As the spring and summer weather hits, more outdoor activities resume. While some prefer to take their stroll on the treadmill, it is quite the same as a nice run outdoors with some fresh air and a change of scenery. Those who run are no strangers to the soreness in the feet and legs that comes with running; but what about the potential injuries? In this blog we’re breaking down the most common injuries seen in runners and some of the way you can help prevent them or help heal from them.
Common Running Injuries
It should come as no surprise that pain associated with your shin bone generally comes from Shin Splints. People who are new to running or those who ramp up their usual run to something longer/faster too quickly are prone to Shin Splints. While the condition can be painful (usually dull at first, then progressive with continued use) it usually goes away without any intervention.
The appropriately named Runners Knee is a catch-all term for pain at or around the kneecap. Like most running injuries, this is caused by overuse and regular wear-and-tear. This pain can be felt in one or both knees and tends to progress over time with additional exercise. As long as there is no other condition associated with the knee pain, Runner’s Knee does not require any surgery. Your ortho/sports specialist may recommend physical therapy for treatment and education.
This common condition is caused by stress on the layer of tissue at the bottom of the foot. This pain is typically felt upon initial use, like when you stand up from sitting for a long period of time, when you wake in the morning or at the beginning of your run. The pain tends to reduce through your run/walk, but then may return after you begin resting.
Tendinitis is normally cause by overuse and repetitive movements, resulting in pain and inflammation in the affected area. In runners, tendinitis can be found in the Achilles Tendon (the back of the ankle to the lower calf) or in the Patella (front of the knee). If the injury progresses and the tendon tears, surgery may be necessary to repair it, otherwise the usual remedies will do just fine. Your therapist or surgeon may also recommend an orthotic device to aid in recovery.
Repeated stress and impact on the foot or lower leg can lead to thin cracks in the bone, better known as a Stress Fracture. Unsupportive shoes, overuse and training too often are some of the common causes of Stress Fractures in runners. Unlike other conditions, this injury involves a break in the bone, allowing the pain to be felt while active AND at rest. Surgery is not required to treat it, but staying off your feet for several weeks is the best way to heal and prevent the fracture from worsening.
As long as surgical intervention is not necessary, recovery for these types of injuries is pretty much the same. For these and most other mild running related injuries, you should:
- Ice the affected area.
- Take an over the counter anti-inflammatory if you experience soreness and swelling.
- REST! Take a break from activity until you stop experiencing regular pain.
- Purchase new shoes. You could be wearing shoes that too worn down or do not provide the proper support for your activity.
- Stretch before and after your workout on warm muscles.
- When you do resume activity, take it slow. Ease back into your runs by going slower and for shorter distances. As you get used to the lower pace, you can begin to ramp up over several days/weeks until you are back up to speed.
Stretches for Runners
Prevention is always the best tool to avoid injury. Performing these stretches on a warm body prior to running can help reduce the risk of obtaining these or any other kind of running related injury:
- Standing freely or while placing your hands against a wall for balance, stand with your feet flat, facing forward, shoulder width apart. Slowly, raise up to the balls of your feet into a calf raise. Hold for 10 seconds, then slowly lower back down. Repeat 3-5 times.
- Standing freely or while placing your hands against a wall for balance, place the ball of your foot against a wall or curb with your heel planted on the ground. Lean forward until you feel a slight stretch in your calf. A slight bend in the knee is ok. Hold for 20 seconds and then release the pressure. Repeat two times and then switch legs. You can continue to lean more forward to add pressure but be sure to watch that you do not move too far or too fast.
- Standing freely or placing one hand against a wall for balance, stand with your feet flat, facing forward, shoulder width apart. Slowly bend one knee and grab your foot with the hand on the same side. Tuck in your hips and gently pull your foot, trying to touch your calf to your quad while your knee points to the ground. Hold for 20 seconds then slowly release. Repeat two times and then switch sides.
- Lay flat on the ground on your back with your feet out straight. Slowly bring one knee up to your chest, keeping your head and back touching the floor. Grab your leg just below the knee and gently pull towards your chest. Hold for 20 seconds and then slowly release. Repeat two times and then switch legs.
- Begin in a seated position on the ground with one leg bent so your foot touches the opposite thigh and the other leg straight out. Bending at the waist, reach your arms out towards your extended leg, reaching as far down the leg towards the toes as possible. Hold for 20 seconds, and then relax. Repeat two times and then switch legs.
- While standing, cross your legs with your feet remaining close together. Bend at the waist and reach down towards the floor, stretching as far down as possible. Hold for 20 seconds, and then relax. Repeat two times and then cross your legs the opposite way and repeat.