Common Running Injuries and How to Prevent Them

 |  Running  | 

In an ideal world, every mile a runner runs would be pain-free and injury-free. Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect runner’s world. In reality, runners frequently deal with a sore foot, tight hamstrings or the occasional knee that is telling you to sit down and take a break.

From full-blown injuries to mild aches and pains that come and go from day to day, injuries are very much part of a runner’s world. Fortunately many of the aches and pains that come along with being a runner can be dealt with before they become too serious. Read more for the common running injuries and learn how to prevent them.

Common Running Injuries

Here’s a list of the most common injuries you may experience as a runner and how you can prevent these injuries from even happening in the first place.

1. Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome
Patellofemoral pain syndrome is just a fancy, medical jargon term for runner’s knee, which you have probably heard of if not experienced as some point in your running life. Runner’s knee occurs when you experience pain and tenderness around or behind your patella (also known as your kneecap.

Runner’s knee is often the result of running on pavement or running downhill. To help reduce your pain, opt for a softer running surface (such as a track at a local high school or college) and aim to run on flat surfaces. If you are experiencing pain around your kneecap, medical professionals suggest bracing your knee (or taping it), reducing your mileage and the use of anti-inflammatory medications.

2. Shin Splints
At one point in time or another, nearly all runners will experience shin splints. Shin splints are a common overuse injury that occurs when the tendons and muscles covering your shinbone become inflamed and irritated.

Preventing shin splints can be a challenge. Shock absorbing insoles for your shoes can help reduce the amount of shock your shins absorb while running. Also, it is important to invest in a good pair of sneakers that are right for your feet. Another suggestion is to avoid running on hard surfaces and opt for softer, more shin-friendly surfaces. If you already have shin splints, icing for your shin for 20 minutes, three times per day and keeping them elevated at night can help to reduce pain and swelling.

3. Stress Fractures
Stress fractures are a rather common running injury that can mean some serious time on the sideline. Stress fractures are considered to be overuse injuries that result in tiny cracks in your bones. These tiny cracks are caused by repetitive pounding on your lower body, which causes more stress than your body can handle. Stress fractures commonly occur in the metatarsal bones as well as in the lower leg. The pain of a stress fracture is made worse with physical activity. Pain associated with this injury may subside if not vanish completely while at rest.

Stress fractures are nothing to mess around with. If you suspect you may have a stress fracture it’s time to see your doctor. Stress fractures can result in a rest period of 6-8 weeks, time on crutches and possibly time in a walking boot if your stress fracture is located in your foot. It’s rare, but in some cases stress fractures can actually require surgery.

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To avoid the pain and other not-so-fun events that come along with a stress fracture, consider engaging in cross-training. Instead of just focusing on running, mix in some low impact exercise (cycling or swimming for example) to give your body a break. Additionally, make sure to wear proper running shoes and get plenty of calcium for strong, healthy bones.

4. IT Band Syndrome
Iliotibial band syndrome is a common overuse injury that can make it especially difficult for distance runners to train. IT band syndrome causes pain on the outside of the knee as the result of inflammation to the iliotibial band (or IT band). Your IT band is a thick tendon that runs from your pelvis all the way down to your knee. IT band syndrome can also cause pain that runs from your hip all the way down to the bottom of your knee. IT band syndrome is often the result of increasing your mileage, running down hill and the result of weak hip muscles.

To prevent sidelining yourself for an extended period of time, be sure to strengthen your hip muscles. If you are unsure where to start with this, your physician may be able to provide you with a script for physical therapy to get you going in the right direction. Also, use of a foam roller can help reduce pain and decrease inflammation of your IT band.

5. Plantar Fasciitis
Plantar fasciitis is a condition of the foot that causes pain, inflammation, irritation or tearing of the plantar fascia. Your plantar fascia is the tissue located in the bottom of your foot. As a runner, the excessive beating your feet take from running long distances and running on hard surfaces can lead to plantar fasciitis. Additionally, ill-fitted footwear can cause this problem.


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To prevent plantar fasciitis, wear shoes that fit well and are meant for your feet. You should also gradually increase your mileage and try to run on softer surfaces when possible. If you already have symptoms of plantar fasciitis, wearing shoes with extra cushioning can help to ease the pain. Stretching can also be beneficial. Rolling a tennis ball over the heel and bottom of the foot can also help. If the pain of plantar fasciitis persists, your doctor may recommend custom made orthotics, a night splint or cortisone injections to help alleviate your symptoms.

5 Quick Tips for Preventing Running Injuries

1. Remember the 10 percent rule. Do not increase your mileage more than 10 percent per week.
2. Always warm up and cool down.
3. Replace your running shoes every 300-500 miles.
4. Avoid running on uneven surfaces. This can increase your risk of developing an injury.
5. Engage in strength training. A strong body can better endure all the stress that running places on it.

The most important thing to remember when it comes to running and injuries is to listen to your body. Remember that rest days are just as important as training days and you shouldn’t just push through the pain. There is no substitute for following the recommendations of your doctor or physical therapist if you suspect a running-related injury.