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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

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** This information is for educational purposes only **

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