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What studies say about returning to running as postpartum exercise

Most of the therapists in our office are moms, and we intimately understand wanting to get back to exercise after delivery. Caution should be taken when returning to running postpartum - we see this clinically and research also shows postpartum movement strategy changes that can increase your risk of injury.

A recent pilot study by Provenzano et al., 2019 compared the biomechanical changes of runners pre-pregnancy (or <14 weeks gestation and postpartum). They found at six weeks postpartum subjects had decreased trunk and pelvic rotation, decreased running speed, with increased step width and stance time compared to pre pregnancy measurements. They also found decreased motion in the hips with increased motion at the knee as a compensation.

These findings are similar to several studies that have assessed walking in pregnancy. It is believed that these changes may help with stability and prevent falls. These changes may also be compensations to avoid pain in the back and/or hips.

Exercises that improve range of motion

What’s important about this article is that most women are cleared to return to running at six weeks postpartum when pregnancy related changes in the trunk and pelvis are still present. Further studies need to be done to determine how long these changes remain.

Pelvic stabilization may be an appropriate strategy to prevent these biomechanical changes during pregnancy. In another biomechanical study by Mens et al., sacroiliac joint mobility was measured in pregnant patients with a belt. They found decreased sacroiliac joint laxity and improved stability with movement through the pelvis while wearing a belt.

In a systematic review of twenty-three articles, pelvic stabilization exercises were beneficial at decreasing low back and pelvic girdle pain in pregnancy (Bogaert et al., 2018). A combination of using a pelvic belt and internal stabilization through exercises could possibly help decrease muscle overuse and allow for better range of motion through the pelvis, trunk and hips. A pelvic brace or belt is not always necessary but can help with pain management. Seeing a qualified physical therapist or pelvic floor therapist can help you determine if this is something you may need.

Contact us for a telehealth session in California (or virtual consultation worldwide) so you can improve your form and function with your postpartum return to running program.

 

Resources:

Bogaert, J., Stack, M., Partington, S., Marceca, J., & Tremback-Ball, A. (2018). The effects of stabilization exercise on low back pain and pelvic girdle pain in pregnant women. Annals of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine, 61. doi:10.1016/j.rehab.2018.05.356

Mens, J. M., Damen, L., Snijders, C. J., & Stam, H. J. (2006). The mechanical effect of a pelvic belt in patients with pregnancy-related pelvic pain. Clinical Biomechanics, 21(2), 122-127. doi:10.1016/j.clinbiomech.2005.08.016

Provenzano, S. G., Hafer, J. F., Peacock, J., Kempner, S., Zendler, J. D., & Agresta, C. E. (2019). Restriction in Pelvis and Trunk Motion in Postpartum Runners Compared With Pre-pregnancy. Journal of Womenʼs Health Physical Therapy, 43(3), 119-126. doi:10.1097/jwh

What Our Patients Have to Say

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Testimonial by R.M., Age 40

I can’t speak highly enough of the theapists at Femina Physical Therapy and how much they have helped me grow, discover, and love my body. I had had painful sex for my entire life, and didn’t know that there was anything that could be done about it. It was at the point where my husband and I were not having sex for MONTHs, because it was just too frustrating, and I hated feeling like I was the ONLY woman out there who had this problem, especially at my age. I finally brought it up to my doctor because I was turning 40 and my husband and I were barely having enough sex to conceive. And she brought up pelvic floor, PT. I didn’t even know this was a “thing”.

Read more: Testimonial by R.M., Age 40

Testimonial by Mary L.

I started seeing Heather to treat my Interstitial Cystitis in November 2016. At this time, I was extremely miserable, in constant pain, and felt as though no one was listening or understood what was going on with my body. I have just finished my last appointment and I can honestly say that my life has completely changed for the better because of Heather and her team of PTs! I live almost completely pain free, and when I do have flare ups, I am able to treat them at home on my own. I am so grateful that this office was recommended to me a honestly cannot recommend them enough!

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Testimonial by R.S.

I wanted to thank you so much for helping me get through something I thought I may never be able to. We have achieved pain-free intercourse and this has really solidified our marriage. We are so grateful to you for all the work you do! Thank you!!

-- R.S.

Testimonial by R.D., age 38

"I had a severe tear during childbirth that was not stitched together correctly and therefore healed poorly. Even after having a surgery a year later to remove the scar tissue, I was still having pain, and no one could explain why -- there was no overt 'reason' to explain the pain. I had tried other 'specialists' and even saw another physical therapist who had me do hip / leg stretches -- what a joke! I was about to give up and just 'live with it' until thankfully I kept searching online and found Heather.

Read more: Testimonial by R.D., age 38

Testimonial by J.H.

My last appointment with Heather was over 6 years ago but I still think of her every day. I don’t take for granted that I can easily get out of bed, care for my two active and busy young boys, run, play tennis, clean my house, or sit at a desk for several hours at a time. None of these tasks were easy for me before meeting Heather. Eight years ago my car was struck from behind by a tractor trailer that was estimated to have been speeding. I spent 3 years working with different PTs and Drs trying to heal and move on with my life. When I became pregnant and the hormone relaxin that “relaxes” all the joints of the body and the additional weight gain erased all my progress and I was suddenly in a lot of pain again. My OB sent me to Heather for one last try.

Read more: Testimonial by J.H.

Testimonial by R.M., Age 40

I can’t speak highly enough of the theapists at Femina Physical Therapy and how much they have helped me grow, discover, and love my body. I had had painful sex for my entire life, and didn’t know that there was anything that could be done about it. It was at the point where my husband and I were not having sex for MONTHs, because it was just too frustrating, and I hated feeling like I was the ONLY woman out there who had this problem, especially at my age. I finally brought it up to my doctor because I was turning 40 and my husband and I were barely having enough sex to conceive. And she brought up pelvic floor, PT. I didn’t even know this was a “thing”.

Read more: Testimonial by R.M., Age 40

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