Whether you're a brand-new runner or a seasoned pro, chances are you're going to experience an injury at some point in your career. In fact, some experts estimate that nearly 80 percent of runners injure themselves each year. They happen quite
often, but running injuries are somewhat preventable if you take certain precautions before jumping right in.
Most Common Running Injuries
Runner's knee, more formally known as patellofemoral syndrome, is one of the most common running injuries. It occurs when the cartilage behind the kneecap begins to break down. This leads to pain, inflammation, and irritation.
Runner's knee is usually brought on by overtraining, increasing mileage too soon, and frequently running up and down hills and stairs.
An improper running stride, usually a stride that is too long, can also increase your risk of developing runner's knee.
Achilles tendonitis occurs when the Achilles tendon, which connects the heel and calf, becomes tight, irritated, and inflamed.
Achilles tendonitis is often brought on by tight calf muscles and/or general overtraining. Wearing poorly fitted or unsupportive shoes can also contribute to Achilles tendon issues.
Many runners also struggle with pain in their hamstring, the muscle that runs along the back of the leg from the hip to the knee.
Hamstring pain is often brought on by extreme flexibility, or inflexibility, in the muscle. If your hamstring is weak relative to your quadriceps muscles, the muscle that runs along the front of the thigh, you're also more likely to experience pain during or after your run.
Plantar fasciitis occurs when the fascia, connective tissue that runs along the bottom of your foot, becomes irritated and inflamed.
People with either very high or very low arches tend to struggle with plantar fasciitis. Those who over-pronate (let their feet roll-in) or over-supinate (let their feet roll-out) are also likely to experience it. A weak core can also contribute to plantar fasciitis.
Shin splints involve small tears and inflammation in the muscles that run along the front of the lower leg.
Many new runners, as well as those who are returning from a long break, experience shin splints. Runners with high arches or flat feet are also prone to shin splints, as are those who run in worn out or improperly fitting shoes.
Iliotibial Band Syndrome
The iliotibial (IT) band is a band of connective tissue that runs from the outside of the hip to the outside of the knee. Inflammation and irritation of this tissue is common for runners. IT band syndrome can contribute to knee pain and hip pain, as well as a general feeling of achiness.
Increasing your mileage too quickly, or doing a lot of downhill running, increases your chances of developing IT band syndrome.
Stress fractures are fractures in the bone that occur from overuse. Runners often experience them in their heels, feet, and shins.
Drastic mileage and speed increases often contribute to stress fractures. Those who are struggling with nutrient deficiencies, or inadequate calorie intake, are also more susceptible to a stress fracture.
Ankle sprains occur when a ligament is stretched or torn. Some ankle sprains are relatively mild, and heal within a few days or weeks, while others are more severe and can take months to fully recover. You can determine the severity of an ankle injury by the amount of swelling, bruising, and pain that occurs after it happens.
Runners with weak ankles are prone to ankle sprains, as are those who increase their mileage too quickly or run in areas that contain a lot of curbs, potholes, and other tripping hazards. Runners with high arched feet are also at higher risk.
How to Prevent Common Running Injuries
Now that you know the common injuries that occur from running, the question becomes how to prevent them. Here are some tips to help you make sure you don’t injure yourself while trying to exercise. These tips will also help improve your running performance, and ensure you're seeing the greatest benefits from regular running.
Improve and Maintain Flexibility
Working on your flexibility and mobility can significantly decrease your chances of experiencing a running injury.
Be sure to make stretching before and after your runs a priority. Before your runs, focus on dynamic stretching to warm up the muscles. When your run is over, do some static stretching to cool down and help your muscles to relax.
Strength training regularly will help reduce muscle fatigue and improve your endurance. It will also help you correct imbalances that could increase your injury risk. Focus on full-body strength training 2-3 times per week.
Stay Hydrated and Eat a Healthy Diet
Dehydration and poor nutrition can cause you to feel more tired and increase your risk of injury. Drink plenty of water before and after your run, and make sure you're consuming plenty of electrolytes, which consists of sodium, potassium, and magnesium.
Eating a balanced diet, one that's rich in whole foods and low in sugar and refined foods, will also help you make sure you're getting plenty of the nutrients your body needs to function optimally.
Increase Mileage Gradually
As you probably noticed earlier, many running injuries are brought on by increasing mileage or speed too quickly. To avoid injuring yourself, avoid increasing your training volume by more than 5-10 percent each week.
Include Rest Days in Your Training Schedule
Make sure you're getting plenty of rest, too. Ideally, you will rest at least two days per week, if not more. Your body needs time to recover in between runs, otherwise, you'll likely see a decrease in performance and an increase in soreness and injuries.
Work with a Coach
Working with a coach can help you improve your running form and eliminate bad habits that could be setting you up for an injury later. A coach can also help you figure out the most appropriate training schedule for your goals.
Wear the Right Shoes
Finally, make sure you're wearing the right running shoes. Visit a running specialty store to get an analysis and find the right shoes for your foot type and activity level.
Have You Experienced a Running Injury?
This information on how to prevent common running injuries can help keep you on the trails and out of the doctor's office. However, what should you do if you're already experiencing one of these running injuries?
If you've recently injured yourself and think surgery may be required, contact us today for a consultation.
We'll evaluate your injury and provide you with the help you need to get you back on your feet as soon as possible.