Remember the Tootsie Pop commercial with the boy asking the owl, ‘how many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie pop?” and the final answer was, “the world may never know.”
That’s the same answer to my question,
what caused a stress reaction?
As much as I would have liked a definitive answer there just isn’t one. After I was diagnosed with a stress reaction in my left fibula, I was fully expecting a conversation about orthotic inserts and/or needing more supportive shoes, but, to my surprise, that conversation never happened. Instead we talked about how padding and overly supportive shoes, inserts and form were the biggest problems related to running injuries. Keep talking. I’m listening! Instead we talked about gait, form, cross training and muscle imbalance as possible causes of injury. We ruled out gait, form and training as much as realistically possible leaving muscle imbalance as a possible cause.
After several conversations with my doctor and physical therapist, my basic understanding is when your muscles become imbalanced, the stronger muscles overcompensate for the weaker ones. Because the weak muscles can’t match the strength and endurance of the stronger ones, they fatigue more easily and force the stronger muscles to work harder. Over time, the muscles begin to break down under the strain and injuries can occur. Unfortunately, a muscle imbalance is most often not identified until after an injury has occurred.
After a series of range of motion and strength tests with a physical therapist it was determined that a possible contributing factor of having a stress reaction was my left hip being noticeably tighter and less range of motion than my right hip. It seems like that has always been the case and it has been even more noticeable over the past year but I never really gave it much thought. Interestingly, an article published in the journal Sports Medicine showed that
an athlete is 2.6 times more likely to suffer an injury if an imbalance in hip flexibility of 15 percent or more existed.
What now? No, a muscle imbalance is not a definitive cause but it’s a good place to start. The way I see it, it can’t hurt to strengthen my hips right? I’ve added exercises and stretches to my weekly workouts that target hip strength and flexibility.
For more information on muscle imbalance:
The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing by Dr. Philip Maffetone
Speaking of strength and flexibility. Tomorrow my daughter and I are joining Lululemon in The Great American Ball Park for #runomcincy! Can’t wait!