Have you tried running with a prosthesis, but experienced pain in the other leg, or in the back? With the right running technique, you can run both faster and longer - without suffering pain or injury.
Text: Bjørnhild Fjeld - Photo: Tore Fjeld
- It's not just about running, but about increased mobility. If you learn how to use your hips correctly, you will be able to have increased mobility, walk better and faster. Not everyone has the goal of being able to run 5 km, but maybe a short distance? With a little training, this is within reach of many prosthetic users, says physiotherapist specialist Rachel Humpherson from the specialist team at Össur UK.
Össur is OCH Ortopedia's owning organisation, and the world's leading manufacturer of prosthetic feet.
Progress and more confidence
Rachel was in Oslo for the first time in May 2022, as an instructor at OCH Orthopedics' sports day for amputees. Now in September, she returned to a new sports day, and saw with her own eyes that several of the participants had made great progress.
- You see it not least in the self-confidence. The first time, some would hide a little away, because they felt unsure if they could even learn to run. But now they take their natural place in the group. It is absolutely incredible to see the progress from last time to now. For example, a young boy who previously had not run at all, but who is now learning advanced running techniques, says Rachel, who in recent years has traveled around many countries to hold similar sports days.
She explains that the most important difference between running with a prosthesis compared to two functioning legs is that you, as a prosthesis user, cannot use the ankle joint. Thus, you must learn to use your hips to create mobility.
- It is very much about using the hips correctly, and gaining mobility in the hip. If you don't have enough mobility in the hip area, you will compensate by using the healthy leg more, or you will use your back. This in turn will lead to pain or injury, says Rachel.
More movement = better quality of life
Getting the right running technique in place will also mean that you use less energy - and then you can move more.
- We know that more movement leads to better health, which also leads to a better quality of life for the individual.
During the sports day, Rachel showed various exercises that the participants can benefit from doing regularly, to increase strength and mobility.
- If you learn to control the prosthesis better, you can participate more in activities, go to the gym or just be more active in everyday life, she believes.
For those who want to develop their running technique further, OCH Orthopedics hired Mauritz Kåshaugen, who is a trainer in para-athletics at the Norwegian Athletics Federation.
- In principle, it is exactly the same to train a prosthesis user in running as another runner. We are working on the same thing - correct use of the hip and getting momentum, says Mauritz, who hopes to get more amputees interested in running.
Do you need a running prosthesis?
Some of the participants on the sports day have been given their own running prosthesis, often called "blades", which they use when they run.
- A running prosthesis is not particularly suitable for walking, there is no heel and you have to have good balance to benefit from it. It has been developed especially with running in mind, it should go fast and straight ahead, says Sven Johansson, clinical specialist at Össur.
It is far from just athletes who can benefit from a running prosthesis – this will be a good aid for anyone who wants to use running as exercise.
- If you jog three times a week, you will be able to benefit from a running prosthesis. If you're just going to run after the bus, it's better with an everyday prosthesis, explains Sven.
He emphasizes that good, individual adaptation is crucially important if you are to enjoy a running prosthesis. Ideally, you should have a separate prosthetic sleeve that you only use for the running prosthesis.
- With a running prosthesis, it is even more important that the sleeve fits well, as there are greater forces involved. If the sleeve does not fit perfectly, you could injure yourself.
Several sports days a year
The OCH sports day brought together 22 participants – in addition to orthopedic engineers, orthopedic technicians and physiotherapists who were present to guide and observe.
- We want to organize a sports day with a focus on running technique twice a year - autumn and spring. In addition, we will arrange a skiing day for the winter, says Lise Sundby Nybo, clinic manager at OCH Orthopedics at Helsfyr in Oslo.
Ahead of the sports day with practical exercises in Vallhall, there was a professional seminar with various lectures for orthopedic engineers in OCH's premises at Helsfyr. Here the participants received information and inspiration about everything from running technique for advanced users to the latest in running prostheses.