#PTonICE Daily Show – Monday, October 23rd, 2023 – 4 weeks to return to running?

In today’s episode of the PT on ICE Daily Show, #ICEPelvic lead faculty Alexis Morgan discusses the research & practical approach to helping runners return to running beginning at 4 weeks postpartum. She references research that about 50% of postpartum patients begin reintroducing running at approximately 4 weeks postpartum, with varying degrees of symptoms. Alexis emphasizes utilizing the symptom behavior model to monitor symptoms, educating & encouraging patients that about 85% of all individuals have some sort of symptom(s) with running, and that volume is an important variable to have a successful return to running.

Take a listen to learn how to better serve this population of patients & athletes.

If you’re looking to learn more about our live pregnancy and postpartum physical therapy courses or our online physical therapy courses, check our entire list of continuing education courses for physical therapy including our physical therapy certifications by checking out our website. Don’t forget about all of our FREE eBooks, prebuilt workshops, free CEUs, and other physical therapy continuing education on our Resources tab.

Are you looking for more information on how to keep lifting weights while pregnant? Check out the ICE Pelvic bi-weekly newsletter!



Good morning, Instagram. Good morning, fellow ice people. Welcome to the PT on Ice Daily Show. Welcome to Monday. It is the start of another week. And we are so excited to be here. Really as we’re wrapping up the end of this year, we still have a lot going on at the end of the year that I want to tell you all about this morning. And then we are really getting already very excited about 2024. And just want to talk to you all about some of the things that are going on. If you are in the ICE Students Facebook group, you’ve been to an ICE course or you were just recently added in because you just finished a course this weekend, welcome. You’ve seen some announcements in there as well a while back. And I just want to highlight a couple of things. So let’s get started on that before we discuss four weeks returning to running, four weeks postpartum. So number one, we’ve still got three more chances for a live course, or you’ve got three more chances to hit us in the pelvic division at a live course. So this, not this weekend, but next weekend, if you’re listening live, November 4th and 5th, we will be in Bozeman, Montana, and then a few weeks after that in Bexar, Delaware. And a few weeks after that in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. That is the first weekend in December, December 2nd and 3rd. So those are your three chances to get into seeing this Pelvic Live course, experiencing it, having fun with us, learning so much about pelvic floor health. not just for pregnancy and postpartum, but in general, across the lifespan, men and women, pregnancy, yes, but also all things pelvic health. So those are your three chances, Bozeman, Bexar, Delaware, and Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. So if you’re on the fence, go ahead and pop onto those. Second, thing that we i want to share with you all is about the pelvic level one course so our name is changing as you all have heard us talking about and we’re actually going to be taking a little break through the next few months and our new level one cohort is going to start in january so Be sure, we’ve already got people signed up for that, gearing up, ready to experience the new content. Very regularly, we are always reading the research on a weekly basis. And once enough of it stacks up, we’ve got to reframe the way that we’re teaching, particularly in the space, because it changes so incredibly rapidly. And so with that, we are updating that material. So that is coming up on, that will be on the website soon. Actually, that is actually already on the website. So that is on there. So a lot of things coming up at the end of this year, the beginning of next year. We’ve got even more announcements, so stay tuned. And we’re gonna be announcing a couple more exciting things in our ice pelvic newsletter. So if you’re not already signed up for the pelvic newsletter, go ahead and sign up for that because we’ve got even more things to discuss and share with you all.


