Injuries are a common with running, especially when you are just getting started. Most running injuries are due to overuse and are the result of increasing distance or speed too quickly, or muscle imbalance, improper footwear, poor bio mechanics or other training errors. Rachel, a physical therapist in our Pine Lake clinic and avid runner, shares some advice on preventing and treating running-related injuries.
Here are 7 common injuries from running.
1. Runner’s knee: also known as patellofemoral pain syndrome, this is pain behind or surrounding the knee cap that increases during or following activity, with sitting with the knee bent for long periods of time, or walking down stairs or downhill. Pain is caused by repetitive motion such as running, muscle imbalances, weak hips, poor foot wear, poor gait mechanics, or running on hard or uneven surfaces.
2. Plantar fasciitis: This is inflammation when the fascia, a thick fibrous band on the bottom of the foot, pulls at its attachment at the heel, causing inflammation and pain. Plantar fasciitis can be linked to repetitive pounding from running, poor footwear, tight calves, or tight or weak foot muscles. Pain in the morning or upon standing is common, and may start as a dull ache or bruise feeling but progress to a sharp pain in the bottom of the heel and the arch of the foot.
3. Shin splints: Shin splints occur when the muscles along the shin become inflamed resulting in pain along the inside of the shin, intensifying if not treated and can lead to stress fractures. Shin splints may be caused by a sudden change in training volume and intensity, muscle weakness, poor footwear, tight muscles in the surrounding area which can increase stress along the shin, or having high foot arches or flat feet.
4. IT band syndrome: The iliotibial (IT) band is a fibrous band that runs from the hip to the knee along the outside of the thigh. When irritated the band may feel tight or you may feel a snapping sensation on the outside of the knee. IT band syndrome is usually caused by overuse, improper increases in training, weak hips or core, or bio mechanics.
5. Achilles tendonitis: Achilles tendonitis is inflammation in the Achilles tendon. Poor blood flow to this area can lead to a slow healing time after injury. Pain, ranging from an ache to sharp pain, as well as swelling is in the back of the heel is common, and this injury is caused by overuse, tight and weak calves, or poor foot wear, or training errors such as increasing running volume, intensity, or frequency too quickly.
6. Patellar tendonitis: also known as jumper’s knee, this overuse injury causes inflammation of the patellar tendon which runs from the knee cap to the shin. Pain may begin during or after activity and ranges from achy to sharp. Patellar tendonitis may be caused by weak hips, quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes, over pronation, muscle tightness or poor bio mechanics.
7. Stress fractures: Stress fractures can be caused by repeated stress such as the shin (tibia) or foot (metatarsals) due to the repeated pounding and shock absorption from running. The most common causes of stress fractures are a sudden change in training, poor bio mechanics, improper footwear, and muscle weakness or tightness. Pain is usually increases with activity and decreases at rest. An x-rays or other diagnostic image is required to confirm the diagnosis of a stress fracture.
We have some suggestions for preventing these, and other running-related injuries:
1. Properly warm up and cool down.
2. Stretch daily and hold each stretch for 30 seconds without bouncing in order to improve flexibility.
3. Incorporate some strength training of the entire body (upper body, lower body, and core) 2-3 times a week.
4. Hydrate and eat a balanced diet.
5. Include rest days to allow your body to recover.
6. Replace your shoes every 300-500 miles.
7. Follow the 10 % rule with training. Avoid increasing mileage more than 10% from the previous week to help decrease risk of injury.
Injuries can occur despite these precautions. You may benefit from physical therapy if you are experiencing pain that is not improving or is worsening.
Typically, patients are seen 2-3 times a week for physical therapy in addition to a home exercise program, however, frequency and duration of treatment is dependent on the injury. Every injury is unique and your physical therapy plan will be customized to your needs.
Your treatment plan may include:
1. Stretching and strengthening of muscles with use of equipment such as foam rollers, weights, resistance bands, and stability balls.
2. Hands on techniques to decrease muscle tension, decrease swelling, improve joint mobility and range of motion, and restore normal function back to the tissues in the injured area.
3. A thorough evaluation of your running form and suggestions to improve efficiency and decrease stress on the injured site.
4. Selection of proper footwear.
5. Ice, heat, electrical stimulation and ultra sound can be used to provide symptom relief.
Minor injuries are common with running, but they usually don’t mean you need to give up the sport entirely. Give us a call – we can help get you back in the game!