Running is undoubtedly one of the most popular forms of exercise. It can be easily adapted to suit ability and schedule and it doesn’t require expensive equipment or memberships. However, it is important to be mindful of the injuries that can occur and put you off your stride – we have listed the 3 most common injuries, along with their causes, treatments and how to prevent them.
Known to the experts as Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome, runner’s knee is an extremely common injury (hence the name).
The impact and stress from running causes the area where the kneecap rests on the thighbone to become irritated. The pain that results can present itself in a number of ways in either one or both knees; some experience it as a sudden sharp pain, whilst others complain of a dull and chronic ache that lingers. You may even find that whilst running, you can’t feel the pain at all, but will begin again once you’ve finished.
There are number of reasons that Runners Knee can occur; the biomechanics in the knee may not be in sync with each other, cartilage may be worn and therefore not absorbing the shock or foot problems such as high arches or being flatfooted can contribute to the injury.
In order to prevent yourself suffering from Runners Knee, opt for running on a softer surface and reducing mileage and be wary of how much running on incline you are doing. Foot wear is so underrated when it comes to running and it’s critical that you visit a proper running shop so that every aspect of your gait can be analysed and the suitable shoe found.
Support your running ability by investing time in exercises with weights or resistance that will strengthen your thighs and calves, and stretches that work your hamstrings.
Ben Barker, managing Director at Total Health Clinics offers his recommendations, “To prevent further damage you should stop running and allow your body to recover by taking rest days. Reducing the distance you run or introducing swimming into your workout can also help to reduce the pain”
Our 2 calf muscles – the gastrocnemius and the soleus are connected by a large tendon to the back of the heel bone. This tendon can become tight and inflamed from being put under too much stress for a number of reasons.
If calf muscles are tight or have not been properly stretched, the weight and impact of running can be transferred onto the tendon. Suddenly increasing mileage dramatically in distance or inclination can stress the tendon, and incorrect running shoes can causes the issue.
Achilles tendonitis is fairly easy to diagnose by the following characteristics; pain at any point along the back of the tendon (often close to the heel), you may also experience reduced flexibility in the ankle or even a cracking sound when moving the ankle. This sounds happens when scar tissues rubs against the tendon – you may also feel lumpy nodules of scar tissue on the tendon itself.
It is important to take a break from running once pain in the area is felt. Reduce inflammation by using ice and ibuprofen several times a day until pain subsides – if you still experience pain after a couple of weeks, it’s time to seek professional help. If the pain does subside, it’s important to build up exercises before starting running straight away; stretching the calf muscles by doing toe raises and low impact exercise such as swimming or cycling. Jumping jacks and skipping can be used as pre cursor exercise before you start running again.
In order to prevent Achilles tendonitis reoccurring, be mindful of exercises that will serve to strengthen your calf and shin muscles as well as stretching them.
Although shin splints are common among a large number of athletes, including dancers and tennis players it’s actually runners that are at the highest risk for developing shin splints.
The injury often falls into one of two categories; anterior shin splints where the pain is felt on the front, outside area of the shin or medial shin splints where they are felt on the inside if of the shin, it’s the medial shin splints that are the most common.
Shin splints can occur if you are new to running and have begun by running long distances rather than building distance, running on hard surfaces or running in shoes that fit poorly or aren’t cushioned the impact correctly. Another common problem is if you are flat footed because the pressure on the lower legs increases – again, visiting a running shop where your gait can be analysed is vital in preventing this injury.
There is a number of theories about what the injury is exactly and they range from, tiny tears in the shin muscle, inflammation of these muscles, muscle that has pulled off of the bone, inflammation of the thin periosteum tissue that is found wrapped around the shin bone (tibia) – or a combination of all of these. While the experts don’t agree on what the injury is, they do agree on how it should be treated.
When pain is felt, running should be stopped or dramatically increased, and inflammation should be reduced using the previous method. The injury should be rested, and lower impact used to replace running, such as swimming, cycling or using a cross training machine. When running is taken up again, take the time to build your mileage slowly, avoiding particularly hard surfaces and increasing by no more than 10% each week, you could use kinesiology tape to support the shin. It is vital that your footwear is appropriate so investing in new running shoes should be carefully considered too.
It has been reported that strengthening your Achilles and calve muscles can aid recovery and preventing the injury from reoccurring.