Running can be a great form of exercise since it requires minimal equipment, and can be done almost anywhere. Studies have shown that running improves cardiovascular health, builds bone strength, reduces stress, improves brain function and that’s just a few of the benefits. With every exercise overuse injuries are inevitable if the proper prevention techniques are not followed. This article will discuss 3 of the most common running injuries as well as provide tips on how to prevent them.
The Achilles is the large tendon connecting the two major calf muscles to the back of the heel bone. Under too much stress, the tendon tightens and can become inflamed causing Achilles tendonitis. Achilles tendonitis is characterized by dull or sharp pain anywhere along the back of the tendon, but usually close to the heel.
Common causes include tight or fatigued calf muscles, which transfer too much of the burden of running to the weaker Achilles. This can be the result of not stretching the calves or increasing mileage too quickly. I highly recommend, doing calf stretches during your warm ups to prevent fatiguing of the calf muscles. Excessive hill running or speed walking, both of which stress the Achilles more than other types of running, can also cause tendinitis. Runners who overpronate (their feet rotate too far inward on impact) are most susceptible to Achilles tendonitis.
Iliotibial Band Syndrome
Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS) is one of the most common overuse injuries among runners. It occurs when the iliotibial band, the ligament that runs down the outside of the thigh from the hip to the shin, is tight or inflamed. The inflammation is due to repetitive friction of the iliotibial band over the outside of the knee bone; this is aggravated at approximately 30 degrees of knee flexion (as is seen in running). Common causes related to this injury include excessive running in the same direction on a track, greater-than-normal weekly mileage and downhill running. Studies have also demonstrated that weakness of the outer gluteal muscles is a factor in developing this injury. Balance training (i.e. training on a BOSU ball, one legged exercises) can be beneficial in strengthening the outer gluteal muscles and preventing the ITB from becoming over worked.
Runner’s knee is also known as Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS). The kneecap (patella) is attached to a large group of muscles in the thigh called the quadriceps. It is also attached to the shin bone by the patellar tendon. The knee cap fits into grooves in the end of the thigh bone (femur) called the femoral condyles. The muscles and tendon mentioned above help to ensure that the knee cap stays within its grooves. However, muscle imbalances or uneven joint surfaces of the knee can cause the improper tracking of the knee cap, which results in pain. In other words, instead of tracking straight up and down, the kneecap deviates to the side as the knee bends, which creates friction and discomfort. Typical symptoms include pain behind or around the patella that is increased with running and activities that involve knee flexion, such as stair climbing, kneeling and squatting. Weakness in the inner quadriceps and tightness in the outer quadriceps and ITB often cause runner’s knee. Therefore it is important to assess for weakness in the quadriceps if this injury occurs.
Tips to Prevent These Injuries
Warm up by walking a quarter- to half-mile before you start your runs.
After the warm up take time to stretch some the calves, quadriceps and hamstrings. Hold each stretch for at least 20 seconds. Stretch again at the end of the run as part of your cool down.
Make sure your shoes aren't worn along the outside of the sole. If they are, replace them. Also keep in mind that after 700km shoes lose 50% of their ability to absorb shock/pressure.
Don't run on concrete or uneven surfaces. Flat roads are ideal. You may want to run in the middle of the road where it’s flat. (To do this safely, you'll need to find roads with little or no traffic and excellent visibility.)
When running on a track, change directions repeatedly.
Decrease your mileage or take a few days off if you feel pain. Don’t ignore your aches and pains. That’s your body’s way of communicating that something is wrong.
It is advisable not to increase your running mileage by more than 10% per week.
Ensure proper cross training. Alternate running days with spinning, swimming, yoga and/or strength training to ensure full body conditioning. Your body needs 24 hours to recover before you repeat the same activity again.
Meet with a chiropractor to assess for any muscle imbalances or restrictions prior to starting a running program. This can help to prevent injuries from occurring and hindering your training.