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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 Jamie M.

I have been going to see Heather for a while now, and I can't tell you enough how much she has improved my quality of life. Heather specializes in issues like pelvic floor, but I see her for other orthopedic issues.

I have a lot of chronic joint pain and dysfunction issues (back, hips, neck) that require that have ongoing physical therapy maintenance. The effects of my problem joints/areas overlap and interconnect with each other in complex ways, so helping me requires really having a complete understanding of the entire skeletal and muscular system. Pain does not always appear where the problem actually is, the human body is a twisty, many-layered puzzle. I have an exercise program I do at home and I am very functional, but there are just something things I need a PT to help me out with.

Read more: Testimonial by Jamie M.

Testimonial by S.H., age 24

I just wanted to thank you for everything you've done for me for the past 19 months. I literally could not have reached my goals without you and your practice. You gave me the courage to keep moving forth with my treatment no matter how afraid and anxious I was. You were always there to answer questions and made this whole process so much easier than I expected it to be.

It's because of you that my marriage is on the right track, that I can get pregnant and that this part of my life is finally over. I really feel that Fusion Wellness is a team of people you can call family and are there to root for you and cheer you on until you reach your goals. There is nothing better than knowing I accomplished this with you guys by my side and as calmly and patiently as I needed. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for always being there and helping me reach my goals.

S.H., age 24

Testimonial by Jamie M.

I have been going to see Heather for a while now, and I can't tell you enough how much she has improved my quality of life. Heather specializes in issues like pelvic floor, but I see her for other orthopedic issues.

I have a lot of chronic joint pain and dysfunction issues (back, hips, neck) that require that have ongoing physical therapy maintenance. The effects of my problem joints/areas overlap and interconnect with each other in complex ways, so helping me requires really having a complete understanding of the entire skeletal and muscular system. Pain does not always appear where the problem actually is, the human body is a twisty, many-layered puzzle. I have an exercise program I do at home and I am very functional, but there are just something things I need a PT to help me out with.

Read more: Testimonial by Jamie M.

Testimonial by J.B.

My husband and I were having problems with painful intercourse. My therapist recommended that I go and get a pelvic floor evaluation from a physical therapist. Having never been treated by a physical therapist, I wondered how this really was going to help me. My husband who is a physician was very supportive and agreed that a PT evaluation would be a great idea. So i made the appointment and was blown away by what I learned. I had no idea that pelvic floor muscles could get tight and have trigger points just like any other muscle in the body. I'm a massage therapist and very familiar with tight muscles, and this new thought really amazed me. Heather's program to help relax and strengthen these muscles made such a difference. I can say that I am 100% pain free during intercourse now. Yippee! Going to the PT appointments and doing the at-home exercises was definitely a discipline, but it's 100% worth it! The rewards are amazing.

-- J.B.

Testimonial by T.H.

I started seeing Heather in October 2014. For more than two years, I had been suffering from painful urinary tract infection type symptoms after my bartholins gland surgery which included constant burning and urinary frequency sensation that led to more and more painful intercourse. I had made multiple visits to internist, obgyn and urologist's offices, went through a range of treatment with UTI and bladder frequency medication that included antibiotics, vesicare, estrogen cream, but nothing worked.

Read more: Testimonial by T.H.

Testimonial by P.M.

I was hopeful but frankly skeptical when the doctor treating me for Interstitial Cystitis recommended that I go to Heather for physical therapy. Medication and diet helped control my IC symptoms, but I had never heard of physical therapy being used to treat IC. The education and treatment I received from Heather was a revelation. She explained that the pain I experienced with IC had helped create a cycle of muscle guarding which affected the entire pelvic area. I had no idea of the amount of tension being held there. No wonder my husband and I had not been able to have sexual intercourse for years!

Read more: Testimonial by P.M.

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