Running is one of the oldest and most rewarding sports. It’s relatively cheap to do and there are a variety of ways to run! You can run short distances, long distances, sprints, on treadmills, roads or trails.
There are many benefits to running, from burning calories and increasing your metabolism to cardiovascular health and strengthening your lower body muscles, and it elevates your mood and helps conquer stress.
Along with the vast benefits of running comes a risk of injuries, most occurring in your lower body; your hips, knees, shins, ankles and feet. Injuries tend to occur when there is a shift from your basic training to adding extra speed work, extra mileage or hills. Keeping your running goals realistic (follow the 10% rule..only increase training challenges by 10% per week) and being aware of some of the more common injuries that can occur will keep you motivated and safe. Here is a list of the top 3 running injuries that I commonly see in my clinic.
RUNNERS KNEE (patellofemoral pain syndrome)
WHAT IT IS: Abnormal tracking of the knee cap over the lower thigh bone. This leads to the irritation of of the cartilage under the knee cap and can cause inflammation and pain. Pain is felt at the front of the knee.
CAUSE: There are several reasons for your knee cap (patella) to not track properly over the lower part of your leg bone (femur). The alignment of your patella relies on a balanced pelvis and leg muscles that pull evenly on both sides of the leg. It’s common to find weak gluteal and inner thigh muscles and/or tight outer thigh muscles that will easily pull the knee cap out of alignment. Also, if your foot pronates, this will affect how your leg joins up with your femur and patella, causing some tracking problems.
TREATMENT: Rest as soon as you feel pain. If symptoms are acute, ice the area to reduce pain and inflammation. Long-term treatment involves improving the alignment of the patella during contraction of the thigh muscle; whether strengthening weak muscles, lengthening shortened muscles or improving your foot pronation.
ILIOTIBIAL BAND SYNDROME (ITBS)
WHAT IT IS: When the iliotibial band (a long flat ligament that runs from your hip and attaches to the outside of your shin) becomes inflamed and irritated from overuse or poor biomechanics. Pain and swelling is felt on the outside of the knee and is mostly felt during heel strike.
CAUSE: the lower portion of the ITB flicks over a bump on the femur called an epicondyle. A bursa is supposed to help the ITB to smoothly transition over this bump every time you flex and extend your knee. If the area becomes irritated and swollen, then the amount of room for the ITB to smoothly move over the epicondyle decreases. This leads to inflammation and scar tissue, which restricts the ITB from its natural glide over the epicondyle and you end up with pain. Running more than the allotted 10% per week can cause this irritation, as well as running on banked surfaces or training in one direction on a track. Poor biomechanics can also contribute to ITBS, such as tightness in the gluteus maximus and TFL (both of which attach to the ITB) or a weak gluteus MEDIUS muscle, which alters the angle of the hips, putting strain on the ITB at the knee.
TREATMENT: Take time off from running and ice the knee area if it’s inflamed. Stretch out any tight muscles, like your lateral quadriceps, your TFL and your gluteus maximus. Use a foam roller to mobilize the fascia along the iliotibial band and quadriceps. Strengthening the gluteus medius will also help improve alignment of the hip.
WHAT IT IS: Your foot arch is supported by a flat band of tissue called the plantar fascia. This fascia runs from your heel bone to your toes and when it tightens up, it can cause too much tension, thereby creating small tears in the tissue causing pain and inflammation. The main symptom being heel pain, felt especially in the morning when first walking. Generally, once your foot has warmed up, the pain and discomfort decreases. Any movements that stretch out the fascia can also be painful, as with climbing stairs. Standing stationary for a long time will also aggravate the foot.
CAUSES: There are many causes of plantar fasciitis. Once again, overuse is one of the more common causes (increasing your mileage too quickly). Anatomical reasons are also a factor with plantar fasciitis, such as having a high arch OR flat feet, excessive foot pronation or if you are overweight. Worn out shoes and a tight achilles tendon or calf muscles can also contribute to this problem.
TREATMENT: Rest. Any weight bearing will aggravate the micro-tearing of the fascia, therefore time off the feet will allow the tears to heal. Ice if there is any inflammation. You will need to address the cause, which means stretch out tight calve muscles, address your foot arch problems with orthodics or arch supports and replace old shoes. Other treatments that have helped are night splints and strengthening the intrinsic foot muscles.
Have a question about your injuries? Drop me a line or book an appointment at Evolutions Massage Therapy in Brentwood Bay, BC.