8 Common Running Injuries – And How To Effectively Manage Them

common running injuries

Wouldn’t you love to run pain-free every time you hit the road?

Wouldn’t you love to come back after your runs and have no pains and aches?

Anyone would be dumb to answer “no” to any of the above. The reality though is that it is impossible to run pain-free with every run.

Your very first run brought some pain because the body had to adjust.

If you are a regular runner or a long distance runner, pain comes with the territory.

Whilst pain and aches are a part of any form of running, you want to avoid constant or severe pains that lead to injuries. The best way to do that is to manage them effectively.

To do this, you need to:

  1. Know what types of injuries you are likely to suffer
  2. Effectively manage the pain and injuries by knowing the
    • Signs
    • Triggers
    • Preventive Actions
    • Remedial Actions

The above will not help you run injury free every time but it will definitely help you avoid getting stuck in the getting “injured frequently” category that many runners have to deal with.

Granted, there are some freak accidents and injuries that are out of your control.

As I write this post, I’ve been out of running for 9 weeks, the longest period I’ve spent out of action in my 5 years of long distance running. 5 of the 9 weeks have been the result of a freak accident.

The freak accident?

I was one of the groomsmen at my friend’s wedding. As is custom, we change into traditional outfits on one of the wedding days. On that particular day, I was wearing open sandals. As we shuffled around the tent, my friend’s younger sister, dressed in high heels, stepped on my toes by mistake. My thumb toe got crushed. It’s been 5 weeks and I have not recovered fully. Incredibly frustrating to say the least.

However, freak accidents contribute a very minute percentage of running injuries.

The rest are common, predictable to a certain degree and most importantly, they can be managed.

Let’s have a look at the common injuries and how you can prevent them. Equally important, I’ll give you some tips on how to deal with them appropriately should they ever strike.

1. Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS)

Knee injuries are the most common injuries that runners suffer and ITBS is a form of knee injury. The Iliotibial (IT) band is a tendon that connects your knee to your hip. When you run, the knee flexes and extends and causes your IT band to rub on the side of the femur. ITBS is the inflammation of the IT.

Iliotibial Band

Signs:

  • Sharp pains on the side of your knee when you run, especially when running downhill

Triggers:

  • Increasing mileage too quickly
  • Excessive track work or downhill running
  • Running downhill on the same side of the road of a routine route

Preventive Action:

  • Increase training intensity and mileage gradually
  • Avoid aggressive downhill running
  • On routine downhill courses, switch the direction of your runs
  • Cross train: circuit train, swim and cycle to strengthen glutes, hips, quads and hamstrings

Remedial Action:

  • Reduce your mileage for a week or two
  • Ice the swollen area
  • Massage quadriceps and hamstring muscles around affected areas
  • Use an anti-inflammatory

2. “Runner’s Knee” – Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS)

PFPS, or “runner’s knee”, is the irritation of the cartilage on the underside of the patella (kneecap) that is caused by the inability of tissue surrounding the knees to recover between runs.

PFPS

Signs:

  • Constant pain beneath your kneecap when running downhill
  • Aggravation during or after long runs
  • Aggravation after lengthy periods of sitting

Triggers:

  • Over pronation (excessive inward foot rolling)
  • Weak glutes, hips and quads
  • Uneven running surfaces
  • Poor running shoes selection
  • Biomechanical flaws

 Preventive Action:

  • Uphill training
  • Cross train: elliptical training, swimming and cycling are good for strengthening quads and glutes
  • Train on routes that have even surfaces
  • Get appropriate running shoes
  • Stretch before and after training sessions

Remedial Action:

  • Reduce mileage
  • Stop running if pain persists
  • Treat inflammation with anti-inflammatory/icing regimen
  • Shorten your running stride

3. Achilles Tendinitis

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).

achilles tendonitis

Signs:

  • Inflammation of Achilles tendon
  • Pain at the back of the lower leg just above the heel

Triggers:

  • Tight and weak calves
  • Dramatically increasing training (especially speedwork and hills)
  • Non-supportive footwear

Preventive Action:

  • Stretch before and after training sessions
  • Gradually increase training intensity and mileage
  • Appropriate running shoes
  • Cross train: strengthen lower body

Remedial Action:

  • Stop running when you experience pain during or after your run
  • Apply ice regularly to affected area
  • Treat inflammation with anti-inflammatory/icing regimen

