Track athletes and avid runners are no strangers to running injuries. Overuse, running on uneven terrain, and old shoes are just a few of the contributors to the potential injuries that runners might experience while training or competing. Although you can’t always prevent tripping on a tree root or turning your ankle on an unexpected slope, you can avoid a running injury by taking certain precautions. Follow our tips to prevent these three common running injuries.
1. Runner’s Knee
The technical term is patellofemoral pain syndrome, but most athletes refer to it as runner’s knee. Excess stress on the kneecap results in the primary symptom, which is pain around or behind the area with tenderness to the touch. The most common causes are running down hills, repetitive force on hard surfaces, and muscle weakness in the hips. To prevent it, consider the following:
- Avoid running down hills
- Run on softer surfaces and avoid hard pavement
- Do exercises to strengthen the muscles surrounding the hip joints
If you do end up with this injury, your doctor might recommend wearing a knee brace to support the joint as well running less until the pain subsides. Cold therapy and compression can also help reduce the inflammation inside the knee joint and relieve pain without the need for medication.
2. Stress Fractures
Although you might not think of running as a sport that is likely to result in a broken bone, the repeated impact on your body as you run on hard surfaces can lead to stress fractures. These tiny cracks in bones often occur in the shins or feet but also affect the thigh bone as well. Avoid this injury by:
- Cross-training to prevent overuse
- Wearing proper shoes
- Retiring old shoes
- Performing weight bearing exercises to improve bone density
- Supplementing with calcium to maintain bone strength
A stress fracture is not usually a serious injury, but it can set you back for several weeks because the main course of treatment is resting while the bones heal themselves. You might also need to completely take weight off the affected area by using crutches during the early phases of recovery. In addition, cold therapy can help with the pain and swelling.
3. Shin Splints
One of the most common running injuries is shin splints. Characterized by inflammation in the muscles and tendons that connect to the shin bone, it results in aching or piercing pain along the front of the shin. Prevent this annoying running injury by:
- Running on softer ground when possible
- Using shock-absorbing insoles
- Wearing shoes that properly fit
- Avoiding running on hills
Shin splints are best treated with cold therapy and compression to reduce inflammation and relieve pain. Elevating the legs at night can also help reduce swelling and inflammation.
While you can treat many running injuries at home with rest, elevation, and cold therapy with compression, some require surgical repair. If you have experienced a running injury that resulted in surgery, download our free Guide to Knee Surgery Recovery to learn how to get back on your feet quickly without compromising your rehabilitation.