Whether you are a competitive or casual runner, the motivation remains the same: to beat your personal best. That means you have to push harder; put in more mileage or increase running frequency.
It also means you are pushing yourself closer to the brink of injury.
A 2007 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine revealed that the injury incidence rate in running went as high as 92.4%. More recent studies report that 78% of runners get injured every year.
9 Common Injuries In Running
The leading cause of injury is overuse. Your body takes a pounding from running. Every footstrike generates impact forces equivalent to 1.5 to 3 times your bodyweight.
Although these impact forces are distributed throughout your body, your lower extremities bear the brunt of the damage.
The 9 most common injuries in running occur in your feet, shins, knees, thigh muscles, hamstrings, and calves.
1. Runner’s Knee
Runner’s knee could be caused by a strength imbalance between the muscles located in the front part of your leg – the thigh or quadriceps muscles – and the muscles in the back of your leg – the hamstrings, glutes, and calves.
Another possible cause of Runner’s Knee is an abnormality in the alignment of the bones in your leg which places more pressure on the knee cap. With the increased pressure, the cartilage that supports the knee cap gets worn out faster.
You may have Runner’s Knee if you experience pain while doing the following activities:• Walking up or down the stairs• Squatting• Getting up off a chair• Sitting in a cross-legged position
Treatment for Runner’s Knee may include the following protocols:• Rest• Anti-inflammatory medications• Supervised stretching and muscle-strengthening programs
2. Plantar Fasciitis
Plantar fasciitis is a painful condition that can make walking unbearable for runners. The plantar fascia is a thick band of tissue that is found at the bottom of your foot and extends from your heel to the toes.
Plantar fasciitis is a common malady for runners with high foot arches. It can also be caused by sudden increases in running mileage, wearing ill-fitting shoes, and running without performing proper warm-up and stretching routines.
You may have plantar fasciitis if you are experiencing the following symptoms:• Sharp, stabbing pain in the heel or along the arch of your foot.• “Morning Hobble” or pain the first time you plant your foot on the floor upon waking up.
Treatment for plantar fasciitis may include the following protocols:• Rest• Icing the afflicted area• Light massage; rolling your foot on a frozen bottle• Anti-inflammatory injections• Cortisone injections• Night splints
Blisters are sacks that contain fluid. Running with blisters on your feet is a very painful experience. Many runners have pulled out in the middle of a race because they can no longer manage the discomfort.
During a run, your foot builds up excessive moisture that softens the skin. While you are running, the skin of your foot routinely rubs against the sock. With the skin of your foot already softened by sweat, it becomes more susceptible to developing blisters.
Treatment of blisters may include the following protocols:• Cover the blister with a bandage• Switch to double-layer socks• Apply petroleum jelly to the blister• Drain the blister with a sterilized needle
4. Stress Fracture
A stress fracture is a small crack in the bone. It happens when a runner trains too hard and too often. He/she may have increased mileage too soon before the body can adapt to the added volume of work.
Dietary factors such as lack of dairy, calcium, vitamin D, and poor eating habits have been traced to people who are more susceptible to this type of injury. Stress fractures usually occur in the metatarsal bones of the feet and the tibia or shin bone.
Do you have a stress fracture? Keep in these following symptoms:• A sensation that has been described as a “knife jabbing through your bone”• Difficulty in walking• The inability of the leg to bear weight
Treatment for a stress fracture may include the following protocols:• Rest• Placing the fractured area in a cast for up to 12 weeks or until the bone heals• Using crutches to move around while the fractured area is in a cast
5. Ankle Sprain
Your ankle is supported by a strong set of bands called ligaments. These ligaments hold the bones of your ankle together but are stretchable enough to allow movement.
An ankle sprain occurs whenever your foot rolls inward or twists violently that it results in the overstretching of the ligaments. In many cases, the ligaments are stretched to a point that they end up tearing.
