Physios develop first guidelines on postnatal running

Three physiotherapists have collaborated to create the first guidelines for physios and other healthcare and fitness professionals, about postnatal women returning to running.

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Physios have developed professional guidance on postnatal running

Pelvic health physios, Emma Brockwell and Grainne Donnelly, joined forces with musculoskeletal physio, Tom Goom, to develop the free guidance – in response to the growing popularity of postnatal running.

Ms Brockwell said: ‘Engagement in regular physical activity is a public health priority due to the established health benefits. In reality, however musculoskeletal pain, urinary incontinence, abdominal separation and pelvic organ prolapse are all prevalent conditions amongst postnatal runners.

‘Health and fitness professionals working with the postnatal population need to protect women and their ability to maintain physical activity long term for their overall health and wellbeing. The evidence base around returning to running in the postnatal period is still limited and current advice is often conflicting and contradictory.

‘The traditional concept of getting a six week sign off with a GP at the postnatal check is now a dated concept and we felt that there was a need to update this using the evidence available to ensure that women return to running safely and effectively.’

The guidelines outline a series of tests that postnatal women should ideally pass before they are deemed ready to return to running.

‘If a woman is three months postnatal and is able to pass the tests detailed in the guide then a return to run program can be applied to the patient,’ Ms Brockwell explained.

Ms Donnelly added that: ‘Each and every woman’s successful return to run is individualised and the guidelines are designed to aid clinical reasoning, they are not a protocol.

More collaboration

And as well as providing advice, the guidelines encourage greater collaboration between pelvic health and musculoskeletal physiotherapists in order to gain a successful assessment and rehabilitation of postnatal women.

The online guidelines are free to download and the team hope they will encourage researchers to conduct more studies about the benefits, risks and optimal approaches of returning to exercise for the postnatal population, and that this data can then inform future updates of the guide.

The authors welcome any feedback that may aid future development of the guidelines.

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by Robert Millett

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