Have you ever been curious if your posture affects your ability to run or how well you can run, how fast you can run, or maybe you've been curious if your posture is causing some form of joint pain. These are some of the things that I wanna answer in this video, my name is Dr. Molly, and I'm with your Goals Physical Therapy. This is national posture month, I am super excited, and I thought I would do an entire series on how posture can affect different sports.
In this video, what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna talk about what posture is, how it directly relates to each individual sport. This week I'm gonna talk about how posture affects running and then some common injury, just to see if you're on the right path. If you're dealing with something yourself, and maybe you have questions about what's going on with you. I'm gonna give two examples of things that can be tied into your posture, like running injuries that can be tied into your posture, and then what you do about that, because why talk about it unless we can come up with a solution to the problem.
So those are the things that we're gonna talk about in this video. Let's start by defining posture. So really at its crux, at least how I use it, posture is how you hold yourself up. Another way to say that would be how stable is your spine and is your spine aligned? In some people you've seen them where they're kind of hunched over. Their posture is rounded shoulders, their heads forward. Some people's posture is that their upper back is actually kind of behind their lower back. We would call this sway back. Those are different postures and there can be good and bad, and there can be reasons why that works for some people and not for other people. But when you're talking about your sport, just your passive posture isn't as important as your posture while you're moving.
So what do I mean by that? How stable can you keep your spine while you're moving against random forces? So in this video, we're gonna talk about specifically running. In an ideal world, our spine has three little curves and they're not as dramatic as what we perceive in our head. Our spine is relatively straight. There are some minor curves that help us absorb impacts that are kind of ideal but everybody ages with their own flavor. Some people's ideals are not the same as other people's ideal alignment. In my world, we just start with a general idea of where it should be. Then we piece together what's actually happening with somebody and if that's really causing a problem. When you're running, what you need your posture to do is to stay stable. You want your trunk from your shoulders to your hips, to stay stable against a lot of different forces.
For instance, your arms are gonna be swinging so you have a little bit of rotation. If something like your cervical spine, your neck, or your thoracic spine, where your ribs are, is not very stable or not able to withstand that rotation. Then what happens is slowly you get this rounding or you get something that tilts one way to the other. While you're running, that can cause a whole host of problems, but you may not notice it while you're standing. You may be perfectly fine while you're standing and it doesn't appear until you get that arm swing going, that compression that happens when you're running.
The other big thing that we're looking for when you're running is to be able to keep your lower back stable while moving your legs up and down. You end up on one foot and then you end up on the other; if you're going back and forth this much motion, think about how much energy you're expending, just going side to side, let alone the up and down that happens from the bounce. It's a lot of energy that's being left on the table, so to speak because you're just expending it. If you're trying to improve speed, if you're trying to improve how far you can go, being able to conserve that energy definitely helps. That is one way that your posture and how you hold yourself, how stable you can make your spine while you're moving. Why that's important, especially for running, because not only do you have to contend with just your own body, just me moving my arms, just me moving my legs. I have to contend with all the compression forces. I'm gonna hit the ground, which means that I have to absorb impact from my ankle up to my pelvis and into my lower back. If my spine isn't stable, something is going to move and it's just a matter of where, and then that brings me to the next part of this.
So what are common injuries just because your spine isn't super stable. I mean, whatever… “it's not bothering me while I sit…. It doesn't bother me while I'm at work. So why is it really a big deal when I'm running?”
I was talking about being able to absorb all of that movement and combat all of that movement is important for running because you're trying to generate energy and you're switching things, you're going side to side. Your arms are pumping if your up back and your neck are not stable, then as you're moving your arms your shoulders are gonna become more rounded, which is gonna stretch out all your back muscles.
Your head's gonna come forward, which is gonna add even more stress to those back muscles. And so then over time, so maybe not the first five minutes of your run, but 10, 15 minute, 30 minutes into your run you're gonna notice you have either upper back pain or shoulder pain, just from the weight of your shoulders and your head or the impact of hitting the ground. All of that's gonna make this collapse forward
because if your spine isn't stable and stiff, it's not able to keep you upright against all of those forces. That becomes a problem, especially as you're running.
And if you're collapsing this way, think about what the head is to your lungs. Now, you can't even expand your lungs anymore because you're kind of folded in on yourself, which isn't good.
Being in this position is pinching your rotator cuff and that's one reason why many people end up with shoulder pain while they're running.
