There is no denying that running is a great form of exercise that can improve cardio efficiency, increase your fitness levels, and help you lose weight. But, it is also a demanding activity that can put a lot of stress and strain on the body too. Overtraining, running with improper form, or pushing yourself too hard can often result in an injury that could leave you on the sidelines for weeks or even months. If you are a frequent runner, here are the injuries that you need to be aware of, and hopefully avoid.
Pulled muscles typically occur when a muscle is stretched too far, causing the tendons and fibers to tear. This can happen when a runner fails to warm up properly or hasn’t stretched fully, with most pulls occurring in the quads, calves, and hamstrings. Reducing the intensity of the training can generally provide the muscle with the time it needs to heal, although a more severe pull may require taking time off from your workout routine. Icing the injured muscle can be of benefit as well, helping to reduce inflammation 6 [k88and speed recovery.
Shin splints are one of the most common, and dreaded, injuries amongst runners. They’re caused by the muscles and tendons along the shinbone becoming inflamed or sometimes experiencing tiny tears. This can lead to sharp, stabbing pains that become excruciating while running, although it may not be noticeable at all at other times. Reduced mileage and more rest are the best way to recover, with a gradual return to your normal distances over time. Shin splints are often caused by ramping up your workouts too quickly, although poor footwear can also be part of the problem. If you’re experiencing this condition, it could be time to go shoe shopping.
Another all-too-common injury for runners is plantar fasciitis, which is again an issue that is often the result of overtraining or worn out footwear. As with shin splints, this leads to inflamed tendons, although this time they are found running heel to toe along the bottom of the foot. Plantar fasciitis typically manifests itself as an ongoing, nagging pain that can range from simply annoying, all the way up to debilitating. Stretching the calves and foot can help relieve the problem, but to completely recover runners will require rest and reduced activity levels.
The Achilles tendon runs down the lower portion of the leg, connecting the calf muscles to the back of the heel. Sometimes this tendon can become very tight, which leads to irritation and soreness. Often this issue is a result of increased distance, or the inclusion of intense hill training or speed drills to your workout. Weak or overly tight calf muscles can be a contributing factor as well. Icing the sore area several times a day can help alleviate inflammation, and additional rest will speed the recovery process. Calf stretches can also be beneficial to preventing future flare-ups.
If you routinely feel pain in your knee following a long run, while going up and down stairs, or sitting for a prolonged period of time, there is a chance that you may have patellofemoral pain syndrome, more commonly referred to as “runner’s knee.” This pain is caused by irritation of the cartilage around the knee, which is a usually brought on by the overpronation of the foot while running. It can also be the result of the repetitive stress that comes with overtraining, as well as weak hips or quads muscles too. Wearing a knee brace and taking anti-inflammatories can help alleviate the issue, but as always a reduction of mileage and increased rest is the best way to recovery quickly.
The repetitive nature of running can do more than just cause tendons and muscles to become inflamed. In fact, it can actually create tiny cracks in the bone called stress fractures. Typically found on the shins and feet, stress fractures can be very painful indeed. Generally the only way for them to heal completely is to stop running altogether and give them the proper rest and recuperation time that they need. More serious cases of stress fractures could require rehab or even some time on crutches as well.
This injury occurs when a runner accidentally rolls his or her foot, stretching or tearing the ligaments in the ankle in the process. It can happen while doing something as simple a running on uneven terrain, hopping over a curb, or by slipping on a piece of debris in the road. Depending on the severity of the sprain, it can take weeks or even months to recover fully, during which time running is not advised at all. Severely injured ankles should be examined by a doctor to ensure more extensive damage didn’t occur during the initial trauma. An ankle brace may be required to help ease back into a running routine, as working out too quickly could cause the ankle to turn again, re-aggravating the prior injury.
Iliotibial Band Syndrome
More commonly referred to as IT Band syndrome, this injury typically occurs as a result of increasing your mileage too quickly, running down hill too much, or having weak hip muscles. The iliotibial band is a tendon that runs from your hip to your knee, and when it becomes inflamed it can rub against the femur, causing severe pain. Applying heat and stretching well before running can help ease this problem, and applying ice post workout will reduce inflammation too. As always, easing back on the mileage and intensity of your workouts can be crucial as well.
Each of these injuries is quite common amongst runners, particularly those who cover longer distances with any kind of regularity. Most can be avoided by ramping up mileage in a slow and steady fashion, and giving your body time to adjust to the demands that are being placed on it. But should you suffer any one of these problems, be sure to give yourself time to rest and recover. Before you know it, you’ll be back on the road and running stronger than ever.