move and the strength and flexibility of certain muscle groups).
Video running analysis is another useful assessment that can be performed during a physical therapy examination. Movement problems, which often affect how a person runs, can be detected in a video analysis. This analysis helps your physical therapist get a better understanding of all the factors that might contribute to your injury. Knowing a diagnosis is one thing, and knowing what caused it is another. Looking beyond that initial internet search might just be the key to preventing future injuries caused by the same underlying problems!