Chiropractic Care for Runners: Info and Advice from an Expert!
I’m a sports treatment junkie. It’s true – the more treatment I get, the more I want! From physiotherapists to massage therapists to neuromuscular skeletal specialists, I want them all. I love learning more about how my body works, where the trouble spots are, and how I can make it work better. Living in Afghanistan I have realized how much I miss having access to my extended team of miracle workers in New York, London, Vancouver, and of course back home in Ontario. In addition to the fully-stocked fridge and unlimited wine supply, one of the best benefits of visiting my parents in Kingston, Ontario is that I get to pop in to see Dr. Peter Pain, chiropractor extraordinaire at the Live Well Centre, to put my abused running body back in working order.
Before I left Canada for my Afghan Adventure, I asked Dr. Pain (yes, I know, ironic name for a chiro but he should really be called Dr. Awesome) for a crack good enough to last me for an entire year. Tall order, but I have to say, almost three months in and going strong!
I asked Dr. Pain if he would do an interview for my blog because I think it is SO important to have all of the information at hand about what kind of treatment is out there – whether you’re a runner or not. Dr. Pain answers some key questions I had about what chiropractic care is all about – read on!!
Ultra Runner Girl: What are the most common problems you see in runners?
Dr. Peter Pain: The most common injuries we see in runners are related to the foot and lower leg, such as shin splints, knee conditions and foot pain, followed by hip and spine injuries. Most injuries will be related to simple over-stressing the supportive tissues. The muscles, tendons, fasia and ligaments, especially if they are inadequately supported. This means it is important to look at the structures that support proper running biomechanics, both intrinsically (your own muscles and joints) along with the types of footwear you are using.
Think about a car that has the proper supporting undercarriage and struts. This is what your lower body needs to absorb the shock and impact of running while giving you the power to propel you forward. The proper strength and mobility is crucial to support the repeated demands of running.
Along with adequate leg strength, we also have to look at the runner as a whole. The central part that stabilizes the whole body that many runners are deficient in is the core. These are the muscles that stabilize our body. Without a properly firing core, it is hard for any body part to work properly. Think about trying to fire a canon from a canoe, versus a massive ship to absorb the impact. The loads on the extremities have to be stabilized and distributed properly through out the body to ensure adequate and normal compensation patterns are followed.
The next major issues to think about are the surfaces you are running on, and the training schedule to ensure adequate rest and recovery. Even with the right mechanics, if you are running in extremely stressful conditions without the rest your body needs, eventually we will see injuries. The key here is to train the body properly to handle these conditions and to minimize the risk.
Ultra Runner Girl: (mentally taking note of the fact that Dr. Pain is advocating for adequate rest…. hmmmm…..) So, okay, Dr. Pain, I come to see you every time I’m visiting my parents, but how often should a runner ideally see a chiropractor? Only when experiencing pain or on a more regular basis?
Dr. Peter Pain: An active athlete should definitely see a chiropractor any time there is pain, muscle imbalance or joint restriction. This may sometimes be felt in a runner as just not being smooth, or something is not quite right, as a more experienced runners develops an innate sense for how their body should feel. There is usually a poor compensation pattern or imbalance before the outright signs of an injury, and for this reason, it is often a good idea to be assessed by a chiropractor every 2 to 6 weeks during high training periods for prevention.
Ultra Runner Girl: Cool. How do you feel about flying out to Kabul every 2 to 6 weeks then? Afghanistan is LOVELY this time of year!
Dr. Peter Pain: (Silence)
Ultra Runner Girl: Okay, fine, moving on. What are the benefits of chiropractic care?
Dr. Peter Pain: Chiropractic simply helps with keeping the body moving efficiently, to ease the mechanical loads and stress on the body, whether it is a marathon you are training for or simply everyday repeated movements. A trained and experienced chiropractor can also help determine the likelihood of a future injury by identifying muscle imbalances or joint restrictions. These lead to more physical wear and tear on the body, will produce compensations which may be harmful in the long term and eventually an injury.
Ultra Runner Girl: Is there any danger of going to a chiropractor?
