Two recent research studies have identified what many women have felt when running during and after pregnancy: the process of carrying and delivering the baby effects running gait and can cause pain.
A March 2013 study in Biomedical Central Pregnancy and Childbirth analyzed walking characteristics of pregnant women, finding that as pregnancy progresses, the stride widened, while stride length shortened. There was also a stiffness noted in the middle back of these women, where as in normal walking gait, there is a small amount of rotation of the midlle back above the pelvis. The result of these biomechanical changes my friends: pregnant ladies waddle.
These changes are capitalized when transitioning from walking gait to running gait. A second study published in the Journal of Sports Physical Therapy looked not only at changes of the pre and post partum runner’s gait, but at the treatment and resolution of pain related to these changes.
This study captured a pregnant runner’s running characteristics by placing utilizing 3-D video technology while she ran on a treadmill throughout her pregnancy and followed up after delivery. The research team found that as her pregnancy progressed, her pelvis tilted more forward, and lilted side to side during each stride. Clinically speaking, the result of this is increased strain on the low back and hips with changes in the force generated through the body when the foot hits the ground, resulting in pain, and this is often what brings patients in to see me.
Interestingly, six months after delivery, many of these running characteristics are still present, meaning the runner is still running with abnormal mechanics. This is often due to over stretching of the abdominals during pregnancy, and weakening of the hip stabilizers. The answer to this, as demonstrated in the study, and long known to physical therapist, is specific strengthening of the deep abdominals and hip muscles. This does not include crunches, which can actually lead to damage to the more superficial abdominal muscles.
I have previously posted abdominal strengthening workouts which are perfect for addressing low back, pelvis, and hip pain following pregnancy, or really any low back, hip, or knee pain while running. They can be found here:
If pain is not clearing up do not hesitate to go to a physical therapist, who will identify to causes of the pain, and develop a plan to address it. If you are in Southern Oregon, come see me!
Make your day great,