Common Running Injuries, Prevention, and Treatment
Author: Shannon Miller Lifestyle
With Fall right around the corner, many people will take advantage of the cooler temperatures and lower humidity levels to begin an outdoor exercise regimen. Running is a great and popular way to get in shape or maintain a level of fitness. However, running injuries are common to people who try to do too much too fast or who don’t take the proper precautions, such as stretching prior to your run.
Here are some common running injuries and what to look for when they may occur:
Knee Injuries make up about 40 % of running injuries. Runner’s knee (Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome) and Iliotibial Band Friction Syndrome (ITBFS) are the most common knee injuries a runner will face.
Runner’s knee will manifest with pain right under or around the knee cap and is caused by the misalignment of the knee cap. You may feel pain around the kneecap, pain when you bend the knee, pain that get’s worse when walking downstairs or downhill, swelling or a popping or grinding sensation in the knee.
The iliotibial (IT) band lies along the outside of the thigh from the hip to the knee. When you run, your knee flexes and extends, which causes the IT band to rub on the side of the femur. Iliotibial Band Friction Syndrome will manifest with pain on the outside of the knee and will feel tight and often have pain shooting up to the hip.
Shin splints refers to medial tibial stress syndrome, an achy pain that results when small tears occur in the muscles around your tibia (shin bone). Shin splints are common among new runners and those returning after an extended layoff. They’re a sign that you’ve done too much, too quickly.
Shin splints strike runners wearing the wrong shoe or a pair with too many miles, and those with high arches or flat feet. If you begin to feel pain while walking or it is extreme pain while running, you may want to see your doctor as this can develop into stress fractures.
Plantar Fasciitis is small tears or inflammation in the tendons that connect the heel to the toes. The pain can feel like a dull ache or like stepping on nails, mainly on the heel of your foot but can extend through the arch as well. People with tight calf muscles and high arches are more likely to suffer from plantar fasciitis. This is usually a nagging injury that does not heal extremely quickly. Taking a break from running will often give Planter Fasciitis a chance to heal naturally.
Achilles Tendinitis causes pain and stiffness in the area of the Achilles tendon. This is almost always caused by a combination of tight calf muscles and a drastic increase in training, particularly on hills. Unsupportive footwear can also be to blame.
Symptoms include heel pain or stiffness after exercise, or swelling that is present all day and gets worse with exercise. Ice and heel drops to stretch your calves can be a great start to rehabbing this injury, but avoid aggressive calf stretching and wearing flip-flops and high heels, which can all aggravate the Achilles tendon more.
Stress fractures can be a very difficult injury for a runner to deal with. Instead of an acute fracture that is caused by a slip or fall, stress fractures develop as a result of cumulative strain on the bone. Runners most often have stress fractures in their tibias (shin), metatarsals (feet), or calcaneous (heels).
They are one of the most serious of all running injuries and will require at least 8 to 16 weeks of no running. Pool running while you are recovering can help ease you back into running again.
Stress fractures are from overtraining, therefore starting to run again requires easing back into things and backing off as soon as you feel any pain to prevent further injury.
Here are some important tips to keep in mind when participating in a running program to prevent injury:
Pay Attention to Your Body
Don’t ignore your body if it hurts. Pay attention, find out why, and change what is making it hurt.
The RICE method (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) along with an anti-inflammatory, like ibuprofen, is always a good place to start if you feel like you are injured and cannot get in to see a doctor right away.
Increase Training Slowly
The 10% rule for most people is the maximum increase per week to avoid injury. The 10% rule states that you should never increase your mileage by more than 10% each week. So if you are consistently running 5 miles 2 times per week but want to up that to 5 miles 3 times per week, you should add one mile each week for 5 weeks until you reach that goal, instead of adding the extra 5 miles all at once, since that is a 50% increase in one week.
Find the Proper Shoe
A therapist or specialty running store associates are good resources for helping you find the best shoe for you. Wearing a shoe that does not have enough support or that has the wrong type of support for your foot can exacerbate a pre-existing injury or can help to cause a new injury. Be sure to replace your running shoes every 350-450 miles of running.
Stretching at the end of every running session will decrease muscle soreness and help maintain flexibility. And remember to stretch your whole body, not just your legs. You core does more for running than you might think.
See a Physical Therapist
If problems are consistent or recurring, physical therapy should be your next step. Walk-Fit sponsor, In Motion Physical Therapy, is a great resource in Jacksonville, FL, or The American Physical Therapist Association has a great tool to find a physical therapist near you.