As you clock up the miles in preparation for any running race, it’s inevitable that the constant pounding of the pavement will take it’s toll on your body. We all know the importance of warming up before you head out and having a good stretch when you finish, however these good practices aren’t always enough to prevent injuries from rearing their ugly heads. Some aches and pains are just part and parcel of being a runner, whilst others can be more serious and it’s therefore important to know when to take a break and seek help.
Here’s our list of the 5 most common running injuries and some suggestions on how to treat them, however we would like to highlight that we’re not medical professionals and it’s always worth going to see a specialist, such as Parkview Clinic in Reigate, if you have any persistent pain or discomfort.
Research shows that 40% of reported running injuries are related to the knee which makes sense when you think it’s one of the joints which takes the most strain.
Symptoms – constant pain below the kneecap.
Problem – the cartilage under the kneecap has become irritated and the tissue around the knee is unable to repair itself post run.
Cause – this can occur due to a variety of reasons including overpronation, weak quads, glutes and hips or even ‘biomechanical’ flaws that have formed over a number of years including pelvic alignment.
Treatment – don’t run through the pain as it will only result in a long term injury. Take a week off and regularly ice the knee which might help you get back on track. Stretch and strengthen exercises, especially your quadriceps muscles. If it’s sore all the time, even when you’re not running then you definitely need to take a break and see a physio. They will also be able to pinpoint the cause of pain (biomechanical, muscle weakness, pronation etc.) and help treat the root of the problem.
Return to training – once your injury is on the mend, heat rather than ice can help repair to repair the damage. Ease gently back into your running slowly and work on strengthening up those weaker muscles. Mix up your workouts with some cross training on a bike or in the pool.
Symptoms – painful calves when running or walking, swelling and pain close to the heel which when acute, can be severe and crippling.
Problem – Anything with ‘itis’ means inflammation, with Achilles Tendonitis being an inflammation of the achilles tendon which joins the two calf muscles to the heel bone.
Cause – the root of this can come from increasing your distances/speed too quickly or having tight calf muscles. Flip flops, high heels (obviously not when running) and unsupportive shoes can aggravate the issue too.
Treatment – any severe pain above the heel or swelling, you should stop immediately. If it’s a small strain then a few days of rest, regular icing and stretching might relieve the symptoms, anything more serious, go and see a physio. Inserts into your shoes may help provide more support and some runners find that compression socks help.
Return to training – add to your training calf raises, single leg squats and box jumps to help strengthen your lower legs. Take it easy when you start running again with shorter distances, slower speeds and lots of stretching.
Feel that this should have a catchier name!
Symptoms – ranges from a dull ache to extreme pain under your heel.
Problem – a small tear or inflammation in the tendons that run along the bottom of your foot.
Cause – runners who are prone to this can have high or low arches, pronation issues, tight hip flexors, a history of back pain or may just have increased their mileage too quickly.
Treatment – this is one that you shouldn’t keep running through as it will only prolong the injury. Rolling your foot a few times a day over a frozen bottle or tennis ball can help stretch the tendons. If it’s painful all the time, go and see a physio or sports injury specialist. Recovery can be slow, anything from 3-6 months. Worst case scenario you’ll have to take a full break from running and head to the pool instead. Avoid flip flops for the foreseeable future…
Return to training – ensure you have lots of stretching and strengthening of the muscles around your foot and calves incorporated into your training. Work on your core strength and make sure your trainers are a good fit, perhaps even with a custom orthotic.
The term actually encapsulates numerous shin issues and is again very common amongst new runners.
Symptoms – painful and tender shins when running, sometimes disappears a few miles in for less severe cases, growing to searing pain in the more severe cases. Pain can appear on either the front side of the leg below the knee or the inside. If it’s very painful to touch a specific spot on your shin, you should see a doctor in case it’s a fracture.
Problem – the muscles in your shin have become inflamed
Cause – usually this comes down to a case of too much, too soon! New runners in particular are at risk as their lower legs muscles struggle to adjust to the increase of use, mileage and addition of hills or speed training. Other causes include the wrong trainers, running on hard surfaces and tight muscles.
Treatment – depending on the severity you may need to avoid running for a couple of weeks and see a physio. For less serious cases, rest, elevate your legs as much as possible, ice (bag of frozen peas) the fronts of your legs, compression bandages and use a foam roller.
Return to training – build up very slowly and adopt the 10% rule – add no more than 10% distance each week. Try running on softer surfaces such as trails to ease the pressure on your lower legs and make sure your trainers aren’t worn out. As always, keep stretching!
The iliotibial (IT) band is a tendon that runs from your knee to your hip.
Symptoms – usually manifests itself as a stabbing pain on the outside of your knee when you run, in particular when you’re running downhill.
Problem – your IT band has become inflamed.
Cause – there can be various culprits at play with this injury, including overpronation, hill running, week hip abductors and glutes. The band becomes more and more inflamed until running becomes extremely painful.
Treatment – if you notice the pain in your knee but it’s not extreme, take some rest days and/or reduce your miles. Use a foam roller on the affected spot, massage the quads and hamstring muscles, along with regular icing. If it’s very painful then it’s worth going to see a physio who can help loosen the area up and provide you with a plan to help prevent this from happening again.
Return to training – keep using the foam rollers, before and after running. Work on strengthening your hip abductors, quads, hamstrings and glutes. Keep the hilly mileage down until you are fighting fit..
With most of these injuries there is often a common theme – increasing mileage too quickly, not enough stretching, worn out shoes or lack of strength training incorporated into your weekly plans. I have been guilty of many of these and it resulted in both ITB syndrome and shin splints when training for my first marathon. Fortunately I had a good physio who I saw regularly and helped both alleviate the symptoms and provide advice on how to avoid future recurrences.
If you’re training for a race it can be incredibly frustrating to have to take time out with an injury, however it’s absolutely worth doing it to prevent a niggling pain from becoming a debilitating one. If you need to stop running for a few days, you can still head to the pool or incorporate some elliptical training to maintain your fitness levels whilst you recover.
Run Reigate’s partner, Parkview Clinic offer services in physiotherapy, osteopathy and sports injury and are well worth a visit if you are having any aches and pains. They are currently offering 10% off for all new consultations.
Parkview Clinic, 22 Dovers Green Rd, Reigate, Surrey, RH2 8BS – 01737 247 555 www.parkviewclinic.co.uk