April 21, 2023

Get Back on Track: How Neurological Soft Tissue Therapy Transforms Running Performance

Distance running causes many people some predictable wear and tear. We will often see people come to us for issues with IT band syndrome, runner's knee with shin splints, plantar fasciitis, or overall stiffness in muscles like the hamstrings and hip flexors. All of these injuries related to running come from predictable sources as well. 

Running biomechanics and efficiency

If a runner tends to run with a certain running gait, a little more biased to the outside of their foot, all of the forces of running will distribute differently through their muscles. If a runner swings their legs as they run rather than pushing off and having more of a sprinter-style turnover, they will distribute stress differently through all the muscles involved in their running gait. 

Even though there are significant differences in biomechanics from person to person or from men to women, there is much more commonality than there are differences. Each person has the same muscles originating and inserting in the same spots, the same tendons, the same ligaments, etc. 

If one runner has a vastly different-looking running form than, let's say, an elite-level runner, but if they have the same biomechanics, or limb-linked dimensions, we can clearly draw the conclusion that one person is running more efficiently and using their body more appropriately. 

Using Neurological Soft Tissue Therapy to Treat Running Injuries

At Evo Performance Rehab, we treat all of these running-related conditions by assessing movement compensation and then performing a neurological search. If someone has had, for months and months or even years, IT band syndrome and pain all the way down their thigh and even into their knee, we need to ask the question, not what is damaged, but what is underworking that is causing too much force to go through that IT band, for example. 

Or maybe the most common running issue we will see is plantar fasciitis. The plantar fascia on the bottom arch of the foot is not designed to take huge amounts of force by itself. It is designed to transfer force through the different parts of the foot up into the muscles of the calf and posterior chain. 

Moving Beyond Symptom-Focused Treatments to Address Root Causes

People become symptom-focused with their treatment plans when this area is under too much stress because the pain they are experiencing distracts them. They will ice the arch of their foot, they will stretch the arch of their foot, they will get acupuncture in the arch of their foot, and they will get all kinds of different therapies, creams, and concoctions to try to address the symptoms of the pain in the arch of their foot. 

However, I've had it numerous times where the pain in the arch of the foot can be completely alleviated by improving the brain-muscle communication in muscles up the thigh farther than where their pain is. 

How We Helped a Runner with Plantar Fasciitis Improve His Stride

Recently, I had a client come in for plantar fasciitis. Every time he would run, he would feel significant pain in his arch, and we found his most significant area of inhibited brain-muscle connection in his chrysalis muscle, which is one of his adductors on his inner thigh. When the chrysalis was re-educated to communicate with muscles of the lower leg specifically for him, his soleus and posterior tibialis muscles, he was allowed to run with almost zero pain within days. 

We then had to work on correcting imbalances in how his hamstrings and adductors were too weak for his quads and hip flexors and make adjustments to his running stride to keep things more in balance in that pattern. 

In this specific example, we used the clues of his pain combined with his compensatory movements and then used our neurological search to guide where our treatment plan was started, which very quickly solved this chronic problem he had been experiencing for months. 

We have seen in many situations that runners in significant pain can alleviate that pain very quickly by getting their nervous system to change the behavior of the muscles in their running stride. 

How We Helped a Competitive Marathon Runner Improve Their Time by 13 Minutes

In another example, we had a competitive marathoner who also happens to be a physical therapist come in because she strained some musculature in her hip flexor during a marathon. 

She was in significant pain but only had two weeks until the next marathon she signed up for after five or six days of treating her issue with her own normal methods. She got a referral from one of her own clients to see us at Evo Performance Rehab.

Through the neurological search, we learned that the inner part of her hamstring was shortened and underfiring, which caused her to change her pelvic position and overuse her hip flexor. By helping to re-engage and integrate the hamstring back into her running stride and other movements that took the pressure off of the hip flexor, she was able to run her race after only five days of working with us, and she had a 13-minute faster time compared to her previous race. 

Recovery Time and Getting Back to Running

Runners often ask us if they need to take long amounts of time off of running. And if there's one thing I've experienced with runners, it's that typically they are very addicted to the endorphins, also called the "runner's high," associated with consistent distance running. 

Fear not; most people who work with Evo Performance Rehab can take a very brief pause from running, ideally in a few days if things respond well, and then get back to running with maybe some productive constraints within a few more days after that. 

We want to help your body do the right work to tolerate the stress of running productively. We do not want to take away one of your favorite things and one of the things people are extremely passionate about. Runners are addicted to running, and it's a pretty positive addiction someone can develop.

So with the help of Evo Performance Rehab, getting all of the movement patterns back to a more optimal function and working to create the ability for the body to tolerate higher amounts of force and fatigue while maintaining good mechanics, the neurological soft tissue therapy system is a great answer for getting runners back on the trail very quickly from acute injuries and problem solving to a high level of optimization for long-term consistent injuries that have nagged runners for years. 

How We Helped Two Sprinters Accelerate Their Comebacks

Although I have discussed primarily distance running, we also do a significant amount of work with sprinting athletes, whether they are youth, high school, college, or even Senior Games competitors. The demands of sprinting on the body can be intense: strained hamstrings, strained hip flexors, strained calves, Achilles plantar fasciitis, shin splints—all of the same issues but typically more biased towards the muscles. 

The neurological soft tissue therapy system is extremely adept at accelerating a comeback to being able to sprint all out without guardedness or tentative movement. 

Last year, we worked with a sprinter who had injured his hamstring early in the season and came back and hit personal bests within four weeks of a hamstring strain. Another athlete we worked with in the past year had some movement patterns that were reminiscent of her history as a hockey player, and she felt that she was losing efficiency in her sprinting because she was essentially running like a hockey player. 

We worked to find which areas were overworking and which ones were underworking, did training to make her running gait more efficient, and are happy to have heard recently that she has had personal bests in all of her races so far this year.

Recover with EVO

Each Neuro-Therapy process begins with a free phone consultation, followed by an in-clinic or virtual evaluation treatment session.

We walk you through the Neuro-Therapy process so you can see the significant differences that even one session can make.

This helps us find the best treatment plan for your lasting success.

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