By Dr. Michael Gottfried
There’s a common misconception that running is one of the worst things you can do for your back. Truth be told, our bodies can handle the shock of running if perfectly aligned. Yet through the sedentary nature of many occupations, poor posture and other factors, few people do have perfect alignment. Though it may be a little self-serving, starting your running program off with a visit to your local chiropractor can be a wise preventative move.
Of course, the right footwear is critical in minimizing the impact to your back. Not only do you want to find the right pair of shoes, but you want to replace your running shoes on a timely basis. The usual recommendation is to replace your running shoes every 300 to 400 miles.
About one hour prior to your run, drink some water. Avoid drinking water right before your run to avoid cramping. You’ll also want to stretch before you run. Yet stretching when you’re not loose can cause injury as well. So take a short, brisk walk prior to stretching to get your body warm.
When it comes to stretching, focus on the front, back and outsides of your legs. You will also want to do some wide arm swings to prep your upper body. Remember to repeat these stretches after you run.
While running, remember that changing speeds too quickly can put excess stress on your back and knees. Go into a slow jog when you are between speeds to minimize the impact. Some runners like to mix it up, changing terrains during the course of the run. Whether that’s switching from flat surfaces to hills or pavement to dirt, proceed with caution. You may want to walk up steeper hills at first before breaking into a jog and then run. For off-road runs, be familiar with the path first. Uneven surfaces can cause you to land awkwardly, leading to mis-alignment, ankle sprains and other potential injuries.
Finally, don’t overdo it. Slowly increase your miles rather than jumping from a one-mile run to a 10-mile run. If you feel pain, stop. Pain is your body’s way of telling you to pay attention. There are no extra points for running through pain. Just potential trips to the doctor.
Afterwards, remember to stretch and re-hydrate. And if the next day you feel something beyond normal stiffness, be sure to visit your doctor.
Dr. Michael Gottfried is the president of the Chiropractic Society of Rhode Island and a practitioner at Aquidneck Chiropractic.For more information, visit www.richiro.org.