Running is one of the best cardiovascular exercises out there. It helps in maintaining fitness since it is very physically demanding. As such, there are numerous injuries related to running.
In this post several of the culprits, the treatment and the prevention of the most common running injuries are discussed.
1. Plantar Fasciitis
Plantar fasciitis is the inflammation of the plantar fascia, the fibrous band of tissue that runs along the bottom of the feet. It connects the heel to the toes along the inside of the foot.
The main symptom is a dull pain under the heels towards the inside part of the foot. It also manifests as a heel spun which is only visible via X-ray.
The initial treatment is taking a break from strenuous activities such as running to help the foot heal naturally. Sufferers should place ice cubes on the area daily for about 5 minutes. Anti-inflammatory drugs such as Acetaminophen can also be prescribed by a clinician. During rest it is recommended to engage in light stretching exercises.
To prevent this running injury, take adequate recovery time during competitive runs or other activities. Runners should invest in proper running shoes. Running shoes should not compress the foot and should have gel or air cushions to absorb the impact of the foot hitting the ground. Runners should manage their weight especially sudden weight gains as excess weight puts more stress on the feet.
2. Achilles Tendonitis
Achilles tendonitis is the inflammation of the Achilles tendon; located behind the ankles just above the heels of the foot. It is commonly caused by excessive stress from running, on the tendon.
It mainly manifests as acute lower calf and heel pain. Stiffness in the area is experienced mostly in the morning. A thickening of the tendon may also indicate Achilles tendonitis. Usually the pain increases as the physical activity continues.
The pain can be alleviated by placing ice or a hot water bag over the area. This should be done for up to 20 minutes 2-3 times daily. Rest from running is necessary while applying this treatment to avoid more pain. Runners can perform other activities like swimming or indoor biking. Anti-inflammatory drugs and pain killers such as Ibuprofen or Naproxen may be administered by your clinician. Foot stretches should be done regularly to increase flexibility and strengthen the Achilles tendon.
To prevent Achilles tendonitis, runners should not engage in practices they have not adapted to. Tendon strength should first be developed through regular gradual progress. Additionally, ensure you have adequate recovery between running sessions and avoid running on non compliant terrain like concrete.
3. Iliotibal Band Syndrome
Iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS) is the inflammation of the distal portion of the iliotibial band. This band is the tendon attaching the thigh muscles into the upper leg below the knee.
It shows through pain or swelling over the iliotibial band just above the knee joint. This pain can travel up the thighs or down the lower limbs. Runners commonly feel this pain when the leg hits the ground and it worsen as the running continues.
A resting period of about 6 weeks is needed. Aggravating this injury can sideline an athlete for months. Ice should be placed on the area for up to 20 minutes, while a hot water bag can be placed for about 10-15 minutes. Runners should do mild stretching exercises targeting the iliotibial band. A knee bandage can be used to alleviate the symptoms. Anti-inflammatory drugs and pain killers will be beneficial.
All athletes should always warm up before any activities. The lower legs and thighs should be properly stretched to maintain muscle flexibility. You can avoid running on hills or sleep surfaces to prevent IT band syndrome. Address bio mechanical issues by wearing arch supports while running and invest in the recommended running shoes.
4. Runner’s Knee
Also called patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS), runner’s knee is the most common running injury as the name suggests. It is characterized by an acute pain where the knee cap rests on the thigh bone. It is caused by unbalanced training causing overuse of the knee muscles.
Runner’s knee manifests as a sharp pain mostly directly behind the knee cap. It occurs when walking, running downhill or downstairs. The pain can be concentrated above or under the knee cap with possible swelling on the front part of the patella. Other symptoms include popping, snapping or grinding sounds around the knee area.
Rest from running is mandatory and gently massaging the knee is beneficial. Pain killers are usually administered as the pain can be sometimes severe. Infrapatella straps or neoprene knee sleeves should be worn to support the knee while conducting stretching exercises targeting the area. In severe cases the services of a professional physiotherapist should be sought.
Preventing runner’s knee, centers on strengthening the muscles around the knee. Runners should engage in complementary cross-training to strengthen leg muscles. This also stabilizes the hips, lower limbs and knees. Avoid overexerting yourself and pick gradually instead to prevent stress to knee ligaments. Additionally, give the legs necessary time to recover from each running session. Runners must also avoid steep hills.
5. Shin Splints
Shin splints is the condition where acute pains are felt in the shin and lower limb area. It is caused by prolonged running on hard terrain that results in trauma to connective muscle tissues.
The pain from shin splints is concentrated on the inner edge of the larger shin bone (Tibia). It shows as a dull ache in the lower region of the leg between the ankle and the knee. Tenderness and swelling may also be present.
Ice should be placed on the area for up to 30 minutes. Runners must rest from running while undertaking mild stretching exercises for the lower limbs. Running should be resumed gradually to prevent further injuries. Extra corporeal Shock wave Therapy or surgery is recommended for extreme cases.
Ample warm up exercises must be conducted before running and recovery time allowed between competitive runs. Runners should manage their weight. Overloading of the leg increases stress exerted on the tibia causing shin splints.