Sometimes “running injuries” aren’t really caused by running at all. Don’t get me wrong; they might be due to running, but aren’t necessarily caused by the running.
Way back in March, I shared how my physiotherapist, Brenda Scott-Thomas, taught me that a lot of our problems can come from taking our asymmetrical bodies, caused by our asymmetrical lives, and asking them to do a repetitive, symmetrical activity. That means that running may show us where are imbalances are, but didn’t cause the imbalance in the first place.
Last month when I went to see her, she caught me standing with my knees locked. This is apparently another one of those activities that causes problems that turn into injuries when we run. Over subsequent days I paid attention and realized I stand with my knees locked a lot. I first noticed in the shower. Then when I was standing at the sink brushing my teeth. Again when I was in the kitchen making my lunch. In fact, anytime I wasn’t standing with all my weight on one leg (the habit I had worked so hard to kick), I was standing with my knees locked.
I may not have all of the science behind this correct, so if you are an expert, feel free to leave a comment, but here’s what I got out of it:
When you stand with your knees locked, you take the responsibility for holding yourself upright off of your muscles, and place the burden on your fascia, especially the infamous iliotibial band. Then you run. When you run, you are asking your ITB to flex and keep everything in your legs aligned, but the problem is that it is all locked up from keeping you upright when you’re standing still. It’s taught, and therefore can’t guide your joints properly, and that causes pain.
When I went back to see Brenda today, I told her that I had been working on it, then proceeded to describe how I still have pain, but that it’s different now. She told me that it sounds like adaptive-pain to her – that is, my body is re-learning to hold itself in a proper stance, so my muscles and joints are hurting from the adjustment. After assessing my various tight spots, she told me that all of the tightness felt more like a healthy-tightness; that my joints were learning to stabilize themselves, because previously, they were floppy when she would bend them, since my ITBs had been doing all the work. The result? Things should improve.
I’ve never seen anything on the subject, so I had to share. It was such an unconscious thing for me, one I didn’t even really know was bad. So if you experience ITB issues, try to pay attention to how you stand. Try a neutral posture, distributing your weight evenly between your feet and keeping your knees soft.
It’s a hard habit to break! And be prepared for it to hurt differently for a while; not worse, just in different places. But that’s good, because it means it is making a difference!