Running as a means of exercise is popular for both recreation and as a sport. However, there is risk of injury. Throughout the course of any year, 65 to 80 percent of runners obtain an injury. Injuries vary, but some common running injuries include exertional lower leg pain, plantar fasciopathy, Achilles tendinopathy, calf pain, medial tibial stress syndrome, iliotibial band syndrome, hamstring injury … and the list goes on. These injuries are often a result of faulty movement patterns and decreased energy efficiency throughout the body, both of which can be identified and addressed by a licensed physical therapist through a process known as gait analysis.
Gait analysis is a technology-based method for identifying biomechanical abnormalities in the gait cycle — in other words, it’s a way of using video to capture and assess the way you walk or run. Gait analysis is typically done in a clinical facility by a licensed physical therapist or trained professional. It involves filming you running from three positions — front, back, and side — and analyzing the video footage in slow motion, using still frames and frame-by-frame motion assessment. The video is analyzed to determine how each joint is moving, how specific muscles are working to control joint movement, how one side compares to the other, and how the values of joint angles at your trunk, hips, knees, and ankles compare to normative values.
Following a gait analysis, your physical therapists will explain any movement faults observed and will recommend running modifications. A trial period will be implemented where three to five strategies will be used to target desired running mechanics modifications. Additionally, two to three verbal, tactile, or visual cues are used to support the new movement pattern. Interval training is added towards the end of the trial period. Clients are asked to run for one- to three-minute periods of time, during which the therapist will correct running until the pattern is learned and naturally integrated.
Gait analysis and subsequent running modification are often coupled with an exercise plan to address weak muscles, stiff joints, and short, stiff, or lengthened muscles. For example, if you have weak gluteal and hip muscles your knees might collapse in and cause pain at the patella or joint line. If this is observed, your therapist will cue you to run with increased space between your knees and also will add gluteal and hip strengthening exercises to your therapy program to address the muscle weakness along with the movement pattern.
Whether you currently have pain with running, would like to improve your running form and energy expenditure, or you’re just starting your training, the licensed physical therapists at Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy have been trained to help you reach your goal. Nobody knows the biomechanics of movement and gait analysis like we do. If you would like to know more about gait analysis and how it might help you relieve your current pain or help you reach your running goals, reach out to us and schedule an appointment. We have multiple locations in the Valley and would love to help.