Physical therapy helps runners get back on track following injuries

St. Joseph’s/Candler physical therapist offers a stretching guide for runners

Following a running injury, what do you typically do? Maybe you rest. Maybe it’s a combination of ice and heat applied to the sore spot.

Have you ever thought about physical therapy? 

St. Joseph’s/Candler has six outpatient rehabilitation centers that offer unique services, including physical therapy for running injuries.

Heidi Prado, MS, PT, Clinical Manager for St. Joseph’s Outpatient Therapy

“When we evaluate a client with a running injury, we perform a comprehensive screen to determine the underlying cause of the injury,” says Heidi Prado, MS, PT, Clinical Manager for St. Joseph’s Outpatient Therapy. “These deficits must be addressed to prevent reoccurrence of the injury upon returning to running. We also educate the client on how to safely transition back to their sport.”

There are a number of injuries that can occur due to running. The five most common, says Prado, are:

  • Runner’s knee, or patellofemoral pain syndrome: Irritation of the cartilage behind the knee cap. This condition occurs more often in females because the angle of the femur from a wider hip may change the alignment of the knee cap.
  • Plantar fasciitis: Inflammation/injury to the plantar fascia or broad ligament that runs under the arch from heel to ball of the foot.
  • Shin splints: Can be a number of things such as a stress fracture of the tibia, tendinitis of the muscles that attach to the inner portion of the tibia, or in rare cases compartment syndrome where pressure builds up from exertion of the muscle within the capsule of the inner lower leg.
  • Iliotibial band syndrome: Pain from the frictioning of the band of tissue that runs from the outer hip bone to the knee
  • Achilles tendonitis: Inflammation and pain from injury or inflammation of the Achilles tendon at or above the heel bone.

At the St. Joseph’s/Candler outpatient rehabilitation centers, Prado says the most common injuries treated in runners include runner’s knee, plantar fasciitis, hamstring issues and piriformis syndrome, a condition in which the piriformis muscle, located in the buttocks, spasms and causes pain.

“Running injuries can occur with any level of experience and regardless of years of running or level of competition,” Prado says, who is a marathon runner and triathlete herself.

Prado adds that running injuries can have multiple causes, including muscle weakness or imbalance from one side of the body to the other, lack of flexibility, improper or worn foot wear and training errors.

For those who choose physical therapy to treat a running injury, Prado says clients can expect to be seen two to three times a week with each session lasting around an hour. The duration of therapy depends on the length of time the client has been suffering with the injury, but averages six weeks.

During a session, the client can expect to participate in a brief warm up, followed by instruction on individualized exercises to address their deficits, Prado says. The client will likely receive hands-on therapy to assist in mobilizing injured or restricted tissues, and the use of ice, heat or possibly electrical stimulation may be recommended to control pain, stiffness or swelling.

“I would encourage anyone who is dealing with a running injury to request a physical therapy consult from their health care provider,” says Prado. “Our highly trained staff can help anyone heal more quickly and safely and return to running. A lot of our therapist are runners themselves and have experienced these injuries. They can share with you what worked for them.”

A doctor’s referral is required for a physical therapy appointment. To learn more about outpatient rehabilitation at St. Joseph’s/ Candler, call 912-819-6176 or 912-819-2446 or visit our website.


Guide To Stretching for Runners

One of the more common causes of running injuries is improper or lack of stretching. Prado offers this guide to stretching for runners:

*Perform all stretches slowly, without bouncing motion. Hold stretches for 30 seconds and repeat. Ideally, you should do a 10-minute warm-up and then stretch. Stretching after a run or any exercise is always recommended.

Hamstring stretch: Start by standing and propping your foot of the affected leg on a chair or step. Next, slowly lean forward until a stretch is felt behind your knee/thigh. Bend through your hips and not your spine. Hold, then return to starting position and repeat. Perform stretch on both legs.

Gluteal stretch: In a seated position, place ankle on opposite knee. Push on knee downward until a comfortable stretch is felt. Perform stretch on both legs.

Gastrocnemius and Soleus stretch: Standing with the involved leg back and the heel on the floor, lean toward the wall until you feel a stretch in the calf. Perform with the knee strait as well as with the knee slightly bent. Perform stretch on both legs.

Iliotibial band stretch: In a standing position, cross the affected leg behind your unaffected leg. Next, with your arm overhead, lean to the side towards the unaffected leg. Switch positions to stretch both sides.

Hip flexor stretch: Take a knee with one knee down and the other foot out in front at 90 degrees. Lean forward leading with your hip until you feel a good stretch in front of thigh. Switch positions to stretch both sides.

Quadriceps stretch: While in a standing position, bend your knee back behind and hold your ankle/foot. Next, gently pull your knee into a more bent position. Perform stretch on both legs. 

  • St. Joseph's Hospital Campus: 11705 Mercy Blvd., Savannah, GA 31419, (p) 912-819-4100
  • Candler Hospital Campus: 5353 Reynolds St., Savannah, GA 31405, (p) 912-819-6000
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St.Joseph's Hospital Campus: 912-819-4100

Candler Hospital Campus: 912-819-6000