Whether you are a running rookie or a tenured road warrior, injuries are the fastest way to keep you from reaching your goals. Studies shows that upwards of 65% of runners will experience an injury every year. That means that nearly 2/3rds of runners will have to stop running, nurse their injuries, and try to regain speed to get back to their previous level. This can have large effects on performance and stamina, as well as consistency and healthy habits. It's hard enough to be consistent without any injuries, given the struggles of daily life and time constraints. So, the earlier you can nip a potential injury in the bud, the more likely you are to keep it from becoming  a much larger problem. Below are some of the most common running injuries, and how you can easily identify, treat, and prevent them on your own. 

Runner's Knee: 

Formally called Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome, Runner's Knee is essentially an umbrella term for knee pain behind the knee cap associated with running. However, it can be caused by many other activities besides running. It is generally associated with pain around or behind the knee cap that feels like it's coming from the middle/inside of your knee. It can be caused by a variety of different things that increase stress and strain on the patellofemoral joint. It has been associated with weakness in the hips and quads as well as tightness in the hamstrings, which can cause the knee cap to be misaligned and move poorly. 

Prevention / Recovery Tips: 
- Decrease your mileage
- Incorporate more cross training such as cycling or elliptical to strengthen surrounding muscles
- Hill training/incline on the treadmill can be less painful, and help ramp up mileage after recovery
- Strengthen quadriceps and hip muscles to promote better knee cap alignment

Shin Splints: 

Ask anyone who has had shin splints, they HURT! They are the result of tiny micro tears in the muscle next to your shin bone. They are extremely common in new runners or runners who have taken a long break, and are most commonly caused by increasing your training too quickly, or starting with too high of a running volume.  It is crucial to increase your running mileage slowly, to prevent such injuries from creeping up! 

Prevention / Recovery Tips: 
- For acute injuries: Rest, Ice cup massage, and ibuprofen can potentially help with symptom relief
- Kinesio tape
- More severe cases can benefit from a soft air cast
- Incorporate agility work or more dynamic sports into your workout routine. Lateral movement can help strengthen stabilizing muscles. 
- Check your shoes! Worn out running shoes may be a culprit. 
- Look at your arch. Some people may need an orthotic to help with proper foot strike. 
- It's ok to start jogging or light running if some mild pain is present, but if the pain is present after you stop running, then that is a sign you body is not ready to return just yet :(

Plantar Fasciitis: 

This is by far the most common foot injury amongst runners. Stretching from your heel to ball of your foot there is a fibrous layer called the Plantar Fascia, which helps protect the ligaments and tendons in the foot, as well as aid in foot motion during muscle contraction. As with anything in medicine, "-itis" at the end of a word, means that something is inflamed. In this case, the Plantar Fascia is inflamed from increased stress and strain which cause small tiny tears. The pain can be as simple as a sharp pain in the heel bone, or throbbing pain throughout the entire bottom of your foot. Most commonly, the pain is much worse immediately upon getting out of bed in the morning. It is really hard to identify the specific cause in many cases, but most any "extreme" foot condition can increase the stress on the foot including: very high arches, very low arches or flat feet, over pronation, or over supination during running. In addition, it is associated with people who overtrain or start running too many miles too early in their training. Here are some easy things you can do! 

Prevention / Recovery Tips: 
- Roll a golf ball on the bottom of your feet, trying to isolate the tender points
- Roll the bottom of your foot on a frozen water bottle for 5-10 minutes 5X per day
- Strengthen the muscles in the bottom of the foot. Try "Towel Scrunches"
- Consider an orthotic for proper foot strike
- Strengthen your core muscles! A weak core can cause increased foot strain and increase risk for plantar fasciitis.
- Rest! Plantar Fasciitis can really linger, and unless you rest and do your rehab exercises, it can last for months. Be smart :)

IT Band Syndrome:

The Iliotibial Band , aka IT Band, is a long wide band, actually a tendon, the runs from the hip to the knee on the outside of the thigh. When this band of tissue gets irritated, its becomes inflamed; when it gets inflamed, its gets a fancy name called IT Band Syndrome (ITBS). The pain can be a dull/achy or sharp pain in the outside of the knee or even in the lower part of the outside thigh, often times worse with running, climbing stairs, hiking or biking. ITBS is extremely common amongst runners, and accounts for approximately 10-15% of running injuries each year. It is often seen in runners who increase their training volume too quickly, or have poor running biomechanics. There are many things that can cause biomechanical issues such as: overpronation of the foot, weakness in the hips and butt muscles, or even misaligned hips and leg length differences. ITBS can be a very nagging injury, and if proper rest is not given, it can continue to flare up for quite a while. Here are some tips to help: 

Prevention / Recovery Tips: 
- REST! take the rest early, so you don't have to take more time later. 
- Foam roll the IT band and Piriformis
- Try more non-weightbearing exercises such as swimming, swim-jogging, or elliptical
- Shorten your stride length. Make sure your foot is striking underneath your body, and you are not overreaching. 

 

Hope this provided some insight into some of the more common ailments with running! Run safe. Listen to your body. And take rest when you need it. It's more important to be consistent over the long term, than in the immediate present. 

Enjoy your run, 
Dr. Vincent