Most runners suffer injuries from time to time: shin splints, plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, among other problems.
But sometimes those injuries can feel insurmountable.
Julie Horn, of Naperville, took up running in her early adult years for stress release, and training for longer races in her 40s.
Then before the 2011 Chicago Marathon, she developed patellar tendonitis, which threatened her running career.
“I thought I wasn’t going to ever run again,” she says. “I felt so terrible and was always in pain.”
Her son Connor, a top-ranked high school runner, also faced injuries that curtailed his running.
It started with problems in his Achilles and calves more than a year ago. Both mother and son found, by working with a physical therapist familiar with issues particular to runners, they could return to the sport not only healed but in a position to prevent future injury.
Shilpi Havron, of Accelerated Rehabilitation Centers in Naperville, knows running as an insider — she began running at the age of four.
And a running injury in her teens, which only responded to physical therapy, spurred her into the profession. That familiarity makes a difference.
“I saw her for therapy, and she got me running again,” Julie says. “Now I’m training for the marathon.”
Havron takes a broad view of each patient’s case, inspecting their posture from head to toe, testing the flexibility and strength of their muscles, and analyzing video footage of them running on a treadmill.
“We’re looking at their entire movement through the running: how they strike, their mid stance, stride length and cadence,” she explains. “It paints a picture of what we need to treat.”
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information 37 to 56 percent of recreational runners will be injured in a given year, or an average of 2.5 to 12.1 injuries per 1,000 hours of running, with the most common injuries affecting the lower extremities.
In the case of both mother and son, running form played a significant role in the issues they faced.
Havron made it a priority to help each of them adjust how they run. “It’s not hard to reduce pain,” Havron says. “But if you don’t change your running form, you’re going to have the injury re-occur.”
Havron aims to return patients to running early in therapy — their first day, if possible. And she restores them to their previous level of exertion during the course of treatment, because a lot of what she does requires the tissue to adapt to the normal stresses of the sport.
A typical treatment includes ASTYM (augmented soft tissue mobilization), a process of running handheld plastic instruments along the length of muscles.
This deep tissue massage-like treatment stimulates the fibers, increasing blood flow to encourage healing and resorption of scar tissue.
This is followed by dynamic stretching and strengthening exercises tailored to the injury and weaknesses of each runner.
Havron addressed issues in Julie’s hip and healthy leg to balance her form, while working on strengthening her core.
With Connor, she worked on his hip strength and form, occasionally treating tightness in his muscles as his running seasons progressed.
Julie is training again for this year’s Chicago marathon and feeling good.
“I’m regularly doing the (strength-training) exercises and rolling that she taught me,” she says.
For runners experiencing pain or injury, Julie offers encouragement.
“Be respectful of your body and be patient,” she says. “Having been through this gives me a longer-range perspective in not giving up.”
Knowing treatment can put a runner back on the road soon helps, particularly when it serves as an outlet.
“I feel so fortunate to have ended up on (Shilpi’s) doorstep,” Julie says. “It makes sense. She really cares in her heart that people do well.”