Running is an excellent way to stay in shape, but the impact of running can result in injury to the feet, ankles, shins, knees, and spine. Being able to recognize these injuries and taking some preventative measures can greatly reduce your chance of harm.
It is helpful to be able to recognize the onset of an injury early so that you can take care of yourself without missing out on too much running time. Here are some of the most common running injuries and symptoms.
The Achilles tendon, which connects the calf muscles to the back of the heel, takes on a lot of stress when running. If stressed too much, the tendon can tighten up and become irritated and painful. Symptoms of Achilles tendonitis include pain and stiffness in the tendon that worsens with activity and swelling. Bone spurs may also be present, which can rub against the tendon, further irritating it. If you feel a “popping” sensation in the area, seek medical attention immediately–the tendon may have torn.
Patellofemoral pain syndrome, more commonly known as “runner’s knee,” affects the cartilage under the kneecap. If you have runner’s knee, you may feel a dull, aching type of pain under or in front of the kneecap in the area where it connects with the end of the thighbone. You may feel this pain more when walking up and down stairs, kneeling, squatting, or after a long run.
Spinal Disc Damage
The repetitive impact of running can put a great deal of stress on the spine. The discs, which act as shock absorbers in the spine, take on a lot of this stress. If you already have a disc injury, running can worsen the symptoms. Pain could be the result of degenerative disc disease, which can be caused by wear and tear to the spine, or a herniated disc, which can put pressure on the nerves and cause pain that radiates from the lower back down to the legs. If you consistently experience lower back pain after running, you should consider seeing a spine specialist.
Medial tibial stress syndrome, often called shinsplints, happens when small tears occur in the muscles around the shin bone. Shinsplints often cause an achy pain and are common among new runners or those returning to running after a lengthy break. If you suffer from shinsplints, it is a sign that you are overdoing it, and need to back off a bit.
Stress fractures are tiny cracks in the bone that can result from overuse. If the muscles are overworked and can no longer absorb extra shock, the bones take on some of the stress, resulting in a stress fracture. For runners, stress fractures are common in the shins, feet, and heels. If you have a stress fracture, you may experience pain that worsens with activity, but decreases upon rest. Swelling and tenderness at the site are also common.
Preventing Running Injuries
Taking preventative measures can decrease your chance of injury. Follow these tips so injuries don’t stop you from running.
Stretch before you run.
Some running injuries, like Achilles tendonitis and runner’s knee, are often the result of muscles that are too tight. Be sure to stretch out your hamstrings and calves before you start running.
Give it a rest.
Running does offer great health benefits, but too much of a good thing can do more harm than good. Overly-stressed muscles leave you susceptible to injury, which may force you to avoid running for weeks.
Listen to your body
If you begin to feel pain in a particular area when running, it’s time to give yourself a break. Don’t push yourself to keep going.
Wear the right shoes.
Find shoes with the right amount of cushioning to help absorb the shock of impact. If you are new to running, you might want to consider seeking help at a specialty running store. The experts there can help to fit you with the shoes that work best for you.
Most importantly, if you are regularly experiencing pain during or after running, take a break and get checked out by a doctor. If you catch and treat an injury early on, you can lessen your down time from running.