Whether a serious marathoner or a weekend jogger, these are 5 of the most common running injuries all trekkers should be aware of. Running is one of the oldest and most primal forms of exercise, and it’s a beautiful thing to rely on only your two feet and your drive to navigate the world around you, but taking care of yourself and your body right will ensure that you can be flying through fields until a ripe old age. If you are a runner, don’t take your body for granted – take care of it so it can take care of you.
Here are the 5 most common runner’s injuries and tips on how to prevent them:
- Runner’s Knee: The knee is one of the most sensitive joints for runners, and there are a myriad of knee injuries to be aware of. Runner’s knee is a general term, but one of the most common knee injuries occurs when the kneecap starts rubbing against the cartilage, causing a condition called patellofemoral syndrome, or a wearing away of the back of the kneecap. If you are overtaken by intense knee pain or tightness in the knee area, it is a good rule of thumb to rest, apply ice to reduce swelling, and self-massage. Women more often than men tend to suffer from runner’s knee, and those with especially loose joints should be careful. Wearing knee braces that separate the kneecap from the lower patella may help. For any knee injury, stay off the knee for a few weeks, supplement exercise with other activities like swimming and see a sports injury therapist if the condition persists.
- Shin Splints: This term also describes a set of symptoms rather than a specific diagnosis, and refers to pain on the lower front part of the leg, or the tibia bone. Shin splints may be a muscle, bone or ligament injury, but are generally caused by overuse. Resting, treating with ice and stretching to strengthen the nearby muscles can all help relieve symptoms. To regularly strengthen the muscles attached to the shin bone: when sitting, tap the toes and feet with intention up and down; when walking, walk on the heels for a short duration; when sitting or standing, lift and lower the big toe in sets.
- Ankle sprain: A common sports injury in all fields, a sprained ankle is the result of the ankle twisting suddenly sideways, and can be caused by a myriad of factors, including jumping, tripping or falling. Runners are more prone to getting sprained ankles since they are more often out running over unknown terrain and generally active on this joint more than non-runners. Immediate action is necessary to a speedy recovery, including treating with ice, wrapping tightly with a medical bandage and lifting the ankle as high above the head as possible to reduce swelling.
- Pulling a muscle: Most people have pulled a muscle at one time or another, but runners are especially susceptible because oftentimes, the trail calls so strongly that some people forget to stretch before or after exercise. Overexerting a tight muscle leads to a muscle tear, or a muscle pull, so it is extra important to stretch often, stay flexible and run smoothly, being nice to sore joints or tight muscles. Use ice and anti-inflammatory medicine to treat a muscle pull.
- Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS): Marathoners, be aware of this injury because it is mainly caused by overuse or overtraining. Characterized by sharp or burning hip or knee pain, ITBS occurs when the iliotibial band, a thick ligament that stretches from the hip to the knee, becomes inflamed. It may be exacerbated or caused by a lot of downhill running, weak hip muscles or inherent factors. A good stretch for this is to put the injured leg behind the good one, then lean toward the good side, or lie on your side with one leg held straight and forward in the air, pointing your toes toward the ground. Ibuprofen may also help reduce swelling. For this condition, it may be helpful to see a medical assisting or sports therapy professional for additional treatment options.
Steven Kim is a Phoenix, Arizona native who has written about medical assisting programs in Arizona and other college education programs related to the medical field. Steven is also an active runner who participates in several local marathons in the Phoenix and Scottsdale area.