When you begin running, you might imagine that it is one smooth progression going from the early days of jogging to your first 5km and beyond. Unfortunately, most regular runners will tell you that this is rarely the case.
Various studies have shown up to 70% of runners will experience an overuse injury each year. This often means, at the very least, you won’t be enjoying the running experience and, more likely, you will need time off to recover.
Think of running pains in terms of a spectrum. At one end, you have severe, full-blown injuries – call it the red zone, which includes stress fractures that require time off.
The other end, where you’re in top form, is the green zone. Mild, transient aches that bug you one day and disappear the next, sit closer to the green end. Unfortunately, many runners get stuck in the middle – the not-quite-injured but not-quite-healthy yellow zone.
Often, it comes down to whether you take a little time off now or a lot of time off later. You can reduce your risk of ending up in the red zone if, at the first sign of an issue, you back off your mileage, reduce the intensity of your runs, start a treatment program, and develop a proactive long-term injury-prevention strategy, such as strength training, stretching, and regular foam rolling. Physical therapy is like homework. None of us likes having to do it, but if you don’t do it, the issue will come back.
There are seven injury hotspots that most frequently plague runners. If you don’t get a handle on them, these issues can trap you in that yellow zone, or worse, turn into an acute injury that forces you to take a layoff.
1. Runner’s Knee
Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS), or “runner’s knee,” is the irritation of the cartilage on the underside of the patella (kneecap). About 40% of running injuries are knee injuries.
2. Achilles Tendonitis
The Achilles tendon connects the two major calf muscles to the back of the heel. Under too much stress, the tendon tightens and becomes irritated (tendinitis).
3. Hamstring Issues
The muscles that run down the back of our thighs bend our knees, extend our legs, drive us up hills, and power sprints.
4. Plantar Fasciitis
It’s not shocking that about 15% of all running injuries affect the foot, as with each step, our feet absorb a force several times our body weight. Plantar fasciitis, small tears or inflammation of the tendons and ligaments that run from your heel to your toes, is usually the most common foot complaint among runners.
5. Shin Splints
“Shin splints” or medial tibial stress syndrome, is an achy pain caused by small tears that occur in the muscles around your tibia (shin bone). This makes up about 15% of running injuries.
6. Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS)
The iliotibial (IT) band lies along the outside of the thigh, from the hip to the knee. When you run, your knee flexes and extends, which causes the IT band to rub on the side of the femur. This can cause irritation if you take up your mileage too quickly, especially if you’re doing a lot of track work or downhill running. ITBS makes up 12% of all running injuries.
7. 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. Runners mostly have stress fractures in their tibias (shin), metatarsals (feet), or calcaneus (heels). They are one of the most serious of all running injuries and make up about 6% of running injuries.
Over the coming weeks, I will tackle these seven injury hotspot with an individual blog, giving advice on who is at risk, whether it is safe to run through the injury, how to rehabilitate, when to go to a therapist, and how to prevent a relapse.
For more information on running injuries or to book an appointment in Bridgnorth or Shrewsbury, please call 01746 761050.