Written by: Taylor Post, Certified Athletic Therapist
With gyms closed and the weather turning warmer, many people are lacing up their running shoes and hitting the streets/trails for exercise. Running, when done properly, is one of the most physically beneficial forms of exercise that we can do. It builds cardiovascular fitness and improves overall muscle strength. Just be sure to maintain proper social distance of course!
Running can also however, put the body under high levels of stress, particularly the muscles and joints. This is especially true when there are drastic changes in a persons training such as increases in intensity or distances being covered. Today we will discuss six of the most common overuse injuries seen in runners and identify the common risk factors for these types of chronic injuries. In part II, we will discuss how to prevent these injuries from occurring.
2. Achilles Tendonitis
Achilles Tendonitis involves painful inflammation of the Achilles tendon. This tendon connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. Most often the pain is noticed more before and after exercise but improves while running.
As tendonitis progresses, the tendon begins to degenerate (micro tears), swells, and thickens. Left untreated, the tendon may become permanently damaged or can even lead to partial tear or complete rupture.
3. IT Band Friction Syndrome
The IT Band is a long structure that runs on the outside of the leg and connects muscles at the hip to the knee via a thick band of fascia. It acts as an important stabilizer during running. The tendon passes over the bone as the knee flexes, and this can lead to a large amount of friction, especially in cases of increased workload. IT Band Friction Syndrome is typically classified by a sharp or burning pain, and/or swelling on the lateral (outside) aspect of the knee.
5. Plantar Fasciitis
Plantar Fasciitis involves inflammation of a thick band of tissue that runs across the bottom of the foot and connects the heel bone to the toes (plantar fascia). The pain typically feels like a dull ache or bruise along the arch or on the bottom of the heel. Most individuals first notice this injury when they have severe pain with their first few steps in the morning. The pain typically decreases once people are up and moving, but it might return after long periods of standing or upon standing after being seated. This condition is quite common in runners and individuals who are overweight.
6. 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. Stress fractures are very small cracks in bones, most often caused by overuse or repetitive movements like running. Runners most often have stress fractures in their tibias (shin), metatarsals (feet), or calcaneus (heels). At first, the pain associated with a stress fracture may be barely noticeable, but it tends to worsen with time. The tenderness usually starts at a specific spot and decreases during rest. There may be swelling around the painful area.
Who’s at risk?
While all these injuries have unique features and characteristics, there are many common factors that can put a person at risk for an overuse injury when running. The biggest being a sudden increase in the amount of intensity of training. Avoid doing too much too soon and start slow if you are new to running.
Other important risk factors are:
Wearing improper or worn out footwear.
If you or someone you know is experiencing pain while running it is best to seek a proper assessment of the injury. A Certified Athletic Therapist is a great resource for diagnosing, treating and ideally PREVENTING injuries. Send us a message, we would love to hear from you and be sure to check out Part II of this series for more information.
Team Insahyu: Certified Athletic Therapists and Certified Personal Trainers.