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Do Runners Need Physical Therapy? Benefits for Training, Healing, and Preventing Injuries

December 20th, 2022 | 4 min. read

Do Runners Need Physical Therapy? Benefits for Training, Healing, and Preventing Injuries
Lauren Hendrix

Lauren Hendrix

Licensed Physical Therapist, PT, DPT // SCS // FAAOMPT // CSCS // RRS

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If running is one of your primary hobbies, you probably have a routine figured out. You know the mileage you can handle and understand when to push yourself. But even if you don’t realize it, running takes a toll on your body over time, whether you’re a high school track star or a marathoner. Many runners often overtrain simply because they are enjoying themselves or following what their friends are doing. But how do you really figure out how much your body can tolerate? And how do you figure this out before getting hurt? 


Whether you’re a beginner or a highly advanced runner, having a doctor of physical therapy in your corner is an invaluable asset. They can help you not only when injuries occur (and they will) but also help you decrease your injury risk and even help you train for an upcoming race. Our run team of licensed physical therapists at EW Motion Therapy helps runners of any level work toward their goals, whether they want to work up to their first marathon or train for their seventh. Even if you decide not to work with us, we still want to ensure you get the professional advice you need to run for a lifetime. 


This article discusses how physical therapy can help runners heal from and prevent injuries, train for upcoming races, and other ways to stay healthy. With this information, you can set yourself up for success in whatever race you run.


Recovery is a huge component of success for any runner. Learn more about good recovery habits here.


How can physical therapy help runners prevent injuries? 

A physical therapist can help you decrease injury risk by working on strength and stability, as well as figuring out the load your body can handle. They can tailor specific exercises for every joint in the body, so each part of your lower half and upper half can work together and adequately adapt to the load you put on them. This load amount is different for each runner - some people are great with distance running but struggle to sprint. A therapist can help you figure that out and ensure you have the proper mechanics, including ankle dorsiflexion, hip extension, and glute strength to run at your best. Being sidelined for an injury is miserable - physical therapy can ensure that you rest properly and address the underlying movement dysfunctions that are causing your pain.


How can physical therapy help runners heal from injuries? 

Physical therapy can help a runner understand what a current injury is and what caused that injury. Two primary causes of running injuries are a lack of strength or stability. As you increase your mileage or speed, your body must tolerate and stabilize the load you place on it. When load outweighs the body’s ability to adapt, your form can start to change, which increases your injury risk. 


Whether you come to physical therapy with an injury like shin splints, IT band syndrome, or a stress fracture, your therapist can discuss your current habits to determine what might have caused the injury and prescribe the proper recovery. It is wise to get professional recovery recommendations and not try to figure it out yourself. For example, you can probably use ice to relieve shin splints, but you could incur long-term damage if you try to run on a stress fracture before it has healed properly. 


How can physical therapy help runners train better? 

It is easy to find marathon/5k/10k training programs online, but a customized training plan ensures you stay injury-free and incrementally increase your body’s load tolerance. The best training plan is well-rounded - it should balance speed, strength, flexibility, and recovery to ensure a successful training cycle. Recovery is vital to success, but runners are great at overtraining without realizing it. A physical therapist can adequately incorporate recovery into your training plan, giving you the strength, stamina, and energy to get to your race and set a new PR. 


A physical therapist can also work with your running coach (if you have one) to ensure you have the best team who wants you to be successful. It is essential for your running coach and physical therapist to communicate, so you are not overworked. They can each help you balance strength and intensity, so your training remains consistent, and you can efficiently continue toward your goals.


How else can runners stay healthy? 

Now you know more about how physical therapy can help runners of any level remain healthy and reach their goals. An essential part of any runner’s routine, whether you are training for a race or just going on runs after work, has to be recovery. Your body needs time to rest, and in the long run, it can help you work toward your goals without putting yourself at a higher risk of getting hurt. Whether you eat recovery meals, take ice baths, or just get a good night’s sleep, if you take care of your body and mind while not running, you can prevent injury and run for a lifetime. 


Every runner understands the importance of having people in your corner cheering you on. If you need professional advice, a physical therapist can be one of your biggest cheerleaders and give you the confidence to keep going. Our Run team at EW Motion Therapy has become a community of talented, driven individuals who encourage each other, push each other, and provide advice when needed, and we hope it only continues to grow. If you are interested in running better with us, fill out the questions in our self-assessment to see if our run program fits your needs. 


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