Running is a great way to get in shape, but it can also be hard on your body. If you don’t properly prepare for a new exercise regimen or increase your mileage too quickly, you are likely to get injured.
Thankfully, most injuries are preventable. Read on to learn about the most common running injuries and how to heal from them.
1. Ankle Sprain
This injury occurs when the ankle rolls or twists beyond its normal range of motion. This strains the ligaments that support the ankle joint and causes them to swell up and hurt. A mild sprain may only stretch the ligaments, but a severe sprain might tear them completely and make the ankle very unstable. It’s important to take a break from running if you have an ankle injury, and use low-impact cross-training exercises while you recover (with clearance from your doctor).
Most runners can heal from these injuries at home by following the RICE protocol—rest, ice, compression and elevation. Taking NSAIDs for pain and using a calf or shin wrap to control swelling will also help. Other preventative measures include warm-up stretches, proper running shoe selection and transitioning to outdoor running slowly from treadmill training.
2. Achilles Tendinitis
The Achilles tendon is the large fibrous tendon that connects your calf muscles to your heel bone. It is used when you walk, run, and jump. This tendon can become irritated and inflamed, causing pain and swelling. This is called Achilles tendinitis. It can be caused by increasing your running distance or intensity too quickly, or by not stretching properly before exercising. Tight calf muscles can also contribute to this injury.
Symptoms include pain in the back of your leg just above your heel, which gets worse when you walk up or down stairs. Your doctor or physiotherapist will ask you about your symptoms and examine your ankle, foot and calf muscle. They may squeeze the tendon to see if it feels tender. They may recommend rest, ice, compression and exercise to help reduce your pain.
3. Stress Fracture
Stress fractures are tiny cracks in a bone, most often in the shin or feet. They’re typically the result of working out too hard before your body adjusts.
They can also develop when you switch your workout surface — like going from treadmill to road running — or if you suddenly step up the intensity of your exercise. Having low levels of calcium or smoking can also increase your risk, as can wearing old shoes that don’t support your foot shape and arch type.
If you suspect a stress fracture, your doctor may ask you to stop all activity until the pain stops. He or she may then recommend a gradual return to exercise and icing the painful area. In some rare cases, surgery is needed to ensure proper healing.
4. Plantar Fasciitis
The plantar fascia, which runs from your heel to the bottom of your foot and arch, helps absorb shock and give “spring” to your step. But if you run too often or too far, it may become overloaded. This can cause tiny tears that can lead to pain in the bottom of your foot or heel, especially as you take your first steps when you wake up.
Like most running injuries, this one can be prevented by getting plenty of rest and taking it easy when you’re starting a new routine. Wearing proper footwear and stretching your feet, calves, and Achilles tendons can also help. Avoiding high-impact activities and walking barefoot on hard surfaces can decrease your risk, too. And remember that ice and anti-inflammatory medications can ease the pain.
5. Knee Pain
Whether you run for fun or to maintain your fitness, running can be hard on the body. Despite preventative measures, many runners get injured at one point or another. Injuries include iliotibial band syndrome, runner’s knee (patellofemoral pain syndrome), Achilles tendonitis and plantar fasciitis.
These injuries are usually due to overuse. They can also occur when you ramp up your running mileage too quickly, have bad foot mechanics, are wearing improper shoes or don’t take enough rest.
The best way to avoid getting sidelined with a running injury is by addressing small niggles early on. If you experience any aches and pains, book an appointment with a physician at one of our Arizona locations. They can help you heal from these common running injuries so you can keep running!