Running is one of the most popular ways to improve and maintain fitness, and more than 40 million Americans run on a regular basis to stay in shape. Though running is a great way to keep active, runners across the country deal with an injury at some point in time. Many running injuries are caused by repetitive stress, but other injuries like sprained ankles and torn muscles can happen suddenly.
Keep reading to learn a little more about the most common injuries in runners and how they are typically treated.
How To Treat the Most Common Injuries In Runners At Home
Before we begin, it’s important to note that there is no substitute for a highly-qualified physical therapist, even though some running injuries can be treated at home. Here is a brief list of some of the common injuries in runners and some basic prevention and treatment options.
Runner’s Knee (Patellofemoral Syndrome)
Patellofemoral Syndrome, commonly known as runner’s knee, refers to the pain that resides in front of your knee or around your kneecap. This is a common injury in sports caused by overuse from running or jumping.
Runner’s knee usually causes pain that is dull and can be felt in one or both knees. Typically the pain ranges from mild to extreme and worsens with prolonged sitting or exercise like jumping, climbing stairs, or squatting.
This type of injury may also include cracking or popping sounds after being stationary for prolonged periods. You might be at higher risk of developing runner’s knee if you have weakness in your hips or the muscles around your knee.
A doctor can usually diagnose a runner’s knee with a physical exam, but they might recommend an X-ray to rule out anything else. A physical therapist like the ones at Park Sports will give you a specific treatment plan to treat runner’s knee and other common injuries in runners.
IT band syndrome
Your IT band, or iliotibial band, is a long piece of connective tissue that runs from your outer hip to your knee. It helps stabilize your knee as you’re walking or running.
Repetitive friction of the IT band rubbing against your leg bone is the typical cause of IT band syndrome. Runners have tight IT bands, which is why this is a common injury in runners. Other things that may also contribute to this condition are weak gluteal muscles, abdominals, or hips.
Runner’s experiencing IT band syndrome feel a sharp pain on the outer side of your leg, just above the knee. The IT band might also be tender to the touch, and the problem gets worse when the knee is bent.
One of the most common foot injuries is plantar fasciitis. It entails irritation or degeneration of the fascia, the thick layer of tissue on the bottom of your foot. This tissue layer acts like a spring when you’re walking or running. You can put your fascia under increased stress by increasing your running volume too quickly. Weaknesses in your calves and muscle tightness can also increase your risk of plantar fasciitis.
Some symptoms include gradually developing pain, a burning sensation on the bottom of your foot, pain that resides under your heel or midfoot, and pain after prolonged activity.
During your running cycle, your hamstrings help decelerate your lower leg during the swing phase, so if your hamstrings are tight, weak, or tired, they might be prone to injury. Distance runners rarely experience sudden hamstring tears like sprinters might. Most of the time, distance runners experience hamstring strains that come on slowly. They are usually caused by repetitive small tears in the fibers and connective tissue of the hamstring muscle.
Hamstring injuries usually cause dull pain in the back of your upper leg, muscles that are tender to the touch, or general weakness and stiffness in your hamstring.
Treatment Options For Running Injuries
Follow up with your doctor or physical therapist if you’re experiencing any kind of pain or discomfort or find it hard to run so that you can get a proper diagnosis and rule out any underlying conditions.
For many common injuries in running, treatment often includes specific exercises assigned by physical therapists, following the RICE protocol (rest, ice, compression, elevation), cutting back on your running time, and taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin or ibuprofen.
Specifically for runner’s knee, you should try strengthening your quadriceps and hip muscles while making sure to stretch quads and calves often. It might also help to wear orthotic shoes. With IT band syndrome, daily stretching, and strength training for your hip muscles can decrease pain. If you’re experiencing hamstring injuries, then you should work on strengthening your glutes, stretching your hamstrings often, and changing your running technique. If you’re experiencing plantar fasciitis, then stretching and strengthening your calves can help ease discomfort.
Prevention Tips For Common Injuries In Runners
Running injuries can happen to anyone, but you can minimize the risk of injury in a few of the following ways:
First, warm up! Warming up before you go on your regular run by starting with an easy job or dynamic mobility stretches for 5 to 10 minutes. Another tip is to increase your running volume slowly. Consider the 10% rule, where you don’t increase your weekly volume of running by more than 10 percent at a time.
A lot of physical therapists recommend preventing further injuries to take care of the small ones as they come up. If you already have a nagging pain in your knee or leg, rest! You don’t want them to develop into more severe issues. A physical therapist will give you a proper diagnosis and provide you with a customized treatment plan.
Include stability exercises in your training program to help strengthen your hips. Try glute bridges or single-leg squats to help you protect your knees and ankles. You might also consider cross-training to improve your aerobic fitness, which gives your joints a break from the repetitive impact of running. Add some low-impact workouts into your schedule, such as swimming or cycling.
You should also work on your running technique. Especially if you’re just getting into running, it’s important to note that poor technique can increase the amount of stress on your muscles and joints. Work with a running coach or film yourself running to help yourself improve.
Lastly, run on softer surfaces. Grass, rubber tracks, sand, or even gravel is easier on your joints than running on pavement. Especially if you’re experiencing nagging injuries, try switching up your run and stay on softer surfaces until your pain subsides.
Many runners will deal with an injury at some point, and the most common areas that sustain injuries include knees, legs, and feet. If you’re a runner and experience any kind of pain or discomfort when running, it’s essential to reach out to your physical therapist or doctor to get a proper diagnosis and to rule out other conditions.
A targeted plan made by a physical therapist can go a long way into helping you properly recover when you’re injured so that you can get back to doing what you love. When you need help or advice, give us a call today. We’d love to schedule a consultation with you to see how we can help you alleviate pain and keep you healthy and safe.