For many people, running is a regular part of their workout routine. It’s a popular form of exercise that millions of Americans do when getting and staying in shape. However, it’s possible to get injured while running, and many people do. From repetitive stress to torn muscles, running can leave you in pain and discomfort over time if you do not take care to prevent injuries. Let’s take a look at several of the most common forms of running injuries, treating them, and how to avoid them.
Runner’s knee, aka patellofemoral syndrome, is an injury characterized by pain in the front part of the knee or around the kneecap. Someone with weak hips or weak knee muscles can develop runner’s knee. The injury can cause knee pain that is dull or severe, and the pain tends to worsen the longer you exercise, remain seated, jumping, or performing physical activities involving the use of the knees. The knee can give a cracking or popping sound if you’ve not moved for an extended period.
Achilles tendinitis is pain and inflammation of the tendon that connects the calf muscle to your heel, which tends to occur after suddenly intensifying your workout. Symptoms of Achilles tendonitis include:
- Swelling around your Achilles tendon
- Dull pain above your heel
- Limited motion flexing foot in the direction of shin
- Tendon has a warm feeling
Untreated Achilles tendonitis could develop into a rupture of the Achilles tendon.
IT Band Syndrome
The iliotibial band syndrome, aka IT band syndrome, occurs when repeated friction of the IT band against the leg bone causes sharp pain on the outer side of your leg, typically slightly above the knee. The pain can worsen when the knee is bent. Weak hips, gluteal muscles, and abdominals can be contributing factors in the development of IT band syndrome.
Shin splints is an injury that characterizes pain in the front of the inner area of the lower legs, along the shinbone. Common symptoms of shin splints include
- Dull pain along the front or inner part of the shinbone
- Worsening pain with exercise
- Mild swelling along the shinbone
Shin splints injury can get better with rest, but the result can be stress fractures if left untreated.
Hamstring injury tends to develop when the hamstrings are tight, tired, or weak and typically has symptoms that can include:
- Dull pain in the hamstring (back of the upper leg)
- Tightness or stiffness in the hamstring
- Tender hamstring muscles
- Weakness in the hamstring
Other injuries include:
- Plantar fasciitis
- Ankle sprain
- Stress fracture
Treating Running Injuries
It’s best first to get a proper diagnosis before you try to fix the problem. Most running injuries can be treated with the RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) formula, physical therapy, taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and reducing run time and distance.
Specific treatment for particular injuries:
- Runner’s knee: Strengthen the quadriceps and hip muscles, and stretch the tight quads or calves, and also wear orthotic shoes as recommended
- Achilles tendonitis: Stretch or massage the calves
- IT band syndrome: Stretch the IT bands daily and strengthen the hip muscles
- Hamstring injuries: Strengthen the glute muscles, stretch and strengthen the hamstrings, and modify running technique
- Plantar fasciitis: Stretch and strengthen the calves
- Stress fractures: Use crutches and cast as recommended, or surgery may be necessary
- Ankle sprain: Strengthen ankle with specific exercises
You can take some easy measures to prevent or minimize the risk of running injury.
- Always spend about 10 minutes to warm up the body properly before beginning your workout. This could be a quick jog or dynamic mobility stretches.
- Gradually increase your running volume-not above 10% with each jump.
- If the injury persists, rest and wait before jumping back into your whole running routine.
- Fix running technique to minimize stress to your joints and muscles.
- Run on soft surfaces which are much easier on the joints, like grass and rubber tracks