The benefits of running are widespread. Running is one of the most common forms of exercise and an incredibly effective way to manage your body. Running can prevent bone and muscle loss, lower your cholesterol, boost your immunity, and reduce stress and enhance your mood. But achieving that glorious “runner’s high” comes with certain precautions. According to various studies, most runners endure a running-related injury every year. There are steps you can take to reduce your risk of injury and ensure a faster recovery.
Common Runner Injuries and Treatments
The most commonly injured area for a runner is the knee. Runner’s knee, or Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS), is caused by over exerting yourself. The continual pounding on hard surfaces can push your knee cap out of alignment, which causes the cartilage around your knee to wear down. In the case of runner’s knee, prevention is better than treatment. Be careful to not overdo your workouts. Pace yourself and give yourself time to heal.
Your knee can also be in pain due to a tear in your anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). An ACL tear occurs when you change direction or pivot suddenly while your knee is locked. The best way to prevent an ACL tear is to stretch and strengthen your leg muscles regularly and avoid extreme twisting movements. ACL tears are excruciating and require immediate treatment. If you do sustain an ACL tear, have it checked as soon as possible. Surgery may be required, but with the proper long-term care, your knee should return to normal. If left untreated, an ACL tear will lead to lasting pain and perhaps osteoarthritis.
Medial tibial stress syndrome, commonly known as shin splints, is caused by overtraining, which wears out your tendons, muscles, and bone tissue. This overtraining then causes tiny tears in the tissue, which results in tremendous pain on your shins.
To help minimize the risk of shin splints, you should build up your running distance over time. Give yourself a fair amount of time to train properly; set realistic goals and always remember to pace yourself. You should also try keeping a shorter stride and landing flat on your feet. If you do incur shin splints, the best treatment is rest; stay off your feet until the damaged tissue heals.
The Achilles is the tendon that connects your heel to your lower leg muscles. The tendon is so important to protect because it stores energy. In fact, the Achilles creates roughly 50 percent of the energy needed for every stride you take. Unfortunately, this area is prone to injury, usually as a result of overworking and insufficient stretching.
Preventing injuries to your Achilles requires a delicate balance of stretching and muscle building. The stronger your calves are, the more protected your Achilles will be. Stretching before and after every run is crucial as well, but be careful not to over stretch and cause a tear.
Plantar fasciitis is inflammation or small tears in the tendons and ligaments that run from your toes to your heel. When you run, your feet absorb most of the force, and if you often run on hard services, you are at risk for injuries like plantar fasciitis. This is a serious injury that will likely require rehab and monitored exercise over several weeks or months.
No list of runner injuries would be complete without mentioning hamstring tears. Your hamstrings are responsible for stretching your hip joints and bending the knee. Hamstring injuries are most commonly caused by muscle tears due to overstretching or insufficient warm-up. So, again, be sure to stretch before and after each run, but not push your stretching too hard.
If you do tear your hamstring, an MRI may be necessary to assess the damage fully. Most likely, you’ll need to stay off your feet and let time heal the tear.
The aim of all treatment related to runner injuries is to get you back to running as soon as it is safe. Treatment for runner injuries does take time because you cannot take shortcuts in your recovery. Returning to hardcore exercise too soon will only make your injury worse. It is best to receive guided care, and let time take its course.
Countryside Orthopaedics offers on-site comprehensive physical therapy rehabilitation services to treat all types of runner injuries. Physical therapy comes in many forms, including manual therapy, occupational therapy, dry needling, and more. We customize your physical therapy and rehabilitation according to your unique situation, needs, and goals. If you have suffered one of the runner injuries listed above, call Countryside Orthopaedics today to book your appointment. Our highly qualified and caring physical therapy team is committed to working with you to improve your health and well-being.