It’s a beautiful day, your feet are hitting the trail, everything is feeling great and you’re moving forward. During your run, forward movement is not the only movement that occurs. Our movement is a combination of different movement planes: sagittal (leg swing forward and back), frontal (flapping your arms like a bird), transverse (rotating right to left).
Frontal plane movement is of utmost importance when considering overuse injury prevention, particularly when it comes to running. What we need to consider with the frontal plane is the quality of the movement and no just the quantity. You may be thinking, ‘running, I’m moving forward, not sideways’. You are correct, you are moving forward and if you are moving sideways you are probably dodging something. What we do not feel occurring is the movement of the hips in that frontal plain.
I am going to focus on the hips frontal contribution, but keep in mind our body moves as a whole and movement occurs in all three of the planes aforementioned, contributing to efficient movement. You may recognize the exaggeration of this movement on a person running in front of you, also known as ‘the bum wiggle’. What you are seeing is the lack of pelvic and hip stabilization by the all-important hip stabilizers (gluteus medius, minimums and groin muscles). This results in an increase in the quantity of movement and thus a decrease in the quality. This increased movement is a major contributor to overuse injuries to the knee (runners knee), pelvis and low back. Keep in mind there can be and are most likely other mechanical errors associated with these injuries; muscle imbalances in the hip and lower limb, foot mechanics which we will leave for another day.
The primary role of the hip stabilizers is to control the downward movement of the opposite hip (non-weight bearing), while the stance leg is weight bearing. If the muscles are not engaging effectively or are weak, there will be excessive movement in the hip and knee in the frontal and transverse planes. This increase in unwanted movement will leak energy, requiring other muscles to compensate and assist, leading to excessive loading of muscles and areas of joints that shouldn’t be loaded in this manner.
Examples of such injuries are: patellar-femoral syndrome (runners knee), improper tracking of the knee cap; ITB friction syndrome, trochanter irritation; and even plantar fasciitis.
Take a moment while you are running to appreciate how the body moves, absorbs and dissipates load and how our imbalances (in this case hip stabilizer strength) can affect our movement and the activities we enjoy.
Stronger than ever
Chelsea White, BSc, C.A.T (c)
Certified Athletic Therapist