return to running postpartum
Sports / Orthopedic

How to Safely Return to Running Postpartum

Apr 14 2023

Making a safe return to running postpartum is a process. Whether training for the Mercy Health Glass City Marathon or recreational running, this form of exercise has many benefits, including physical fitness, improved mental health and the opportunity for socialization. All three of these things are very important for new moms!

But how soon is too soon to get back to running after giving birth? And how can new mothers get back into running safely?

Pregnancy and childbirth cause dramatic changes in women’s bodies that can complicate the ability to return to high-impact exercises, like running, without risking injury.

Among the potential changes are weakening of the pelvic floor muscles, which can lead to problems like:

  • Stress urinary incontinence
  • Bowel issues
  • Pelvic pain
  • Postural shifts that alter gait mechanics and musculoskeletal loading
  • Hormonal changes that can adversely affect bone health and joint integrity

Unfortunately, many female runners who develop these problems believe they are normal, unavoidable byproducts of childbirth that they simply must learn to accept. Or, they may be too embarrassed by symptoms, like incontinence, to seek medical help.

However, therapies are available to help get moms back to full and safe participation in the activity they enjoy most.

In fact, we have a team of experts that specialize in pelvic health and running. Sarah Brown, PT, DPT, pelvic health specialist, and Dayna Pirrwitz (pictured above), a physical therapist and running specialist, collaborate to provide expert care that addresses various issues that can limit running after having a baby or discourage them from returning to exercise entirely.

“A person’s posture changes gradually throughout pregnancy, and the muscles, ligaments and joints adapt to working in this new position,” Dayna explains. “Once the baby is born, there is an abrupt change when the woman loses a significant amount of weight quickly, which can lead to issues during postpartum. Examples of issues that you can see in postpartum are separation of abdominal muscles, stress urinary incontinence, urinary urgency, bowel issues, low back pain, pelvic pain, hip pain and pelvic organ prolapse.”

She continues, “if a runner can’t maintain a neutral spine due to these postural changes, it will affect where the foot lands in relation to their center of mass. This increases the rate at which the leg is loaded, which then increases the risk of stress fractures as well as hip muscle strain.”

However, with examination and proper therapy by our specialists in these areas, you can strengthen the function of the muscles, organs, nerves and connective tissue in the pelvic and abdominal region to return to running efficiently and with reduced risk of injury.

What can you expect when visiting our pelvic health physical therapists?

  • An evaluation by a pelvic health physical therapist to assess the muscles of the pelvis, abdomen, low back and hips to find and source of pain or dysfunction with running.
  • A return to running testing to ensure your body is ready to run, which is a high-impact activity. The testing is broken into three areas and includes pelvic floor testing, strength testing and load and impact testing.
  • A progression to working with physical therapists specialized in running to ensure they have enough joint motion in three key areas needed for running, as well as a run-specific strengthening program.
  • A video run analysis to allow for modifications to running mechanics to reduce loading rates.
  • An immediate review of exam results and a customized program to allow you to follow through with exercises. 

Reach out to Mercy Health — Perrysburg Outpatient Rehabilitation Therapy or Mercy Health — Sunforest Outpatient Rehabilitation and Therapy if you live in the Toledo, Ohio area and are ready to return to running postpartum.

There are still a few registration spots available! Sign up for the Mercy Health Glass City Marathon today.

Also, our orthopedic and sports medicine team of physicians and running medicine specialists are here to help. They are available to assist you during your training and will proudly provide medical aid to runners on site during marathon race weekend.

Learn more about the sports medicine services we offer at Mercy Health.

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