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Running is a wonderful form of exercise but, as with any type of exercise, it carries an accompanying risk of picking up injuries. In case you’re thinking of making it a part of your new fitness regime, we’ve put together a list of the most common injuries affecting runners, coupled with how to treat them and, even better, how to avoid them.
The name itself tells you how often this pain affects runners, but you can also develop it through other forms of exercise that involve a lot of bending of the knee. In fact, rather than being a single condition, it’s a term for pain in the knee (usually affecting the front of the knee and relating to the kneecap) that can have a number of possible causes. These causes include:
Weak thigh muscles. If your thigh muscles aren’t holding the kneecap in the optimum position during exercise, it can lead to wear of the surrounding cartilage.
Tight thigh muscles.Tight thigh muscles can pull your kneecap out of the ideal alignment for exercise.
Incorrect foot stroke. You may be overpronating (excessive inward movement of the foot) or supinating (not enough inward movement of the foot on landing), putting stress on the knee.
Anatomy. It’s possible that the alignment of your body may make you more prone to unhelpful movement of your kneecap during exercise, increasing the chances of pain. According to the British Journal of Sports Medicine, runner’s knee affects around twice as many women as men, something believed to be caused by women’s wider hips increasing the thighbone to knee angling, adding to stress on the kneecap.
Thankfully, most mild cases of runner’s knee resolve themselves after time, with elevation, ice packs and painkillers being used to treat symptomatic pain and swelling. In future, it may help to wear extra support on the knee during exercise, so as to avoid excessive movement.
Shin splints are treatable by resting the affected area. The most common cause of shin splints is a condition called medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS). It occurs as a result of regular and intense exercise that your body isn’t used to. Long distance running is a particular risk activity for this condition, which involves inflammation of the piece of connective tissue covering the shin bone.
You should avoid the activity that led to the problem for at least two weeks, though you can maintain your cardiovascular fitness through low impact forms of exercise such as swimming.
Stress fractures are tiny cracks in the bone, caused by repeated stress being applied to part of the body. Stepping up your training can increase your chances of developing a stress fracture. As with shin splints, resting the affected area is essential but six weeks is normally long enough for a stress fracture to heal.
The Achilles is the tendon that connects your heel to your calf and it can become inflamed if too much stress is put on it, such as overtraining or building up your running too quickly. You may notice a pain anywhere along the back of the tendon, but most commonly it presents close to the heel. Don’t run while the area is inflamed. Instead, treat it with ice packs and take aspirin or ibuprofen. You can also try massaging the affected area yourself.
Plantar fasciitis is a common condition that will affect around 10% of people at some stage of their life, though it most commonly affects people aged 40-60. As with runner’s knee, women are twice as likely to develop the condition as men. The name refers to inflammation of the plantar fascia, which is the strong band of tissue stretching from your heel to the middle of your foot. It supports the arches of the feet and acts a like a shock absorber for the foot.
Around 80% of heel pain cases resolve within a year and some things that may aid the process include:
Resting. Try to avoid too much standing or walking on the inflamed area and avoid running.
Stretching. Exercises to stretch the plantar fasciitis and your calf muscles can help ease off any tightness and improve flexibility. They can also build strength in the muscles around the fascia, helping to support it.
Supports. Buying separate arch supports to put in your shoes may help your feet to better absorb and distribute impact, aiding support of the plantar fascia.
Pain relief. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Ibuprofen can help to relieve inflammation and alleviate pain. It won’t treat the actual damage to the plantar fascia area, but the benefits should allow you to more easily begin stretching.
Properly fitted shoes. Shoes fitted for your individual requirements in a specialist sports shop will probably be best at alleviating the condition. They’ll be able to correct any problems in the way your foot connects with the ground, as well as offering arch support and extra cushioning to help protect the plantar fascia.
Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS)
The Iliotibial band is the long ligament that runs from the hip to the shin, down the outside of the thigh. It can become inflamed through the leg repeatedly turning inwards, an action that could come from overtraining or from running downhill or on banked surfaces. This inward turning can cause the band to rub against the bone, leading to the band becoming inflamed. Pain from the condition tends to present itself on the outside of the knee.
The activity that caused the inflammation must be avoided in the short-term. The initial treatment usually comes under the PRICE method of soft-tissue injury treatment - Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. For compression, support wraps can be used.
How to avoid injury
Have the right trainers. Have your sports shoes fitted at a specialist sports store. They will be able to ensure you have the appropriate footwear to correct any problems in your footstroke.
Warm-up / cool down. Ensure that you warm up and cool down. Warm up your muscles with 10 minutes of activity before you begin your run. You should also cool down at the end of it by continuing at a slower pace for around 5 to 10 minutes.
Gradual increases. Only increase the distance or intensity of your run gradually. You should be able to run the same distance at the same intensity 3 or 4 times before you try upping either. Even then, you should only attempt a 10% increase, so as to avoid placing an excessive strain on your body.
Run on soft surfaces. Harder surfaces increase the impact felt by your body when running, increasing the chances of developing an injury like runner’s knee or a stress fracture.
Should you let these possible injuries put you off running?
No. There are great potential health benefits from running. Regular running can help reduce your risk of developing conditions such as heart disease or type 2 diabetes, it can help you manage your weight and it can also boost your mood. Just take a sensible approach to your running and follow the suggestions we’ve given you above. They’ll help to minimise your chances of picking up any of the injuries that we’ve mentioned in this article.
How can The Edinburgh Clinic help if you do pick up an injury?
Sports and exercise injuries can affect your muscles, bones and general health and wellbeing. We aim to help you feel better as quickly as possible with fast access to our specialised sports injuries services.At The Edinburgh Clinic, appointments are available with musculoskeletal medicine specialists, orthopaedic consultants and private physiotherapists. Our specialist team has access to a wide range of assessment, management and rehabilitation services on-site.
For more information on the services we provide at The Edinburgh Clinic, or to book an appointment, please contact us now.
0131 447 2340
The Edinburgh Clinic @ January 29 2014