4. Hamstring

These are muscles that run down the back of your thighs.

hamstring injury

Signs:

  • Pain in the back of the thigh and lower buttock when walking, straightening the leg, or bending over
  • Sudden and severe pain during exercise, along with a snapping or popping feeling

Triggers:

  • Muscle imbalance: quadriceps that overpower hamstrings

Preventive Action:

  • Cross train: circuit train, swim, cycle and pool run
  • Stretch before and after training sessions

Remedial Action:

  • Sudden and severe pain that causes bruising requires you to stop
  • Less severe pain, requires you to reduce mileage and intensity

5. Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis are small tears or inflammation of the tendons and ligaments that run from your heel to your toes.

plantar fasciitis

Signs:

  • Sharp and painful sensation along the arch or the bottom of your heel
  • Pain usually felt first thing in the morning

Triggers:

  • Tight and weakened muscles in the foot
  • Very high or low arches
  • Weak core
  • Extreme pronation (inward movement of foot as it rolls ) or supination (outward movement of foot as it rolls)
  • History of lower back problems
  • Long periods of standing on hard floors without supportive footwear
  • Over-training

 Preventive Action:

  • Stretch before and after training sessions
  • Cross train to strengthen calves and muscles around the feet
  • Strengthen core to reduce stress on the spine and stop pain transferred to feet

Remedial Action:

  • Orthotics or stability shoes
  • Stop running and take a break if the pain is chronic

6. Shinsplints

These are ailments that involve pain in the shin area.

shinsplints

Signs:

  • Inflamed muscles in shin area:
    • If not severe, pain lessens a few kilometres into the run
    • If severe, pain is felt with every stride taken and can lead to stress fracture along the tibia

Triggers:

  • Tight muscles around shin
  • Sudden increase in mileage and training intensity
  • Worn out or improper running shoes

Preventive Action:

  • Develop a solid foundation before increasing mileage, intensity and speedwork
  • Regular rest in between training

Remedial Action:

  • Ice and anti-inflammatories where inflammation takes place

7. Stress Fracture

Whilst an acute fracture results from one occurrence like a slip or fall, a stress fracture develops from cumulative strain on the bone.

foot stress fracturetibial stress fracture

Runners most often have stress fractures in their tibias (shin), metatarsals (feet), or calcaneus (heels). They are one of the most serious of all running injuries.

Signs:

  • Not easy to tell. Requires a medical check

Triggers:

  • Increasing mileage and intensity of training too soon
  • Over training

 Preventive Action:

  • Structured training programme
  • Rest

Remedial Action:

  • Stop running and recover completely
  • Pool run and swim

8. Blisters

These are fluid-filled sacks on the surface of the skin.

blisters

Signs:

  • Fluid-filled sacks on the surface of the skin

Triggers:

  • Friction between your skin and socks/running shoes

 Preventive Action:

  • Change running shoes regularly
  • Wear socks with double layers
  • Wear slightly over-sized running shoes
  • Apply antiperspirants like deodorant to prevent moisture

Remedial Action:

  • Resist the urge to pop it to avoid infection
  • Keep blister covered up with bandage until it dries up
  • Apply pure Aloe Vera gel
  • Apply green tea on affected area (anti-inflammatory)
  • Apply non-flavoured toothpaste to soothe pain

Injuries can be a serious pain in the butt – literally. With some planning and a sensible approach, it’s possible to enjoy your running thoroughly despite the potential challenges posed by injuries.

Over and above the specifics I’ve mentioned above, I would urge you to just keep it simple by following some basic running fundamentals:

  • Follow a sensible running plan/ schedule based on your level of fitness. Download Free Training programmes
  • Warm up and stretch: make sure you warm up and stretch thoroughly before and after your training and running sessions
  • Cross train: ensure that your training is balanced. Go through full body training every week, especially your core. Swim, cycle, circuit train, etc
  • Proper Running Shoes: wear proper running shoes at all times and be sure to change your shoes regularly
  • Listen to your body: slight pain is fine but constant pain in a muscle or joint that doesn’t get better with rest requires attention
  • Rest: ensure you get rest days in between training. When injured, take a break

I’ve hope you’ve enjoyed the article.

Should you have any comments or questions, do post them in the comments section below.

God Bless!

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