So all of that aside, let’s go ahead and discuss this four week return to running. This is a topic that a handful of years ago really was not discussed. No way are we going to be facilitating someone running one month after giving birth. That’s what we thought a handful of years ago. But fast forward, we’ve got several examples of elite level athletes which then trickles down to our recreational level athletes, we’ve got several examples of people returning to running. And it’s actually even showing up in our literature. And when we are starting to see this, it’s kind of interesting in the pelvic world, like we have all of these thoughts and beliefs and oftentimes you’re you’re gonna run into some strong opinions surrounding those, and a deep connection here. We’ve gotta have that connection with our beliefs, but also be willing to let that go once the evidence and once the, even the anecdotal evidence that your clients show up to you with, once that narrative begins, and it’s maybe opposite of yours, we need to be able to let that go and to explore and ask questions and be curious about, well, what are some other possibilities? And that’s exactly what we’re seeing in this four-week return to running. So what we’ve seen is people aren’t running. Runners will run, as we always say, in pregnancy and then early postpartum. And what we know is that the longer someone runs in their pregnancy, the sooner they’re going to run in that postpartum phase. And in Shefali Christopher’s study looking at returning to running and risk factors associated with musculoskeletal pain, she actually saw that it was close to half of those individuals, 46%, reported returning to running at four weeks. And so we’ve got some information to kind of digest, right, as therapists. And what we know, and again, in her research, what we know is that when runners return to running, we’re seeing that musculoskeletal injuries or musculoskeletal pain does occur. And so that’s the number one thing that we want to be educating our runners on and we want to be looking out for. But rather than waiting until they’ve hit certain guidelines, what we are proposing and what we are doing, what I am doing clinically, what a lot of our faculty is doing clinically is we’re educating our patients. And we urge you to educate your patients as well. Based on this evidence, this is what we’re seeing. We’re seeing that when we’re returning to running, we’re actually, many people are experiencing musculoskeletal pain, about 85% of people. Not just those that are returning at four weeks. The median time returning at 12 weeks. So that’s significantly before and significantly afterwards. We educate them. So we can, Educate them. They know that okay. There’s a risk of injury. There’s a risk of musculoskeletal pain Of course, just like with everything and what we tell them is when you feel something You need to let me know That visit is so much easier to discuss that if it’s already been planned. So you schedule your person a couple weeks out. Go ahead and return to running and see how that feels. We’re gonna control for the volume. We’re not gonna go out and run five miles for the first time in eight weeks. We’re gonna control that volume. Build up slowly and see how they feel. If you’re experiencing some mild knee pain or some hip pain, we are gonna address that. All the while, absolutely, we’re doing our basic hip strengthening, right? I say basic, not just talking about a basic squat, but also your accessory movements like clamshells to work on that rotation. Or better yet, some single leg standing you know, the standing variation of the clamshell or the hip abduction with your foot on the wall. That way you’re working both sides. We love that accessory work to decrease the risk of pain. But even while they’re working on that strength, they’re still, everyone is still at a risk. And so the best thing they can do is talk to you about it as soon as they experience that. And tell them, okay, let’s back down on that volume right when they’re when they experience that let’s say they bumped it up to a two mile total volume of running maybe they were doing one minute of running 30 seconds of walking and they had just bumped all of that volume and those intervals up experience that bit of lateral knee pain let’s bump that back down. What were they doing last week? Let’s repeat last week’s volume. Let’s repeat last week’s running workouts and let’s calm that system down. That’s how we’ll address it from that pain aspect. And then of course, we’re going to be continuing to build that accessory strength training and coaching their running, looking at their running form. We’re not afraid of them experiencing that pain. In fact, we know more than likely they’re going to experience that. Again, 85% of runners are experiencing some level of pain, typically in the lower extremities, not necessarily their pelvis or pelvic floor. So we know we’re gonna bump into that. So we educate them on the factors, and then we schedule a visit to where we’re gonna follow back up on that. That’s already in their calendar, they already know. That way we can discuss those itty bitty issues that they have, and we can address them before they get bigger. That’s exactly the same thing that we want to do with pelvic heaviness, symptoms of heaviness, really fatigue, we’ve talked a lot about that on the podcast here and of course in our courses, but pelvic floor heaviness or fatigue is another symptom that we’re going to address in the exact same way. We’re gonna decrease their volume. We’re gonna educate them about it first and talk with them when they experience it, but they are going to decrease their volume when that occurs. We’re gonna continue to be building that hip accessory work. All the while we’re working pelvic floor strength, but pelvic floor and hip