The Benefits of Physiotherapy and Osteopathy Pre and Post Marathon

Osteopathy and physiotherapy for marathon runners

Whether you’re Mo Farrah or a first-time marathon runner, there’s no denying that marathons are tough and they certainly take their toll on your body. People pay a lot of attention to fuelling their bodies with the likes of a Sunday roast during training and post-marathon but far fewer look to seek the support of physiotherapists or osteopaths to support the physiological trauma their bodies go through. If you are looking for a broader overview of Osteopathy, make sure to check out our Why And When To See An Osteopath article.

What happens to your body during a marathon?

It’s more than likely you’ve spent months preparing for a marathon but your body repeatedly beating against concrete roads for 26.2 miles will have some noticeable effects!

Runners will commonly experience things like shin splints, a pain along the inside edge of the shinbone caused by inflammation of surrounding tissues, or runner’s knee, a dull pain caused by swelling or softening of the cartilage under the kneecap.

But the most common after-effect is soreness. When you run a marathon, or partake in any form of intense exercise for an extended period, your body may struggle to take in as much oxygen as it ordinarily would, leading to a buildup of lactic acid which is just one cause of sore muscles.

Clyde Williams, a physiologist at Loughborough University further explains to The Guardian:

“After [a] race, runners are left with microscopic tears in their leg muscles, which leak proteins such as myoglobin into the bloodstream. The body's defence mechanism will see these tears as damaged tissue and will set up an inflammatory response. Part of this response is that free radicals are released, which also attack the tissue. This leads to the familiar soreness.”

During the marathon there will also reach a point where your body will likely start to fatigue. As this happens, your muscles become more strained and your gait will change, causing your body to activate muscles that may not have been used in training which can lead to pain or injury.

So, understandably, it’s important to do pre and post marathon work to ensure you steer clear of injury and can help your body bounce back. That’s where physiotherapy and osteopathy comes in.

What is the difference between physiotherapy and osteopathy?

Physiotherapy is a practice often applied to aid recovery in the case of injury, illness or disability, whereas osteopathy looks at the body as a whole, focusing on how the joints, muscles and ligaments work together in order to help realign your form.

Think of osteopathy as the ‘pre-covery’, supporting physical wellbeing and joint health before problems arise, and physiotherapy as the ‘recovery’ for aches, pains and injuries should they surface.

How can a physio or an osteo help me during the marathon period?

Gait analysis

Put simply, a gait is the pattern in which your limbs move, either naturally or as a result of specialised training. A gait imbalance causes poor alignment of the joints they protect and the muscles become weakened and overburdened, which often leads to injury, pain or a significant reduction in performance.

Seeing a physiotherapist for a gait analysis pre-marathon can help identify and address faulty movement patterns to ensure joints are correctly aligned, performance is improved and the risk of injury is minimised.


Seeing a physiotherapist post-marathon has many benefits. It could be for something as simple as a sports massage to help alleviate aches and pains caused by a buildup of lactic acid and intense movement for an extended period.

A physiotherapist can also assess your gait post-marathon to see if and how it’s shifted as your muscles have fatigued, and provide you with a treatment plan to help rectify this change and ensure it doesn’t lead to pain or injury down the line. If you feel you could benefit from physiotherapy sessions, why not look at West 1 Health's Physio Services and reach out to see what we can do for you.

If you do find that you’ve sustained an injury during the marathon, or even have a niggling pain that’s impacting you in your day-to-day, seeing a physiotherapist will help identify the root cause of the problem so we can treat it effectively and get you back to health. If you need help with picking a physio, take a look at our 6 Step Guide to Choosing the Right Physiotherapist.


Osteopathy examines your posture and range of motion to help realign the body by moving, stretching and massaging the muscles and joints. While the practice itself has similarities to physiotherapy, it focuses on how the injured region is connected to your body as a whole and how function is affected as a consequence. For example, if you’ve developed runner’s knee as a result of the marathon or training, osteopathy would also explore the knock-on effect that injury has on your lower back or hips.

As well as manual treatment, osteopaths can also provide advice on lifestyle changes, diet and fitness regimes that may help runners to stay fit and healthy.

Even if you don’t have a known injury, an osteopath can also assess your movements to ensure your body is correctly aligned, provide guidance on diet, exercise and training regimes to prevent issues evolving into an injury or a more serious problem in the future. Remember we have more information about Osteopathy in our Why And When To See An Osteopath article.

So whether you’re about to take on a marathon or you’re just starting out in your training for a future event, physiotherapy and osteopathy can really support your journey to keep you fit and healthy throughout. Take the next step in your running journey by contacting us and we can discuss the best options for you.

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