COMMON RUNNING INJURIES:
Unfortunately, running injuries are common for runners, especially newer participants in the activity who are more likely to over-train. Running injuries can also be blamed on body structure as well as the stress put on joints through the motion of the run. WebMD’s guide on preventing running injuries and treating running injuries lists the top ten sports injuries runner’s knee, stress fractures, iliotibial band syndrome, shin splints, plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, muscle pulls, ankle sprains, dizziness or nausea, and blisters. See our page on blisters for types of blisters, blister causes, tips on blister prevention, and blister treatment.
This sports injury isn’t limited to runners, instead, runner’s knee is the most common of all the running injuries. Runner’s knee is also a common sports injury among skiers, cyclists, and soccer players. Really, any athlete that puts a lot of stress on the knees, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), is susceptible to the sports injury. Runner’s knee refers to the different types of pain around the front of the knee (also called patellofemoral pain). An article on Runner’s knee by the AAOS, describes the painful sports injury as dull and aching under or around the front of the kneecap where it connects with the lower end of the thighbone. The pain occurs while walking up or down stairs, kneeling, squatting or sitting with bent knees over a long period of time.
One of the best ways to prevent a knee injury like runner’s knee), according to an article in Runner’s World, include running on softer surfaces, avoiding an increase in mileage more than 10 percent per week, and gradually increasing hill running and incline training. Additionally, make sure you have proper-fitting running shoes for your body type and your gait. Strength-training for your quadriceps and glute muscles can help prevent runner’s knee and many other common sports injuries. Coolrunning.com lists three helpful strength training exercises in this article: Standing Leg Lifts, Foot Turns, and the Foot Press. The AAOS also recommends stretching. To stretch the muscles around the knee, FamilyDoctor.org suggests the iliotibial band stretch, the groin stretch, the quadriceps stretch, the calf stretch, and the plantar fascia stretch. Go HERE for descriptions of these knee injury prevention stretches, and strengthening exercises.
You may be able to protect against some running injuries and knee injuries with knee braces or supportive taping with products such as KT Tape. However, the best protection against runner’s knee is the injury prevention measure mentioned above; wearing the proper running shoes and following your training with knee injury prevention stretches.
The first thing you should do if you think you have a knee injury is stop doing any high impact exercise like running or other contact sports. High impact activities that involve running and jumping can cause knee pain. Definitely avoid running down hills or running on sloped surfaces. Trail running or other high impact running is also not recommended. An article on SportsMD.com recommends ice and anti-inflammatory medications, and in some cases, taping. Orthotic inserts may be helpful, so contact a podiatrist or sports medicine doctor.
Another common sports injury in runners is the stress fracture. Like most running injuries and sports injuries, lower-extremity stress fractures are typically caused by overtraining or increasing mileage too quickly. Stress fractures, explains the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), are overuse injuries that occur when muscles become fatigues and can no longer absorb extra shock. “Eventually, the fatigued muscle transfers the overload of stress to the bone causing a tiny crack called a stress fracture.” Lower-extremity stress fractures typically involve the tibia, fibula and metatarsal bones. Women are more susceptible to this type of running injury.
To prevent injuries, you should remember to avoid increasing mileage more than 10 percent over the previous week), warm up muscles before strenuous exercise, and after your long distance run or high impact trail run, remember to stretch muscles. It’s very important to wear shoes appropriate for your sport, body type and gait. Cross-train by doing other sports that will help you reach your running goals, such as biking or swimming. These help you work your muscles in a well-rounded manner, and help prevent overuse of certain muscle groups. The AAOS suggests incorporating calcium- and vitamin D-rich foods into your diet.
The best way to protect yourself against stress fractures is to pay attention to your body. If you experience pain, stop running or training and rest for a few days.
An article in American Family Physician, a journal of the American Academy of Family Physicians, says treatment for stress fractures due to running is rest for the injured bone, and then, once the runner or athlete is free of pain, a gradual return to the sport. The AAOS says the average time this running injury or sports injury needs rest is six to eight weeks, but it could be longer.
ILIOTIBIAL BAND SYNDROME:
The iliotibial band (or IT band) is a muscle located on the outside of the thigh – from the glute muscles down to just below the knee. When the muscles become overused from increasing exercise or training too quickly (such as running, hiking, or cycling), the IT band can rub, become inflamed and painful.
An article in Runner’s World gives the following tips to prevent iliotibial band syndrome (or ITB syndrome): decrease mileage or take a few days off if you feel pain on the outside of your knee, warm up before you begin your runs with a quarter- to half-mile walk, replace worn down shoes, run on flat surfaces and avoid banked roads, avoid running or jogging on concrete, change directions repeatedly when running on a track, see a podiatrist to see if you need orthotics and avoid doing any type of squats when lifting weights. Like other sports injuries ITB syndrome prevention also calls for stretching of the knee and thigh muscles, strength-training and cardiovascular fitness.
Treatment of IT band syndrome includes rest, ice, and gentle stretching. An article in Running Times mentions deep tissue massage as another form of treatment for ITB syndrome. After treating the pain, athletes will want to work on strengthening glute muscles.
Shin splints is the all-encompassing term for pain along or just behind the shin bone usually garnered from running or other high impact sports. Shin splints are common among runners, basketball players, and soccer and tennis players, as they often subject themselves to quick starts and stops during their cross-training and exercise. Shin splints are caused by too much force being placed on the shin bone and the tissues that attach muscles to that bone, according to the Mayo Clinic.
As with most sports injuries, shin splints can be caused by doing too much too fast, so increase mileage and the amount of time you spend exercising gradually. A Trails.com article offers more training tips to prevent shin splints: consult a podiatrist to see if you need custom orthotics, replace running shoes about every 350-500 miles, warm up before you begin running or exercising with a 5- to 10-minute brisk walk or jog, stretch after running, cross-train with strength training, and rest at the first sign of shin pain.
Ice the shins to reduce pain and swelling, according to an article on shin splints by WebMD. Take anti-inflammatory painkillers, get arch support for your shoes, wear a neoprene sleeve around the lower half of the leg for support and warmth, and see a physical therapist to treat shin splints.
The plantar fascia is the thick tissue on the bottom of the foot that connects the heel bone to the toes. This muscle creates the arch of the foot. Plantar fasciitis occurs when that thick band gets overused and overstretched. This foot injury is very painful – sometimes described as burning, stabbing, or aching pain in the heel — and most often affects active men ages 40-70, according to an article on the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s website.
The Plantar Fasciitis Organization offers several tips for preventing plantar fasciitis and other foot injuries: maintain a healthy weight, wear running shoes and casual shoes that fit and offer the right support, avoid walking barefoot on hard surfaces, change out worn-out shoes, increase exercise and running gradually. It is also very important to keep your calf muscles and the tissue of your feet stretched and flexible.
To protect the plantar fascia, tape and/or use shoe inserts. An article by the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine says sometimes over-the-counter running shoe inserts can help reduce strain along the plantar fascia. However, “…if improvement of symptoms is not noted within the first few days…you can assume that the pre-determined shape of that insert does not correspond well to your particular foot type.” See a podiatrist for custom inserts.
Like most sports injuries, plantar fasciitis treatment calls for rest. A week of rest is recommended by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, as are heel stretches, icing, running shoe inserts and taking ibuprofen or acetaminophen for pain. WebMD suggests calf and towel stretches several times a day, especially first thing in the morning. If the pain persists, see a doctor. You may need custom orthotics, steroid shots or a boot cast.