How do you know that you have an ankle sprain?• Ankle is swollen• Pain to the touch• Tenderness around the area of swelling• Signs of bruising• Inability to put weight on the foot• Lack of ankle mobility or stiffness
Treatment for an ankle sprain may include the following protocols:• Rest• Icing the swollen area• Applying warm compress on the swollen area• Immobilizing the sprained ankle in a light compress• Placing the injured foot in an elevated position
6. Achilles Tendinopathy
Also called tendonitis, this condition is the result of an inflammation of your Achilles tendon which attaches your calf to the back of the heel. The primary cause of tendonitis is overuse.
When you run often and add mileage to your distances, the repetitive pounding on your feet increases the amount of stress on the tendon. Over time, the tendon gets worn out and weakened.
A clear sign of Achilles tendonitis is experiencing pain and stiffness in the tendon in the morning when the muscles in your foot slowly expand due to activity.
Treatment of Achilles tendonitis may include the following protocols:• Rest• Applying ice to the tendon• Following a supervised stretching routine
7. Pulled Muscle
A pulled muscle is often referred to as a muscle strain. In this condition, the fibersof the muscle and its supporting tendons get damaged due to the application of enormous pressure on the muscle.
As more pressure is applied to the muscle, the fibers get stretched to a point where the muscle starts to tear. You know you have a pulled muscle when you feel a popping sensation in the area.
When a muscle tears, the blood vessels around it get damaged and you will see bruising develop on your skin. A pulled muscle is quite painful because the nerve endings in the area of the tear are severely irritated.
Runners commonly experience pulled muscle in their hamstrings, groin, calf, and quadriceps.
Treatment for pulled muscle may include the following protocols:• Rest• Icing the pulled muscle• Applying a warm compress to the injured area• Placing the strained muscle in a light compress• Placing the injured body part in an elevated position
8. Shin Splint
If you’re worried that you have a stress fracture on your tibia, you should have an x-ray done right away. It might only be a shin splint.
A shin splint is often mistaken for a stress fracture on the tibia because it is also very painful. A good way to tell a shin splint from a stress fracture is that with a shin splint, the pain is distributed throughout the bone while a fracture is more localized.
Shin splints commonly occur when you change your running program. You may decide to add more miles or increase the frequency of training. Runners with flat feet are also more susceptible to developing shin splints.
Treatment for shin splints may include the following protocols:• Rest• Starting out lightly or slowly after an extended break from running• Application of light stretching exercises
9. IT Band Syndrome
The IT or Iliotibial band is composed of fibrous tissue. The IT band connects the muscles of your glutes to the upper part of the tibia or shin. As the ligaments, it starts to rub against the knee bone.
If you feel pain outside the knee, that is a clear sign of having IT Band Syndrome. Having a strength imbalance in the muscles of your glutes can lead to IT band issues.
Women are highly susceptible to IT Band Syndrome because their wider hips tend to stress the IT band more compared to men.
Treatment of IT Band Syndrome may include the following protocols:• Rest• Light stretching • Foam rolling
Injury is part of any physical activity. In your quest to attain your goals, you will have to break barriers, overcome challenges, and set new standards. You cannot improve if you do the same things over and over again. As you progress, you increase the probability of getting injured.
The best way to prevent injury is to be smart about your training program:• Listen to your body. If you see and feel the signs of injury, back off and take an extra rest day.• Warm-up properly. Performing a 15-minute warm-up routine consisting of foam rolling, dynamic stretching, mobility drills, and core stability exercises will go a long way in reducing the risk of injury.• Warm-down correctly. Static stretches are best done after exercise when the muscles have become very tight. Static stretches help relax the muscles and encourage blood circulation.• Stay hydrated. Dehydration causes the muscles to tighten up and contract faster. • Include strength training in your program. Resistance-based training helps strengthen muscles, tendons, bones, and ligaments. • Eat a healthy diet. Include foods that are rich in calcium and vitamin D.
Lastly, if symptoms persist or the condition worsens, visit your doctor right away. The sooner you are treated, the faster you can get back on your feet again.
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