It's just from that collapse of that posture, you're just sort of pulling in and everything is just sitting bone on top of bone and just resting there instead of being able to hold itself up and be nice and tall, keep all that joint space nice and active. So that would be a shoulder injury. The big common thing is having that back shoulder pain or even front shoulder pain. That's just from that collapsing in on that posture.
Now, if we talk about a lower leg injury if you can't keep your lower spine and your pelvis stable, then your hip isn't stable. The way that I would equate that is if I was gonna build a house, I wouldn't wanna put it on silly putty or sand. I would wanna put it on cement or a hard surface, because that way all the walls would be stable. It's the same thing that happens with our hips. If our pelvis is not stable, then our hip doesn't have a good leverage point to pull from. That means that the muscles in my legs have to work harder to be less efficient, which isn't a really good system. If my lower spine, specifically the lumbar spine, is not stable then my hip flexor has to do more work to pull my knee up so that I can run. Over time that extra work leads to tendonitis which is why many runners have hip flexor pain. And it stems from not being able to keep their trunk stable while they're pulling.
Another reason, why making sure your posture is really good while you're moving around in your everyday life, is so that you can progress while you're training to run.
Let's say you're thinking, “I’ve been told for years that I have bad posture and I have done so many things to try to figure out how to make that happen. I have stretched, I have strengthened things. I have gone to chiropractors, I've gone to massage therapists, I have done it all. And this is just how I am.”
I would say, honestly, for some people that is entirely true. Some people just have a different way that they were built and it ends up working for them. If you're not having any problems or any pain, then I would say, don't worry about it. If you're able to run at the level that you want You're not dealing with injuries then having a perfect spinal alignment isn't really important.
But if you're finding that you're slowing down your speed, that you're having shoulder problems, that your hips aren't working exactly the way that you want. If you're getting a little achy pain or getting ITband issues; then I would say adding, certainly abdominal strengthening, upper back strengthening would be a benefit. I think that's the big thing that most people forget when they're trying to make their overall spine more stable.
We automatically think of abs and maybe you think of butt, but we very rarely think of upper back. That ends up being a big issue for a lot of people because they don't think about how to pull their shoulder blades back or how you stabilize your upper body. Which does affect the rest of your spine; especially when you're talking about dynamic movements. If you can't keep your shoulder from curling forward then your lower back's gonna curl also, because it's all connected. That’s my number one suggestion.
What do you do if you think that your posture is causing you problems? You wanna strengthen your upper back, you wanna strengthen your stomach muscles, you wanna strengthen your hips. Then you wanna make sure everything is flexible. You wanna be able to have full range of motion in your shoulders, you wanna work on full range of motion in your hips. Then you want to be stable from your shoulders to your hip stable, while you're doing your run. Some of that's just practice, keeping things upright. Some of that is overall strengthening programs. Now, if you've been trying to deal with this and even going through step by step and you have a really good abs strengthening program, you have really good flexibility and you're just still so frustrated.
Those are the things that I help people fix all the time, because it's normally like one small thing that somebody needs to adjust or correct. Then it opens up a whole world. It is really hard to identify a specific joint that's locked out on yourself. Having somebody who can watch you run. Somebody who can actually assess all the different muscle lengths and assess strength of a variety of different things, such as watching you doing dynamic movements, will help you isolate certain motions and certain muscle groups to see how they're doing compared to their counterpart. All of that is very hard to do for yourself. We all have to ask for help for a lot of those things. It's very hard to do that to yourself.
Not to mention having somebody that can explain what's normal, what's not normal. What's moving well, what's not moving well. And how you progress out of that. That's what I help people do all day long. That is actually a huge joy. I just absolutely love helping people get back to running the way that they want to and help them problem solve the one thing. Our bodies are amazing and a lot of times we just have to know how to allow them to heal. If we get out of our own bodies' way and allow it to heal so that we can perform at the levels that we want.
Running and being active is just the best part of everything. It helps you with friends. It helps you with just your mind and keeping everything healthy, your emotions, all these things. It's so wonderful to be able to have a sport. If you are struggling with something that you think is related to your posture, I'm gonna leave the link below that you can use to call, or to set up an appointment, just to see if I could even help, not even a full appointment, let's just chat and find out if I'm the right person to help you solve the problem that you're having. Until then I hope you're having a fabulous day and I will talk to you soon, bye.
If you are looking for more information on running check out one of these blogs:
WE HELP ACTIVE ADULTS OVERCOME THEIR ACHES AND PAINS TO GET THEM BACK TO THEIR FAVORITE ACTIVITIES WITHOUT MEDICATION, INJECTIONS OR SURGERIES.
Dr. Molly McDonald