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Common Running Injuries


By Tim Cheshire

Running injuries can strike at any time, regardless of fitness levels and whilst they can be very painful and frustrating the most important thing is resting and getting yourself back to full fitness as quick as possible. Most running injuries are as a result of overuse, where you are pushing yourself too far and your body is not ready for it, though runners are susceptible to joint injuries from either slipping or tripping.

Runner’s Knee
Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS), is the irritation of the cartilage on the underside of the patella (kneecap). About 40 percent of running injuries are knee injuries. And 13 percent of runners suffered knee pain in the past year. PFPS typically flares up during or after long runs, after extended periods of sitting, or while descending hills and stairs.

WHO’S AT RISK? Anyone with biomechanical factors that put extra load on the knee is vulnerable to PFPS, risk factors include overpronation (excessive inward foot rolling) and weak quads, hips, or glutes.

CAN YOU RUN THROUGH IT? Yes, but taking extra rest days and reducing your mileage is necessary. Run every other day and only as far as you can go without pain. Some runners find that uphill running is less painful. Uphill running has the added value of working your glutes. Strong gluteal muscles help control hip and thigh movement, preventing the knees from turning inward. Avoid running downhill, which can exacerbate pain. Bicycling may speed your recovery by strengthening the quads. Elliptical training and swimming are other knee-friendly activities.


Achilles Tendinitis
The Achilles tendon connects the two major calf muscles to the back of the heel. Under too much stress, the tendon tightens and becomes irritated (tendinitis). It makes up 11 percent of all running injuries.

Runners who dramatically increase training (especially hills and speedwork) and have tight, weak calves are vulnerable.

”If you have any pain during or after running, stop. “This is not an injury to run through.” If you catch a minor strain early, a few days off might be sufficient healing time. If you keep running as usual, you could develop a serious case that may take six months to go away.


Hamstring Issues
The muscles that run down the back of our thighs bend our knees, extend our legs, drive us up hills, and power finish-line kicks. So when our hamstrings are too tight or weak to perform well, we notice it.

Hamstring issues usually arise because these muscles are weak; often from being too long or too short. Tight, short muscles are under greater tension. Another factor is muscle imbalance: Many runners’ quadriceps overpower their hamstrings, which sets them up for injury.

If the pain comes on suddenly and strong and the area bruises, you may have a true pull and you’ll need extended rest before you can run again. If it’s a less severe, chronic overuse injury, you can usually run, but it’ll take some time before you’re back in the zone. Running a slow, easy pace is usually less bothersome than attempting intervals or hill repeats. Bicycling, pool running, and swimming are good alternative activities.


Plantar Fasciitis With each step, our feet absorb a force several times our body weight. Plantar fasciitis, small tears or inflammation of the tendons and ligaments that run from your heel to your toes, is usually the top foot complaint among runners. The pain, which typically feels like a dull ache or bruise along your arch or on the bottom of your heel, is usually worse first thing in the morning.

Runners with very high or very low arches are vulnerable, because both foot types cause the plantar fascia to be stretched away from the heel bone. Other causes are extreme pronation (foot rolls inward excessively) or supination (foot rolls outward excessively) and increasing your mileage too quickly. Long periods of standing, especially on hard floors without supportive footwear, may exacerbate the problem. Tight hip flexors, weak core muscles, and a history of lower back pain can also contribute.

Plantar fasciitis is one of the most notoriously nagging injuries, and running through it, while possible, can delay healing. Recovery time can range from three months to a year, but six months is fairly typical. In chronic cases, a complete break from running is usually best. Pool running and swimming keep pressure off your feet. Cycling or using an elliptical can help you maintain fitness, but only if you can do those activities without pain.


”Shinsplints” refers to medial tibial stress syndrome, an achy pain that results when small tears occur in the muscles around your tibia (shin bone).

Shinsplints are common among new runners and those returning after an extended layoff. They’re a sign that you’ve done too much, too quickly.

When the first twinges of pain strike, back off your running to a comfortable level for a few days to a week, then slowly up your mileage using the 10 percent rule (no more than 10 percent increase per week). Bike, pool run, and swim.


Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS)
The iliotibial (IT) band lies along the outside of the thigh from the hip to the knee. When you run, your knee flexes and extends, which causes the IT band to rub on the side of the femur. This can cause irritation if you take up your mileage too quickly, especially if you’re doing a lot of track work or downhill running.

Runners who develop ITBS may overpronate, have a leg-length discrepancy, or suffer from weak hip abductor and gluteal muscles. If your hip motion is not well controlled, then your IT band gets stretched with your running stride, and that can irritate it.

ITBS is known as a stubborn, nagging injury. Take a rest day or two and back off your mileage for a week, and you could avoid a full-blown flare-up. If you ignore the first symptoms and continue training at your usual mileage and intensity, you can exacerbate it.


Stress Fracture
Unlike an acute fracture that happens as the result of a slip or fall, stress fractures develop as a result of cumulative strain on the bone. Runners most often have stress fractures in their tibias (shin), metatarsals (feet), or calcaneus (heels). They are one of the most serious of all running injuries.

WHO’S AT RISK? Runners who overtrain. Bones need downtime to rebuild after a workout. If you increase the duration, intensity, or frequency of your running too soon, your bones can’t repair themselves fast enough to keep up. Stress fractures are more common in women than men, usually due to nutritional deficits, low estrogen levels, and inadequate calorie intake. Luckily, weight-bearing exercise like running is protective, which means experience is on your side.

CAN YOU RUN THROUGH IT? No. Expect to take eight to 16 weeks off from running. The amount of rest you’ll need depends on the severity of the fracture and its location. Weight-bearing bones like those in the foot heal slower than those in the shin, for example. And if you ran through the pain for a while before you realized you had a fracture, your recovery could take longer. Avoid all impact exercise. Instead, pool-run and swim.

If in any doubt you should seek the advise of a Physiotherapist or Sports Therapist who can provide and advise rehabilitation programmes.