Most runners have been sidelined by an injury at one point or another. While we can’t prevent all injuries, we can greatly reduce the risk with a proper truing program. Most running injuries can be traced back to a combination of overuse or “too much too fast”, muscular dysfunction, and biomechanical issues. A lack of cross training also increases the risk of injury.
Here we take a look at the 5 most common injuries, popular treatment options, and suggested running corrections so you can fix the problem instead of just treating the symptom.
The plantar fascia is the tissue that connects your heel bone to your toes and helps to support your arch.
- Symptom: Sharp, tight sensation on the bottom of the foot near the heel. Often worse in the morning with pain during your first few steps out of bed or with the first few strides of a run.
- Cause: Common causes include overtraining, improper footwear, flat feet, or excessive push off. Also an indication of weakened and/or tight muscles of the lower leg.
- Treatment: Avoid bare feet, roll a golf ball on the bottom of your foot, and foam roll and stretch your posterior chain including your calf muscles, hamstrings, and glutes.
- Correction: Long term focus should be placed on mobilizing your calves, landing with your feet under your hips, and strengthening the muscles of the lower body – especially your feet – to reduce the load. Also, make sure you are wearing correct running shoes for you!
The Achilles tendon is the tendon that connects the heel bone to your calf muscles and considered our shock absorbers.
- Symptom: Pain and swelling near the heel/lower leg. The Achilles tendon has limited blood flow so the healing process can take longer than anticipated, do not ignore the onset of symptoms.
- Cause: Tight calves, improper footwear by style or heel-toe drop, and excessive push off can inflame the tendon. Also common with a quick increase in volume or intensity of training.
- Treatment: A heel lift insert could help decrease the pressure on the Achilles and a regular routine of rest and ice. Foam rolling of the posterior line including the calf muscles, hamstrings, and glutes.
- Correction: Focus should be placed on strengthening and stretching the lower leg (eccentric heel drops/drills where heels must lightly touch the ground). Also be sure to follow a program with appropriate increases in mileage and intensity. If a chronic issue, many repetitions of eccentric strengthening and calf stretching will help.
Patellofemoral Pain (Runner’s Knee)-
- Symptom: Pain beneath the kneecap – often worse after periods of sitting or descending stairs.
- Cause: A result of overuse/overload or poor running mechanics including overstriding or overpronating. Biomechanical dysfunction seen with weak quadriceps and hips and tight hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, and IT band.
- Treatment: Rest and ice as needed and cross training as tolerated.
- Correction: Focus on strengthening and mobilization with strength exercises targeting the quadriceps and hips and foam rolling of the entire lower body. Check stride rate and try to adjust your stride to match up with the goal of 180 strides per minute to reduce the force impact and excessive vertical oscillation.
IT Band Syndrome-
Your iliotibial band (IB) runs along the outside of your thigh from your hip to your knee. It helps stabilize and move the knee joint.
- Symptom: Often described as a stabbing pain near the side of the knee and inflammation/tenderness along the band.
- Cause: Motions that result in repetitive inward rotation overwork the IT Band. Factors include worn out shoes, downhill running, running on angled surfaces, or weak glutes leading to poor running form.
- Treatment: Take a few days off from running and cross train. Stretch, massage, and foam roll and ice as needed. Check shoes for excessive wear and make sure to replace every 300-400 miles.
- Correction: Regular glute strengthening and foam rolling to improve form. Include different running surfaces and change directions if it is a banked surface.
- Symptom: A general term to summarize pain in the shin area of the lower leg. A result of inflammation of the muscle, tendons, and bone tissue of the tibia. Oftentimes feels worse in the morning because the soft tissue tightens overnight.
- Cause: Most common a result of “too much, too soon” with a sudden spike in volume or intensity. Improper footwear, tight muscles, and over pronation can also contribute.
- Treatment: Rest as needed and cross training as tolerated. Ice your shin area and stretch your calves/Achilles tendon.
- Correction: Purchase proper footwear (stability shoe if needed) and replace if worn out. Run on a variety of surfaces and avoid concrete when you return to running. Slowly return to running and build your mileage appropriately.
**If you have a hot spot when you press on your shin (one spot that is extremely painful), if it feels better in the morning, or if the pain increases as you continue to run, you should have it examined by a doctor. Stress fractures will oftentimes first present as shin splints and they need immediate attention.**
Always seek a doctor for medical advice. Thank you to my colleague Julie for assisting me with this information.