A Competitive Runner – Back and Better Than Ever


Susan was a runner on the track team at New York University. She’d been sidelined for almost a year from serious competition and had been treated by physical therapists, doctors, orthopedists, and massage therapists. There was one thing everyone agreed upon: her psoas was tight and involved in her pain, but no one knew what to do about it.

Her complaints were very specific and all right sided: pain in the right hip/groin, hip flexors and right buttock down the right leg. A visual assessment showed that her left foot was slightly inverted, and her right arm held slightly out from her body. She had an exaggerated sway in her back, which caused her to lock her knees. Her left latissimus dorsii were pulled back and down as well, creating a twist in her torso.

She’d had an emergency appendectomy and at one point had broken both her arms. There was an obvious imbalance in her pelvis imbalance and leg length discrepancy on her right side with a noticeable tightening around the right pelvis. She’d been running indoor track competitively; sprints were run counterclockwise around a track, so her training and running created a pattern of left sided contraction and right sided compensatory balancing and co-contraction.

We began with work focused on the trunk rotators of the body, addressing the “trauma reflex” muscles – the latissimus, obliques and abdominals in addition to the adductors and abductors of both legs. This relaxed the exaggerated twisting in her torso and pelvis. Her leg length evened out immediately. We finished by releasing the psoas muscle on her right side. I taught her a short series of movement patterns (exercises) that she was to do at home, twice a day, in order to maintain her progress and restore voluntary control of her muscles. While slightly sore the next day, by the second day she was completely pain free.

Over the course of the next several weeks, we addressed the exaggerated lower lumbar curve, releasing the extensor muscles of her back and the muscles of her left shoulder, which were pulled back and down, thus pushing her right hip forward. Again we went through releases of the latissimus, obliques and abdominals on her left side. The next step was to address SMA Sensory Motor Amnesia within the dynamics of walking. Shannon learned to release and relax the muscles of the pelvic girdle for easier walking and more cross lateral movement. We added more exercises to her daily routine, all of them focused on the mechanics of walking.

Susan had her gait and running cadence assessed at a sports clinic and reported that she was told that her stride and form were perfect! She was pain free with a smooth cadence. Additional sessions were no longer needed, so we made a plan for her return to running: I advised her to get back to running very slowly, first focusing on the simple awareness of her walking. When walking felt smooth and effortless, with hips swinging naturally and shoulders loose, she should move into a slow run. This program of a gradual transition from walking to jogging to running worked well for her and allowed her to somatically incorporate that which she had learned, replacing asymmetrical compensation with full body coordination and cortical control.

The next running season Susan was back on the NYU team. She finished the season as the top seeded runner on the team and commented to me that were it not for Somatics she would never have made a comeback at all!

I saw Susan a full two years later and she reported that she not only maintains a daily Somatic Exercise routine, which now takes the place of her traditional pre-workout stretching routine, but that she has remained pain free and injury free.


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