All you knee'd to know about running injuries
Posted by Tia Patel | Oct-26-2020
We’ve all been all there, pushing through the pain, ignoring the signs our body is giving us, praying for a speedy recovery. 🙏🏻
Wearing the correct trainers can go a long way to helping with certain injuries, and, there are also plenty of exercises and stretches we can all be doing to strengthen our bodies, however, we know as runners that ultimately, injury is part and parcel of what we do. Knowing how to prevent injury is key but having the knowledge to manage injury successfully is what will help to keep us on our feet!
With some expert advice from @achievephysiotherapy, we’ve put pain to paper and investigated some of the most common running injuries which take us down a leg or two.
Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) A.K.A Runners Knee
What is it: Runner's knee is irritation of the structures just below and on the underside of the kneecap (patella). It’s characterized by a dull pain that is either “behind” or “around” the front and/or bottom of the kneecap.
Causes: Risk of suffering from runner's knee is increased for people with biomechanical factors including overpronation and having weak quads, hips, or glutes. Runners' knees typically flare up during or after long runs, whilst participating in movements such as squatting, after extended periods of sitting, or while descending hills and stairs.
Treatment: Strengthen weak hip and glute muscles with lateral side steps. Place a loop of resistance band just above your ankles or your knees. Separate your feet and bend your knees, lowering down into a slightly crouched position. While staying in this position, walk sideways 10 to 15 steps, keeping your feet straight and your upper body still. Then reverse directions. Keep your feet separated to maintain band tension. When this becomes easy, try doing this on your toes with your heels off the ground.
Post-run icing will provide pain relief in the early stages of runners knee with heat working best once the injury is healing and no longer in an acute stage.
Prevention: To prevent runners knee it's important to look at your running form. In particular your stride and knee tracking. By shortening your stride length and landing the knee slightly bent, you can take up to 30% load off the joint. To support your knee tracking, strengthen the quads and glutes with exercises like squats and lunges.
What is it: Achilles tendon is the thickest and strongest tendon in your body, connecting your calf muscles to the back of your heel. Under too much stress, the tendon tightens and becomes inflamed causing tendonitis.
Causes: As you “toe off” the ground when you run, virtually all of the force used by your body comes from the Achilles. This force can be three times as much as your body weight and the faster you run, the more strain you put on the Achilles tendon. Runners who dramatically increase their training to include longer distances with more speedwork and have tight or weak calves are particularly vulnerable to achilles tendonitis.
Treatment: Alternate between hot and cold treatment. Ice for 10 - 15 minutes and then heat the affected area two hours later. Repeat the process as often as you like.
Strengthen the calves by performing heel drops. Stand with the balls of your feet on a step. Rise up on both feet. Once up, take your stronger foot off the step. Lower down on your injured foot, dropping your heel below the step. Rise back up, return your other foot to the step. Do 20 reps.
Avoid running or cycling and instead use an elliptical machine or swim as a form of exercise to avoid putting excess strain on your Achilles.
Prevention: Strong calves protect your Achilles from flare-ups. By performing heel drops and weight bearing lower body exercises you can strengthen the calve muscles. However, its important to avoid aggressive calf stretching and wearing flip-flops and high heels which can irritate the Achilles.
What is it: The plantar fascia is the flat length of connective tissue that runs from your heel bone (calcaneus) to the base of your toes. Its main roles are supporting the long arch in your foot and helping with the toe-off when you’re walking or running. Plantar fasciitis is pain caused by small tears or inflammation of the tendons and ligaments causing pain first thing in the morning which typically feels like a dull ache or bruise along your arch or on the bottom of your heel.
Causes: Runners with very high or very low arches are vulnerable to suffering from plantar fasciitis where the plantar fascia is stretched away from the heel bone. Other causes are related to excessive inward (pronation) or excessive outward (supination) rolling of the foot, increasing distance of runs too quickly and back issues and core weakness which can lead to subtle change in your stride.
Treatment: Roll your foot over massage or lacrosse ball for five minutes at a time up to five times a day to soothe the plantar muscle. Heat the area in sub-acute stages.
To stretch your plantar fascia, sit with one leg crossed over the other so that your right ankle rests on your left knee. Grab the end of your right foot at the toes and gently pull back.
Use your gel pack cold to soothe inflammation of the plantar area and relieve pain.
Prevention: The key to preventing plantar fasciitis is having shoes which fit your type. By having a gait analysis performed from a specialist sports shop, you can ensure that you are wearing shoes which support the biomechanics of your feet. For many people a neutral shoe and orthotic insoles may prove the best option.
Stretch and massage the plantar fascia several times a day. In the morning, hang your feet over the edge of the bed and roll your ankles.
Tight muscles may also be a contributing factor in causing plantar fasciitis. We recommend using a foam roller to loosen up the calf muscles.
What is it: Shin splints refers to medial tibial stress syndrome, an achy pain that results when small tears occur in the muscles around your shin bone (tibia).
Cases: Shin splints occur when runners wear the wrong shoes for them which doesn’t have enough support for their foot type. Or shoes which have done too many miles and where the support has worn away.
Treatment: Rest and ice can ease the pain.
Though conventional wisdom has preached calf stretching as a way to rehabilitate shin splints, there's little evidence that it helps. Instead we recommend gradually building your training to increase endurance, running on soft surfaces where possible to improve shock absorption and disperse forces more evenly. You may need a biomechanical assessment to find the best footwear. Incorporating specific strengthening exercises into your training program will also help to strengthen the supporting muscles whilst improving your running posture and form.
Prevention: The easiest and best way to avoid shinsplints is to increase mileage gradually. It’s also important to make sure you are running in appropriate shoes and we would recommend seeking assistance from a specialist sports shop or even better, your physiotherapist.
What is it: A stress fracture is one of the most serious running injuries developing from cumulative strain on the bone. These stress fractures usually occur in the shin (tibias), feet (metatarsals) or heels (calcaneus).
Causes: The main cause of stress fractures is from overtraining and mechanical overload. Our bones need time to rebuild after a workout. Increasing the duration, intensity or frequency of your running too soon leaves your bones unable to repair themselves fast enough which leads to stress fracture. Stress fractures are more common in women than men, usually due to nutritional deficits, low estrogen levels, and inadequate calorie intake
Treatment: Healing from a stress fracture can take between 8 to 16 weeks depending on the severity of the fracture and its location. Avoid any impact exercise, choose swimming and cross training instead of running which will keep up your aerobic capacity making it easier when you return to running again.
Prevention: An improved bone density with strength and weight training combined with eating enough calories and nutrients will strengthen the bone to avoid any weaknesses which then cause fractures.
Using your gel pack to relieve any swelling and to reduce pain caused by any running injuries.
Ultimately prevention is better than cure, listen to your body, if you feel pain, STOP.
Make sure you rest your injury, eat well, sleep well and stay hydrated! All the elements needed for a faster recovery!