Why Rotation Is A Runner’s Best Friend


This is going to be a quick lesson in body mechanics. All of our body parts essentially display three types of movement – they can flex forwards or extend backwards, they can bend left or right, and they can rotate left or right. Each part will display varying potentials for each of these movements and it should be noted what the primary potential is so that injury prevention may be better understood. Today, I will speak about running. I have made posts about running here and here on my own site and I will repeat the basic premise, RUNNING IS A FULL BODY DANCE. All movement potentials need to be freely available to ensure that injuries do not happen to runners. Running is a cyclic and repetitive activity so the most common injuries are repetitive strain injuries. These repetitive strain injuries happen primarily due to strain being localized as forces are not spread evenly throughout the whole body. When running or walking we use the opposite arm and leg to go in the same direction for propulsion and for balance (right leg and left arm go backwards). The arms determine the pace and the legs push us forward. With moving the arm and leg backwards there is a rotation that happens through the spine – the frame of the body that joins the arms and legs together. Now, the rotation that happens in the hips meets the rotation that happens in the arms/torso at the level of the 11th and 12th thoracic vertebrae and the 1st lumbar vertebrae. This is the body’s primary site of rotation. If there is a problem with this rotation, if we are stuck rotating more one way than the other, forces are no longer distributed evenly throughout the body, they are more localized. When forces are more localized repetitive strain injuries are the result.

Bending side to side and rotation is visible in both athletes

With all this talk of rotation I want it to be clear that all of the other movements are important. I am focusing on rotation because it is the major difference in force production when comparing walking to running.  Now I need to make a more accurate statement about inefficient rotation and running injuries. Running requires rotation of the spine for propulsion and balance, when free rotation is not available forces are stuck in certain areas and they repeatedly receive strain. With strain repeated in small areas over time repetitive strain injuries occur.

What to do? Well, if you are a runner you aren’t about to just give it up and you don’t have to. You can read my post on injury prevention in endurance runners here for suggestions. Here are the highlights of a few options:

- Perform a Functional Movement Screen and follow the suggested exercises (pro – there is a testing protocol and logical exercises to correct the issues, con – there may not be the ability to truly fix the underlying cause of your issue in that you can’t specify the area of the problem, only the gross motor pattern that is affected)

- Strength training (pro – your whole body is stronger so your muscles will provide enhanced stability to your bones so that there are less possibilities of injury, con – you are still unable to address the underlying structural issue)

- See an Osteopathic Manual Therapist (pro – they will find the underlying structural issue and correct it so that the whole body will have evenly distributed forces, con – there may not be one near you)

If you are looking to ensure that you don’t develop repetitive strain injuries drop me a line or come visit me at my office:

350 Highway 7 East, Suite 211

Richmond Hill, Ontario

(905) 889-3640

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