However, running can come with a few injuries, especially when done incorrectly. In fact, a Harvard study reveals that 74% of runners experience a degree of injury each year and that almost a half of these injuries tend to recur. If you’re into running, you should be aware of these common injuries so you can do your best to treat and most importantly to prevent them.
Runner's KneeContrary to popular belief, Runner’s Knee, or patellofemoral pain syndrome, is not a single injury; it actually refers to a myriad of conditions involving pain in the kneecap. Runner’s knee manifests as pain at the back of the kneecap, which may radiate all the way to the thigh bone.
Runner’s knee is usually caused by over usage of the muscles surrounding the knee. Factors like prolonged training, running too much or too long, repetitive activities, poor form, and ill-fitting footwear contribute to this condition. These activities and habits lead to swelling, throbbing, tenderness and even popping noises from the kneecap. Activities that place stress on the knees, like going down a flight of stairs would be excruciating.
While common in runners, it can also affect other athletes who place considerable stress in their knees, like tennis players, dancers or football players and is more prevalent in young adults below 35 years old.
Thankfully, Runner’s Knee can be treated through conservative measures. It’s important to observe proper stretching and warmups before going out on the trail and to perform exercises like side lying quad stretches or knee dips, which strengthen your leg muscles. Tight hamstring and quad muscles also contribute to runner’s knee, so perform exercises like leg swings or hip abductions to improve the strength and flexibility of your hips and thighs.
If you suspect to have runner’s knee, you can treat it at home by giving your knees a break. Elevate the affected leg and put a cold compress on it to stop the swelling. Once you’ve rested well enough or as your physician prescribes, start with rehab exercises that can further regain your knee strength and function.
Another common running injury is the inflammation of your Achilles tendon or Achilles tendonitis. As the largest tendon in your body, the Achilles tendon experiences a lot of strain, especially when running. Overuse, repetitive stress, increased distance or workload and straining of the calf muscles lead to little tears on the Achilles tendon over time. These tears cause pain and swelling. It can even calcify or grow so stiff that it loses full range of motion. This pain and stiffness worsen with activity. Aside from these factors, Achilles tendonitis can also be caused by calcaneal spurs or abnormal bone growths around your heel.
One can prevent swollen Achilles tendons by beginning their running routine with a good stretch, or focus on low-impact exercises that do not stress the Achilles tendon. If you suspect that you are suffering from this common injury, it is best to rest the affected foot and apply a cold compress to it. Rest is very important in Achilles tendonitis as further strain may cause the tendon to rip off completely. A ruptured tendon will then require surgical measures. So, before it worsens, rest your affected leg and allow it to heal.
If Achilles tendonitis deals with ankle pain, plantar fasciitis occurs when the ligament around your heel swells and gets inflamed. This is caused by prolonged strain, repeated misuse or excessive running or walking over long distances. It occurs in people around 40-60 years old and is often exacerbated by obesity. Poor running form or shoes that don’t offer adequate support also contribute to plantar fasciitis.
Plantar fasciitis presents as pain the in the foot or heel, especially when it bears weight, as in standing, walking or running. The foot or heel can also feel stiff after long instances of being immobile.
Plantar fasciitis can be prevented by avoiding excessive pronation--- this is a major factor in plantar fasciitis, so look for shoes that offer adequate arch support. If you are overweight, shedding some extra pounds should ease the strain on your heels, too. Exercises that aim to stretch the toes and calves are also helpful. If you are experiencing plantar fasciitis, your physician may recommend night splints and foot orthotics to increase the heel support while you are recuperating.
Shin splints are common in beginning runners or those who suddenly increase their workload or miles. They’re also common in other athletes who use a lot of legwork, like soccer players or basketball players. They’re usually caused by weak leg muscles, improper footwear or running techniques. Running on uneven surfaces and too long running strides can also cause shin splints.
Shin splints manifest as pain or swelling along the inside of the shin bone (tibia), and overstretching of muscles in the same area. It can be relieved through the tried and tested RICE method. If you feel swelling in your leg after running or exercising, rest the affected leg and put some ice on it. Don’t forget to elevate it to reduce swelling.