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5 Common Causes of Running Injuries and How to Avoid Them

5 Common Causes of Running Injuries and How to Avoid Them

Whether you’re a new or seasoned runner, chances are you will suffer a running injury at some point. Most running injuries are caused by overuse, in the form of repeated stress over a prolonged period of time. Sudden changes in your training schedule may also be to blame. In this article we’re going to outline 5 common causes of running injuries, and what you can do to treat and prevent them from happening.

Shin Splints

Shin splints can result in an aching and/or stabbing sensation in your shins. This pain can progress from mild aching to continual pain that may even be noticeable at rest. Shin splints happen when there is irritation and inflammation of the muscles and tendons that cover the shinbone. Shin splints often occur when you try to do too much too soon, before your body is able to handle the stress of running. Shin splints can be worsened by using excessively worn shoes, and overpronation of the feet. 

To treat shin splints you should rest, ice the area for 10 to 15 minutes at a time, compress the affected leg, and slightly elevate the leg at night to minimize swelling. Also, until the pain subsides, you should reduce your training mileage and run on softer surfaces. 

When it comes to prevention, wearing insoles and properly fitted shoes to support the arches of your feet may help. Additionally, aim to run on softer surfaces and avoid hills if possible to lessen the stress that is placed on your body. 

Plantar Fasciitis 

Plantar fasciitis can result in extreme pain and stiffness of the heel and arch of your foot. It results from irritation, inflammation, and/or microtearing of the plantar fascia, which is a thick band of tissue that runs along the bottom of your foot. Plantar fasciitis can happen from constantly running on hard surfaces or by wearing unsupportive shoes (i.e. flip flops). 

To treat and prevent plantar fasciitis, try:

  • wearing shoes with additional cushioning
  • stretching your heels by rolling your foot along a tennis ball or frozen water bottle
  • and taking a break from running 

Taking these measures should help control inflammation and pain. If these treatments fail, you can try wearing custom orthotics, a night splint, and/or receive a corticosteroid injection into the heel.  

Iliotibial Band Syndrome  

Iliotibial band syndrome can result in pain along the outside of your knee that occurs when the iliotibial band becomes inflamed. The iliotibial band is a tendon that runs from your pelvic bone down the outside of your thigh and across your knee joint. Iliotibial band syndrome can happen because of increased training, weak hips, and running downhill. 

To treat iliotibial band syndrome try stretching and foam rolling. These exercises may help to minimize inflammation and pain. Prevention of iliotibial band syndrome is similar; continuing gluteal and hip strengthening after the initial injury can help to prevent this injury from recurring.  

Achilles Tendinitis 

Achilles tendinitis can result in pain along your Achilles tendon, and occurs due to weakness or dysfunction of the tendon. While your Achilles tendon may feel fine at rest, you’ll start to experience a sharp sensation after about 5 to 10 minutes of activity. 

Achilles tendinitis often occurs in connection with rapid changes in training levels, excessive hill work, poor body mechanics while running, tight calf muscles, and/or unsupportive footwear (i.e. high heels). Other factors such as weakened gluteal muscles, excessive pronation, discrepancy in leg lengths, and/or muscle asymmetries may contribute to Achilles tendinopathy. 

To treat Achilles tendinitis resting, icing, compressing, and elevating the area are suggested. Also, stretching out the Achilles tendon and reducing the amount of hill work you do will help to control the pain. When you get back to regular training, ensure that you’re wearing supportive footwear. You should also continue to minimize hill work and stretch the area before and after running to prevent injury recurrence.

Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (a.k.a. Runner’s Knee) 

Runner’s knee can result in tenderness around or behind the kneecap. This occurs due to repetitive force from running on pavement, running downhill, weakness of the hip muscles, and/or muscle imbalances. 

To treat patellofemoral pain syndrome, try taping or bracing your knee, and reduce your training mileage to control pain and allow your body to heal. To prevent patellofemoral pain syndrome, avoid running downhill and instead opt to run on soft, flat surfaces. It is also important to strengthen the muscles of your hamstrings and quadriceps.

If you’re a runner and you experience symptoms of any of these common running injuries, consider a consult with one of the physical therapists at Blue Hills Sports & Spine Rehabilitation before your symptoms progress. Recognizing and treating these injuries when symptoms first appear can help to get you back running as quickly as possible.