People who love to run can never get enough of it. The only problem? Runners are constantly injured, which means less time doing what they love. In fact, a comprehensive study of sports injuries in the United States showed that runners were ranked second among sports participants with the most injuries — ahead of soccer, football and ice hockey! Whether you’re a serious runner or have recently taken it up, familiarize yourself with these common running injuries so that you can properly prevent and treat them.
1. Shin Splints
Feeling an achy pain in your shins as you run is a possible sign of shin splints, an injury that occurs when the muscles surrounding your shin bone develop small tears. Shin splints often happen to new runners or runners who have significantly increased the intensity and volume of their workouts, so the best long-term rehab plan is to come up with a gradual training program. Take the stress off your legs by resting; easing into a running routine by gradually increasing pace, frequency and mileage; jogging on soft surfaces; and supporting shins with tape and ankle braces.
2. Achilles Tendonitis
When the area at the back of the lower leg becomes irritated, it’s called achilles tendonitis, or swelling of the tendon that connects two primary calf muscles. If caught early on, a few days rest, icing the affected area, and doing heel drops to strengthen the calves may be sufficient. If the problem persists, however, it’s important to incorporate into your training routine lower-leg strengthening exercises like calf raises, single-leg squats and box jumps. You should also take care to avoid wearing footwear that aggravate the achilles tendon, such as flip-flops and high heels, and be sure to run in structured, stable shoes.
3. Runner’s Knee
Pain at the bottom of the kneecap is commonly known as runner’s knee because it so frequently plagues joggers. Inflammation of the kneecap cartilage can have mild to severe affects on runners, and some may find it possible to run through the pain while also rehabbing. If you do want to exercise while suffering from runner’s knee, try running uphill, which can temporarily alleviate pain, and avoid running downhill, which can aggravate the injury. In addition, run on softer surfaces and couple workouts with pain relievers and icing. If pain persists, a long-term rehab plan might include learning better form, such as fixing your stride and foot strike, and building up weak hips, glutes and quads through a strength-training regimen.
4. Plantar Fasciitis
If you feel pain in your heel — ranging anywhere from a twinge to a dull ache — you could have plantar fasciitis, or inflammation of the bottom of the foot. While the pain can be sporadic and you may feel fine to run some days, it is crucial to treat the injury before it becomes unbearable. If treated properly, recovery time is typically between three to six months, but can be longer. For those suffering from plantar fasciitis, it’s best to avoid barefeet, swap your current footwear for more supportive running shoes, and do lots of calf and foot stretches. Some of the best stretches include rolling your foot over a frozen water bottle or golf ball, gently pulling back on your toes, or using a foam roller to relax to calf muscles.
5. Stress Fracture
The repetitive motion of pounding your foot on the pavement over and over again with each stride can lead to one of the most severe running injuries — the stress fracture. Stress fractures are minuscule cracks in the bone caused by overworking a specified area and commonly occur in the shin, feet or heels. If you have suffered a stress fracture, expect to take about two to four months off. Rehabbing a stress fracture may involve professional physical therapy and walking on crutches. During this time, you’ll want to do only low-impact exercises, like water jogging or swimming. In order to be less susceptible to stress fractures in the future, it’s essential to improve your bone density by weight training and rethinking your nutrition regimen.
If you love to run, keep in mind these prevention and treatment tips so that you can avoid common running injuries!