An Expert’s Guide to Specific Prehababilitation Treatments For Runners

An Expert’s Guide to Specific Prehababilitation Treatments For Runners

By Nordic Balance

Prehabilitation treatments for runners can help athletes prevent injuries and increase performance. ‘Prehab’, as it is commonly referred to, is a comprehensive program of exercises and activities designed to address muscle imbalances and improve flexibility and condition-specific muscles prior to engaging in running activities.


Prehab treatments may include stretching, foam rolling, dynamic joint mobilization and strengthening exercises tailored specifically for runners. Prehab can also focus on conditioning the cardiovascular system while improving core stability and muscular endurance using plyometrics. Prehab should be incorporated into any serious runner’s training routine in order to stay safe while achieving optimal results. Regular prehab treatment increases flexibility, range of motion, and strength, can directly improve running efficiency, help prevent injuries and keep the athlete healthy for many seasons to come.


BJA Education, a leading medical journal, defines prehabilitation as: “the process of enhancing an individual’s functional capacity to enable him or her to withstand a forthcoming stressor, e.g. major surgery”. Prehabilitation was originally a treatment adopted by medical teams before major surgery to improve and accelerate post-surgery recovery. Later on, prehabilitation became a practice that was embraced in the field of sports recovery as well. 


Prehabilitation is all about focusing on the “stress factor” – this could be an upcoming surgery, or it could also be a sports event like a competition, or it could equally apply to a regular training session. As you can see, prehab is an important part of any sport – whether it’s an athlete’s training regime, or just an ordinary jogger, wanting to protect their body.  


Prehabilitation Treatments for Runners


Running is definitely one of the most popular types of sport. In the current climate, since the Covid-19 pandemic has stopped pretty much any other type of sport, thousands of people have started to rely on running and jogging as their main forms of physical activity. 


Although this sounds great, unfortunately, alongside an exponential increase in the number of people running, we have also seen a dramatic increase in the number of running-related injuries. It is estimated that every year, 50% of regular runners suffer at least one injury. At any given point in the year, 25% of regular runners cannot perform due to physical issues.

Because running is not an extreme sport and it involves no physical contact, these numbers are incredibly high. But why are there so many injuries occurring? And, most importantly, how can we reduce the risk of injury when running?


Prehabilitation Treatment that is unique to you


One of the most common myths associated with running is the idea of certain ‘natural’ or ‘genetic’ predispositions which prevent a few lucky individuals from experiencing injuries. This idea that some people are more likely to experience an injury than others is massively flawed – in reality. However, this trait could determine how your body reacts to a specific type of training; it does not affect the frequency of injuries in any way. 


What does make a significant difference is how well you plan and organise your training sessions, and you need to do this in a way that fulfils your body’s unique requirements. When creating your training plan, factors such as gender, age, weight, flexibility and strength are as important as your previous medical history. It would be best if you considered all these to devise an appropriate and safe training plan. 


So, whether you just started running regularly, are a professional athlete, or are planning to run your first marathon, all of these points should be used to build and structure an appropriate training plan. Although the internet usually can answer 99% of your questions, remember that it shouldn’t be relied upon for your training plan, as it won’t take note of any personal details that are unique to you or your medical history.


The danger of too much too soon, after too little, too long.


If you are considering running, you must know that you are incurring a potential risk of injury. 


This includes several risks, such as bursitis, tendonitis, muscle strains and more severe stress fractures – all of which can stop athletes from training for a long time and sometimes even stop them from running completely. In addition, putting your body under a certain amount of stress for a considerable amount of time can cause problems that medics call overuse injuries.


The human body has an extraordinary ability to adapt and evolve under stress. It can get progressively stronger throughout a training programme. Still, at the same time, one can also lose bone density or muscle mass if the individual’s lifestyle is sedentary. This doesn’t mean that injuries are inevitable for runners; it does, however, mean that some precautions will need to be taken. 


So, starting small and working your way up would be best. Also, allow your body to rest between training sessions so that your muscles, bones, ligaments and tendons, as well as your lungs and heart, all improve gradually.


The importance of pre-habilitation and manual therapy


A training plan is always based on 3 factors and strives to establish the right balance between them. These factors are exercise, diet and recovery. 


Much like the fact that a nutritionist is the best professional to consult for dietary advice, physiotherapists and sports and massage therapists organise and develop exercise and recovery plans, including pre-habilitation in a training plan to reduce the risk of injury significantly.


According to a study published in 2015 by Van der Worp, the knee is the most common area where runners experience injuries. This is followed by the lower leg, foot, upper leg, ankle, hip/pelvis region and lower back. 


A physical assessment performed by a specialist can help you to determine the number of potential areas for concern, including identifying whether a specific joint of the body has a limited Range Of Motion (ROM), whether a muscle is hyper/underactive, causing an imbalance; or any other areas of potential risk, which could cause a future injury. 


Specific prehab exercises can be given to the individual to help correct the malfunctioning joint, muscle-tendon or ligament and ensure a safe progression of their running training. Alternatively, suppose an injury has already occurred throughout the training sessions. In that case, sports massages can help reduce inflammation – by stimulating the blood flow into the inflamed area – and significantly speed up the recovery process.


Further reading: What is prehabilitation? The key to avoiding sports-related injuries.


Article written by Nordic Balance expert Osteopath Marco Antonetto.

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