Running Injuries: Give It a Rest
by Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Running is one of the best fitness activities you can do for your body. But it can also beat down your body over time. Most runners have had an injury at some point, whether it is a minor muscle strain or chronic knee pain. Things like Achilles tendinopathy and plantar fasciitis are also common injuries.
Luckily, most running injuries can be treated with rest and therapy.
Too Much Running
Many running injuries are from running too much too fast. Try to take a day off in between runs and build up your running time slowly. On the days you don't run, think about cross-training with activities like weight training, biking, swimming, or cardio machines, such as an elliptical trainer. Mixing up your running routine with other exercises will lower the risk of an overuse injury.
If you do become injured, it will need to be treated. This may mean cutting back or taking time off from running. Try to stay fit during down times. Learn about exercises you can do to stay in the game until your injury is fully healed.
Here are some common running injuries and way to lower the risk of them.
Shin splints happen when the tissue that connects the lower leg muscles to the lining of the tibia becomes irritated and inflamed. They are common in beginners and young runners. Changing the surface you run on, running on a tight circular track, and changes in intensity or frequency can lead to shin splints. You can also get them if you have flat feet, rigid arches, or are wearing worn out running shoes.
To treat shin splints, ice the sore area for up to 20 minutes at a time. Put a towel between the ice pack and your skin. You should be pain free when you walk before trying to go back to running. Build up slowly when you do go back. Think about buying a new pair of running shoes. Run on soft or shock-absorbing surfaces. Do not jump back into the same routine you had before your injury.
Knee injuries in running are often from overuse. They can be caused by poor running form, wearing the wrong running shoes, or running too much when your body is not ready. You can help prevent knee injuries by doing stretching and strengthening exercises for the hip and thigh areas, slowly building up your running time, and using proper form.
Most knee injuries can be treated with rest and ice. Do not start running until your knee pain is gone and the doctor says it is safe. Do not do things that involve jumping, twisting, pivoting, or climbing. If your knee pain does not get better with rest and ice, more tests and treatments may be needed.
It is common for runners to have tight hamstrings. This puts them at risk for pulls and tears. If you have hamstring pain, you will want to start with rest and ice. When the pain is better, do strengthening and stretching exercises and ease back into running.
Tendonitis is an inflammation of the tendon. Tendinosis involves microtears without inflammation. Although tendonitis is a less common injury than tendinosis, both can sideline your running. Common causes are overuse, poor running form, and problems with the foot or ankle, such as poor flexibility. Be aware that worn out, poorly fitting running shoes can also lead to these injuries.
You will want to start with rest and ice. Recovery often involves a stretching program or physical therapy. Do not start running again until your doctor says it is safe.
Low Back Pain
Some runners get tightness and pain in their lower backs. This can be caused by wearing worn out, poorly fitting running shoes or by incorrect form. Try strengthening your core and stretching your lower back. Think about changing to a softer running surface or working other activities into your running plan.
Got to Be the Shoes
Running injuries often result from wearing the wrong running shoes. Lacing up the right shoes, won't turn you into an elite runner, but it may save you from injury.
Look for a shoe that gives you a neutral foot strike. Go to a store that specializes in running shoes. Try on shoes in the evening when your feet are at their biggest. Too-tight shoes can be painful. The store staff will look at how you run and analyze the wear on your old running shoes. From there, they should be able to suggest a running shoe that is right for you.
If you are an active runner, remember to change your running shoes every 400 to 500 miles.
Running does not have to hurt. Develop running habits that keep you injury free:
American College of Sports Medicine
American Council on Exercise
The College of Family Physicians of Canada
Public Health Agency of Canada Healthy Living
Achilles tendinopathy. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/achilles-tendinopathy. Accessed October 7, 2021.
Athletic shoes. OrthoInfo—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/staying-healthy/athletic-shoes. Accessed October 7, 2021.
Hamstring strain. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/hamstring-strain. Accessed October 7, 2021.
Patellofemoral pain syndrome. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/patellofemoral-pain-syndrome. Accessed October 7, 2021.
Selecting running shoes. American College of Sports Medicine website. Available at: https://www.acsm.org/docs/default-source/files-for-resource-library/running-shoes.pdf. Accessed October 7, 2021.
Shin pain. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/approach-to/shin-pain. Accessed October 7, 2021.
Last reviewed October 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board
Last Updated: 10/7/2021
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