Q+A: I have back spasms after my first marathon…

Q After just a couple of months of running, and after finishing my first half-marathon, I’ve been getting muscle spasms in my hips and back. I’ve had to stop running, but I still get them after any light exercise. I’ve been to a physio, an osteopath and tried massage, but to no avail.

A It’s possible that the initial cause of your problems was an over-zealous approach to training. When you take up any sport, a gradual approach is essential. This allows the body to adapt to the new stress it is put under while exercising.

If the time before attempting your first event is too short (as it may have been in your case), or if the intensity of your training is too high, the body’s capability to heal and repair following the small amounts of microtrauma that occur during any exercise is reduced, and you risk injury.

If muscles are consistently going into protective spasm, it is probably for a specific reason. Often it is an attempt to limit movement at a joint because it’s inflamed or painful. Another reason could be the development of myofascial trigger points – these are localised areas of damaged or dysfunctional soft tissue, which, if left untreated, can be a barrier to full recovery and must be specifically treated and regularly warmed and stretched.

Another possibility is a leg-length discrepancy. This alters the whole biomechanical ‘balance’ of the body, not just the balance below the pelvis. This can be fairly easily addressed with a small heel raise, which can be prescribed by a podiatrist. (This may not need to be worn forever, as the body readjusts itself very well after 8-12 weeks.)

However, whatever your problem, a long-term injury-management plan is essential to your rehabilitation. Identifying possible problem areas before they develop into full-blown injuries is much better than letting them progress unnecessarily; prevention is better than cure. Ideally, this type of assessment should be done by a health professional, such as a physiotherapist, who is experienced in movement analysis and muscle strength- to-length relationships.

Andrew Caldwell, chartered physiotherapist