In an ideal world, every step of your run would be pain-free, and nothing would limit your distance or speed. Unfortunately, the majority of runners, professional and amateur, deal with some type of pain during their runs. Most experience only mild disturbances such as a tight hamstring or a slight twinge in the knee which goes away once the run is over and doesn’t persist into every succeeding workout. The majority of injuries aren’t severe enough to warrant taking time off from training. However, small issues can transform into much more serious problems if measures aren’t taken to relieve the pain or tightness. Nearly 80% of runners last year reported having some form of running-related injury. The good news is that these injuries are often preventable with some simple changes added to training. Here are five of the most common injuries that plague those hitting the pavement and a few ways to prevent and relieve the pain.
What: 40% of running injuries happen to the knee. Runner’s knee occurs when the cartilage underneath the knee becomes irritated. Over time the cartilage can be worn down and also cause aches and pains.
Prevention & Treatment: This type of injury doesn’t prevent you from stopping your training, but it does require you to take longer breaks in between runs. Instead of running every day, try every other day. Only run until the pain returns and no more. Weak hip muscles can also contribute to this type of injury. Strengthen the glutes and hamstrings to give some added protection to your legs and use a knee brace to give more stability to the knee.
What: Most runners are commonly affected by overuse injuries, and tendinitis is one of the most common. The Achilles tendon connects the two major calf muscles to the heel. Achilles Tendinitis occurs when this tendon becomes inflamed or tightens and is caused by repetitive stress on the tendon. Over 11% of all running injuries are related to the Achilles tendon but are easily preventable.
Prevention & Treatment: There are so many possible causes of this type of injury such as rapid mileage/intensity increase, tight calf muscles, and improper footwear. Treatment includes taking rest days, icing the affected area, and stretching the calf muscles. Strengthening the calf muscles can also go a long way in preventing this type of injury.
What: Shin splints are those aching or stabbing pains felt in the shins. The muscles and tendons surrounding the shin start to get irritated or slightly torn. This type of injury makes up over 15% of all running injuries.
Prevention & Treatment: Treatment involves ensuring your shoes fit well and training on softer surfaces. Avoiding uphill runs can also help prevent shin splints as uphill running puts more stress on the shins. Treatment includes rest days, stretching and a slow increase back to your original intensity once the muscles have healed.
What: If you’re a committed runner and aren’t as committed to stretching the chances are that you have suffered from this. Hamstrings are the muscles running up the back of the thighs and provide a lot of the power needed in long runs. When the muscles become overworked, they can tighten and prevent you from performing at peak capacity.
Prevention & Treatment: Stretching and strengthening the muscles are the best ways to prevent and treat muscle tightness. Incorporating a warm-up into your run will help loosen the muscle before it needs to work under stress and to also make the time to stretch the muscle after running prevents it from tightening up too much.
What: The plantar fascia muscles extend from the heel and along the bottom of the foot to the toes. Plantar Fasciitis occurs when these muscles become inflamed or have small tears. The pain is usually felt along the arch of the foot and can also be caused by tight calf muscles. Runner’s with very high or low arches are also more susceptible and standing for long periods of time without proper footwear, and increasing mileage can exacerbate the problem.
Prevention & Treatment: Running with this condition can prolong the healing period therefore by incorporating rest into your regimen you are less likely to suffer from this type of injury. Use hard cylinder or ball-shaped objects such as a lacrosse ball or frozen water bottle to firmly roll the area just as you would with a foam roller on your legs to loosen the muscles. Stretching the calf and hamstrings can also relieve pain and prevent further damage.