Common running injuries and what to do about them?

As running season comes to a start again in Australia with the city2surf and Sydney Marathon just behind us, there are many more events in the horizon.  Whether you are a parkrun enthusiast or a diehard ultramarathoner, we all face the challenges of injuries, after all, are you really a runner if you haven’t had an injury?  In this blog, we will discuss 3 common injuries that is common with long distance running, their potential causes and general treatments.

  1. Runner’s knee, or patellofemoral pain syndrome

Patellofemoral pain syndrome, or more commonly known as runner’s knee generally presents as pain underneath your kneecap that are aggravated with activities such as running or bent knee activities such as walking up and down stairs.

It is one of the most common injuries for runners.  Risk factors often includes decreased knee and hip muscle strength, decreased motor control of your knee and certain running style that predispose your knee to more stress.

Treatment generally includes-

Active training strategies- such as strength and conditioning program focusing on lower limb capacity- such as hip strength, quad strength and calf strength. It might also involve modifying the strength and conditioning program to reduce symptoms temporarily.

Modifying your running mileage- this can involve reducing your weekly total volume or spreading out the mileage across multiple days.

Taping or knee brace- Taping can help with offloading sensitive tissue structures and help you continue your sport in a more suitable way.

Potentially modifying your footwear

Modification of running technique

  1. Shin splints

Shin splints, or medial tibial stress syndrome is another common overuse injuries.  It presents as a painful sensation for the inside of your shin bone where a lot of our ankle muscles attaches.

You might find it painful with ankle movement especially pushing off your feet or even pointing your toes up in some cases.

Shin splints are usually caused by a rapid increase in training load where the body are not able to adapt in time, causing extra stress for structures around your shin bones.

Treatment most often include a decrease in training load to a pain free or pain tolerated level, and incorporate a strengthening program to prevent future flare ups and help aide return to your previous running activities.

  1. Heel pain/plantar heel pain

Usually categorized by pain underneath your heel, its presentation could vary from a minor pain in your heel when you run or a very sharp pain whenever you put pressure on your feet.  It is usually caused by over training or maybe a change in training intensity, with other potential risk factors including improper footwear, high foot arches and calf muscle tightness.

It could be helped by foot orthoses at the back of the feet to offload your heels, and a period of deloading and general strengthening of your legs.

Some of the most common injuries that a runner could sustain are overuse injuries with estimate of up to 50-75% of all running injuries being of that nature, including the three we mentioned above and many more.  Whilst management and outcome would depend on the injury and its severity, a reduction of training volume and strengthening of the weakened muscles and a good return to running program is usually enough to let most runners return to their pre-injury running.

Do I need to stop running?

For most injuries, except for serious injuries such as tendon or ligament rupture or fracture, a runner does not need to stop running as long as they could do so by modifying their intensity/pace, milage, changing their footwear/use of brace and sleeves or orthoses.  And even if a runner could not run continuously, a run-walk program or a walking program should be implemented to maintain fitness and muscle mass.  An injured runner could also consider cross training with options such as swimming, bike riding or step climbers and others to maintain fitness if they could do so with minimal symptoms.  As some injuries could take weeks or months to heal properly.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us for a physiotherapy or exercise physiology assessment to make sure your niggle does not become something more serious in the future.

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