Common Running Injuries and How to Prevent Them
By DR. BRUCE WILLIAMS
Running can be an amazingly effective way to lose weight, torch calories, tone muscles and improve cardiovascular health. Not to mention it can also be a great way to clear your mind, relieve stress and discover your inner strength.
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However, it isn't as simple as just lacing up your sneakers and hitting the trail. If you want running to be a healthy part of your lifestyle, you have to make sure that you protect your joints and your feet. Otherwise, you'll end up throwing in the towel and missing out on all the benefits running can provide.
Here are the top five running injuries and how to prevent them:
1. Runner's knee. Runner's knee presents as pain just below the kneecap. The pain starts when you begin running and then gradually worsens. It may also flare up as you walk up and down stairs or even while you are sitting. It might possibly be caused by incorrect tracking of the kneecap as you run.
The solution: 80 percent of cases of runner's knee can be cured by the use of orthotics for Iliotibial band (ITB) friction syndrome. Pain can also be alleviated by stretching the ITB, ice and deep-friction massage. Runner's knee may require a reduction in training mileage and intensity or even a complete rest while the underlying causes are addressed.
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2. Achilles tendonitis. This condition causes pain in the tendon that connects the back of your leg to the heel of your foot. It can be caused by excessively tight calf muscles, overpronation, wearing high heels, worn-out shoes and overtraining. Symptoms generally disappear while running.
The solution: Achilles tendonitis can be relieved with ice after each run. Reduction in training or complete rest may be needed. It's a good idea to avoid hills and speed work while you have Achilles tendonitis.
3. Shin splints. Also known as medial tibial stress syndrome, shin splints occur when there is an irritation of the muscles and tendons at the point where they attach to the shin.
The solution: Treat the area with regular ice and consider reducing or even stopping your running for the time being. Next, figure out the cause and assess shoes, inserts and foot structure. Then rebuild training mileage slowly.
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4. Stress fractures and reactions. These are periosteal reactions or hairline fractures of bones in the lower leg. They generally occur in the tibia, fibula or a bone in the foot, thighbone and pelvis. Pain intensifies very rapidly and feels like highly localized pain under gentle pressure.
These fractures are usually caused by excessive increases in training or low bone density possibly related to poor diet. They are more common in females, and women with irregular menstrual cycles are especially at risk.
The solution: Scale back on your running and set more moderate goals. Eat a healthy diet and make sure you’re getting the vitamins you need for healthy bones. Consider weight training to rebuild your strength and flexibility. Work out with a professional so that you can be sure you are not overdoing it or performing exercises incorrectly.
5.Plantar fasciitis. This presents as pain directly at the heel, which can radiate down the arch or up the back of the heel. Pain is often worse when you first get out of bed.
The solution: Proper stretching of the tight plantar fascia and calf muscles is key. You can also decrease inflammation with ice or anti-inflammatory drugs. Orthotics might also be required.
Remember, running offers amazing physical and mental benefits, but it must be undergone with moderation and caution, especially at first. Build up your endurance and speed slowly, and cross-train to help ensure that your body is as strong and fit as possible.
Talk to your doctor before beginning any exercise regimen, and make sure that you're eating a healthy diet and drinking plenty of water to complement your new active lifestyle.
Readers -- Are you an avid runner or a beginner? Have you experienced any of the injuries described above? How did you treat your injury? Did you find this article helpful? Leave a comment below and let us know.
Dr. Bruce Williams, D.P.M., DABFAS, is a board-certified podiatrist at Weil Foot & Ankle Institute. Using computer and video analysis, Dr. Williams is at the forefront of biomechanical evaluation and treatment of foot, ankle and lower-extremity conditions. Powered by a progressive understanding of foot-related sports injuries (and as an avid marathon runner), he uses cutting-edge technology to combat pain in the feet, lower-extremities, hip and back.