runningSpring is here, and with that an urge to get outside and exercise. Many people will be hitting the road or the trails to start logging some serious miles. And with the start of race season just around the corner, serious runners and weekend amateurs alike need to prepare themselves to avoid injury.

Whether you having been running your whole life, or are starting your first Couch-to-5K, it is important to prepare yourself for running. When done properly, running is a great form of exercise that burns calories, builds bone density, increases cardiovascular strength, and eases mental stress. But if done haphazardly, it can cause injuries and be a great source of frustration. Before starting any running program, you should consult with a chiropractor to make sure your body is balanced to avoid unnecessary pains.

For many runners, the problems may start with their feet. Flat or high arches, ill-fitting shoes, and weak ankles are a few of the issues that can derail a runner before they even get started. Chiropractors can evaluate and adjust the feet and ankles to clear up potential issues. Since the feet are the base of the body, it is important to make sure that all the bones are in their proper place, and that all the joints have their full range of motion. Heel strike, push off, and gait in general are each affected by misalignments in the foot. If a foot doesn’t have proper biomechanics, it can affect the ankle, knee, hip, pelvis, low back, even up to the cervicals!

It is essential to properly stretch the arches, toes, calf muscles and Achilles tendon to obtain the full range of motion. Seated arch stretch, upper and lower calf stretches, toe spread, calf raises, heel and toe walks, picking up marbles with toes, and “writing” the alphabet with the toes pointed are all great ways to stretch and strengthen the muscles and ligaments of the foot and ankle. These exercises are great for preventing plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, and ankle sprains. A chiropractor can also tape arches for more support, or have you fitted for custom orthotics if problems persist. **Tip: if you are having pain in your arches, stand on a golf ball and massage it across the bottom of each foot.

Next, it is important to focus on the knees. Many runners experience patellofemoral pain, or pain behind the knee-cap, which is worse after a workout. This is often due to weak quads and core muscles, and tight hamstrings. This imbalance causes the pelvis to wobble as you run, which can stress the knee and cause pain and dysfunction.  It is also important to pay attention to tight IT (ileotibial) bands, the muscles and fascia along the outside of the thigh that run from the hip to the knee. Having tight IT bands can also affect the range of motion in the knee, and cause it to pull unevenly.

Foam rollers are fairly inexpensive and are great for deeply massaging out tight muscles-quads, glutes, hamstrings and IT bands. The rolling can be quite tender at first, but that is a sign that your body needs to get loosened up. Place the roller on floor, and lay directly on it so that whatever body part you are massaging is pressed against it. Then roll back and forth. Squats and lunges also strengthen the supporting muscles, and strong quads help ensure the knee cap slides correctly. If you do experience pain after running, get in to get adjusted by your chiropractor. Knee pain could be coming from misalignments in the feet, ankles, hips, pelvis or the knees themselves. Get to the root of the problem quickly to avoid further injury. Also, ice immediately after running to decrease inflammation and pain. A chiropractor may also tape the injured area, or give you further stretches and exercises to help the area heal faster.

For the hips, glutes and low back, the main things to focus on are muscle strength and flexibility. Keeping hip flexors loose, glutes strong, hamstrings flexible, and core muscles engaged can prevent many injuries. Yoga is a great compliment to running, as it focuses on posture, flexibility, breathing, and strengthening the core and spinal muscles. Many runners find that they are less injury prone when they add yoga training to their workout regimen. Chiropractic adjustments keep the hips, pelvis, and lumbars in the proper position, giving you the best chance to run smoothly and avoid injury. A chiropractor can also show you specific stretches for the psoas and piriformis muscles, and IT bands. Keeping things loose but strong will also give you more power when you run. You may notice your times improving as you get adjusted because a body that is aligned is healthier and can handle stress loads easier.

If you do notice things get tweaked while running but you can’t get adjusted right away, you can do a few things at home to minimize the damage. First, ice right away. Within the first 72 hours, ice frequently, 20 minutes at a time. Do not use heat, as this brings more inflammation to the area and slows healing. Rest the area if possible. Self-massage tight muscles with a tennis ball. Stand against a wall and place a tennis ball between the sore area and the wall. Lean your body weight into it and massage it back and forth, up and down, until it starts to relax. Essential oils such as PanAway, marjoram, wintergreen and lavender can also be rubbed on sore muscles to reduce inflammation, spasm and pain. BioFreeze also works great to cool a sore muscle if ice is not available. Avoid further injuring the area until you can get in to the chiropractor. Fish oil, turmeric, ginger and garlic naturally help fight inflammation and speed up the healing process.

John Cannell, MD, has also written a book, Athlete’s Edge, Faster, Quicker, Stronger with Vitamin D, that discusses the important role that vitamin D plays in the health of athletes. Vitamin D influences all systems of the body, and the musculoskeletal system is no different. It has been shown to prevent injuries, decrease recovery time, increase power and much more. If you are starting a running program, it is absolutely necessary to have optimal vitamin D levels.

Get your running program off to a great start this year with a little preparation ahead of time. Whether you are trying to lose weight, exercise with the family, run a marathon or just reach a personal best, staying injury-free makes running a lot more fun and rewarding. Getting adjusted, stretching muscles appropriately, and using things to limit inflammation will help you prevent injuries and recover more quickly. It might even help you set a record.

Dr. Brenda Trudell is a chiropractor and owner of New Beginnings Chiropractic in Mount Horeb. She has an additional location in Sauk City.  The clinics focus on natural health, especially for women, pregnancy and children through chiropractic, acupuncture, massage, nutrition and more. For more information, visit or contact her at

About the Author

Dr. Brenda Trudell is a chiropractor and owner of New Beginnings Chiropractic in Mount Horeb, WI. The clinic focuses on natural health, especially for women, pregnancy and children through chiropractic, acupuncture, massage, fitness, nutrition, essential oils, and more. As a female chiropractor, she understands the special circumstances surrounding women's health. Men and women are not created equal, and it is important to acknowledge that in the healthcare world. She strives to find the most current healthcare information to help all of her patients.

Dr. Trudell is available to present to groups on many different topics. Please contact the office for details or with any questions. Dr. Trudell is certified in the Webster Technique. For more information, visit or email at