Dr. Peter Pain: As with visiting any health practitioner, there is a risk of inappropriate treatment being used instead of the right treatment in a misdiagnosis. Again, this can happen in any profession, so be sure to research who you choose to see, to get the right diagnosis and the fastest resolution.
Ultra Runner Girl: What is the difference between a chiropractor and a physiotherapist? Is there a need to see both?
Dr. Peter Pain: There are a few similarities, sometimes some overlap, but also a few differences. In my view, a physiotherapist will typically treat damaged tissues, primarily using modalities and exercises, while a chiropractor will look at function and screen for injury prevention. Physiotherapists are best used when treating damaged tissues in extremities, ie complete muscle tears, joint sprains. A chiropractor is most capable at treating spine-related injures and nerve related problems. Often times you will get one professional doing both, but be wary of a jack of all trades and master on none. If there is definite injury and tissue damage involving an extremity (knee), seeing a physio will help decrease the recovery time, while seeing a chiropractor will help the injury from re-curing in the first place.
Ultra Runner Girl: What general tips do you have for runners?
Dr. Peter Pain: There would be three key tips for runners.
The biggest issue we see in runners is balancing their training schedule to include some core stability and mobility work. As said before, any limited joint function will cause compensation and eventually can injure. Many athletes can adapt, but to ensure a long career that is healthy, make sure you are balancing out the running with things like yoga, pilates, or simply some stretching and core work.
The next is to always remember your form and include good posture when running. This will minimize stress to your body, reducing fatigue and wear and tear.
The last is to make sure you follow a training schedule that builds milage and speed in a logical way. It takes time and training to to be able to run big distances. Break down your training into small goals using a calendar that extends far out. We want to avoid over-training which can cause a nagging injury as the projected race day nears.
Ultra Runner Girl: I usually run to and from your office when I come in for an adjustment. Is it okay to exercise after getting an adjustment from a chiropractor?
Dr. Peter Pain: Exercising right after an adjustment is actually a great time to exercise, as it will re-enforce the right motor pattern. Think of the adjustment as a re-boot on your body’s musculoskeletal software system. After you reboot your body, you want to reload the proper software by training lightly. Keep the exercise light to moderate, ensuring proper technique and form. You don’t want to exercise to the point of fatigue, just enough to get the body used to working with the new mechanics. This lays the ground for continued neuro-communication, and re-enforces the proper patterns. Thus the right firing pattern of your joints and muscles takes over, avoiding the faulty mechanics. It also just feels great as your body just works more efficiently!
Ultra Runner Girl: Thanks Dr. Pain!!! So you’ll think about that offer to come out to Kabul every 2 to 6 weeks?
Dr. Peter Pain: I think I hear a patient calling…. Gotta run!
For more info on Dr. Pain and his practice, click here!
Dr. Peter Pain completed his undergraduate studies at Queen’s University with an Honors BSc. in Life Sciences, and his Chiropractic Doctorate at the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College in 1997.
In 1989-1992, Dr. Pain was a member of the Queen’s Golden Gaels Football team, winning the National Championship Vanier Cup in 1992. The rigors of playing and competing in football also led Dr. Pain to chiropractic.
Dr. Pain worked as a certified Personal trainer with The Sports Clubs of Canada in Toronto for 4 years while attending the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College. He has continued to expand and maintain his expertise in sports injuries, exercise and fitness over the years with many courses. This includes meeting and learning from the world’s most highly regarded experts, including courses taught by Paul Chek, Paul Gagne, Stu McGill, Arnold Swarchenegger, Tudor Bhompa and many others inside the world of sports injuries and fitness.
This education and experience has given Dr. Pain the honour of being able to work with many athletes at all levels, including professional football and hockey players, Olympic athletes, provincial and national amateur athletes as well as the Weekend Warrior.
In addition, Dr. Pain enjoys running marathons and triathlons,cross-fit training, cross-country skiing and his latest passion, kite-surfing!
Constantly striving to give his patients the most up-to-date care possible, Dr. Pain will continue to attend post graduate courses in sports injuries, nutrition, pediatrics, whiplash, personal injuries and health and fitness. Dr. Pain promises to always give you the excellent care that he is trained to within his scope of practice.