accessory movement, that’s what builds up strength and endurance for the run. Just like how we expect them to experience pain, what we’re realizing is that we expect them to bump into some symptoms of heaviness as well. We, as the rehab providers, are not scared of that. Just like we’re not scared of them experiencing pain. We know they bump into that and we get them to back off immediately. We know they’re not gonna have an issue there. We know they’re gonna meet all of their goals and continue to run. We know this with the symptoms of pelvic floor heaviness as well. Heaviness, in most cases, many cases can come on with a lot of emotional concern. And honestly, in some cases, pain can do that as well. You’ve all experienced that with your patients. Very similar with pelvic floor heaviness. I see it very, we all see it very heightened in that emotional response. But if we can educate them on this first, if we can tell them, Hey, You’re gonna bump into this. This is a symptom of fatigue. What you’re gonna do when you bump into it is you’re gonna back down. You’re gonna back down in that volume. You’re gonna wait to return to your next running workout until those symptoms have died down, because your body is telling you that that’s too much. But you’re gonna return, and we’re gonna talk about it on our next visit, and you are absolutely gonna run that 5K at Thanksgiving. or you’re absolutely gonna run that New Year’s Day 5K, whatever that may be for them. So, educating them about symptoms, whether it’s pain, whether it’s heaviness, of course, leaking. I feel like we as pelvic floor PTs have educated people so, so much on leaking, but similar conversation here. you’re probably going to have leaking with some point of return to running. Again, it’s muscle fatigue that often precedes that return or that leaking. So we’re going to probably experience it. If that athlete is running to a fatigue level, that’s okay. We’ve gotta understand where their capacity is and where that lies and where that threshold is for leaking or for heaviness or for pain. We figure out where that threshold is, we go down from that. We build capacity and we bump that threshold up. That’s the name of the game in all things that we do. That is the name of the game in pelvic floor health, in returning to running, even when they’re returning early, like at four weeks. Realize runners are gonna run. Many of them are already going to run at four weeks. So go ahead and have that conversation at your two-week follow-up. Better yet, go ahead and have that conversation in their late pregnancy. Prepare them for what they’re going to experience in that return to run. Prepare them for it to decrease fear and to improve education and awareness. Education goes such a long way in this area, but we’ve also gotta have that follow-up. We’ve gotta have that action item, okay? When they experience the pain or the heaviness, what you’re going to do is X, Y, Z. Decrease that volume, right? Maybe return to some, diaphragmatic breathing and regulate your nervous system if it’s someone who’s has a heightened level of concern, right? We’re going to repeat last week’s workouts after symptoms have resolved. Give them several action items that way they feel empowered to make those decisions for themselves. All of that and then have that follow-up appointment with them already scheduled a couple weeks out. And that way, you can address all of these issues that are small, and we ensure that it does not continue to grow. So that’s a very different way of guiding someone in this return to running, where someone is starting to run early, we don’t have the time to go through all these strength and all of these assessments, but we just say, hey, let’s use our symptoms as our guide. Let’s start small, 15 seconds of running, 30 seconds of walking. Let’s start small and add that in and let’s see how you do. That is an example of us coming alongside someone who’s already going to be running. This is how we stay in their corner as opposed to, Hey, you’re not ready to run. Person’s like, I know I’m ready to run. I mentally am so ready to run. I’m not gonna go back to that person. I’m gonna go run. We lose people when we have this black and white yes and no and I am the boss. We gain people, we gain people’s trust and confidence and their willingness to work with us if we come alongside them. So that’s what we’re advocating for this return to run. Absolutely, you’re gonna work on strength, overall building capacity, calf. We’re gonna work on coaching them and how do they look with running and running form and their cadence. And we’re going to be addressing all of these factors. Let’s do it by letting them run and coming alongside them. That’s a bit different than what you might be doing. That’s different than what we used to do several years ago. What do you think? Do you want to try it? Have you recently tried it? Or are you concerned? Think we might be missing something? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Have a wonderful Monday. Hope to see you on the road at one of our three courses at the end of this year. And we will talk soon. Thanks for being here, y’all.


Hey, thanks for tuning in to the PT on Ice daily show. If you enjoyed this content, head on over to iTunes and leave us a review and be sure to check us out on Facebook and Instagram at the Institute of Clinical Excellence. If you’re interested in getting plugged into more ice content on a weekly basis while earning CEUs from home, check out our virtual ice online mentorship program at ptonice.com. While you’re there, sign up for our Hump Day Hustling newsletter for a free email every Wednesday morning with our top five research articles and social media posts that we think are worth reading. Head over to ptonice.com and scroll to the bottom of the page to sign up.