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Top 10 Most Common Running Injuries – Treatment & Prevention

Running is awesome. It’s really life changing and can help you get into the best shape of your life.

I can go on and on about the benefits of running, but that’s not the whole story. There is also a dark to running, and it’s the chief reason so many people shy away from the sport.

Enter of the World of Running Injuries.

What I really hate about running injuries is that they are often hard to avoid. In fact, according to American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, approximately 70 percent of all runners will get injured at some point in their running life.

Not only that, runners also have to deal with all sorts of pain and discomfort, ranging from screaming blisters, black toes, mental burnouts to crippling back pain and debilitating muscle soreness.

These running ailments can plague anyone, from newbies just starting out and whose bodies are not used to running, to professional runners with a strong drive for success.

Nonetheless, there is good news.

Most of running injuries are easily curable, and with the right prevention program, you can slash your risks of common injury by a significant margin.

Therefore, the topic of running injury is crucial.

Therefore, today I’m sharing with a long and detailed post to help deal with some of the most common running injuries out there. Inside of this post, you will learn the exact steps you need to take to spot, treat and prevent 10 of the common running injury in the running world.

Top 10 Most Common Running Injuries – Treatment & Prevention

Whether you are a newcomer to running or a veteran runner with a dozen of marathons under your belt, here are the 10 most common, along with a few ways to stop the pain and prevent injury.

So are you ready? Then here we go…

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Image Credit – Bolt21 via Flickr

1. Runners Knee

The Injury Process

Also known Patellofemoral pain syndrome, or PFPS for short, this injury is so widespread among runners that it was named after them. In fact, survey shows that runners knee injuries make up to 40 percent of all running injuries.

Runner’s knee happens when the patella (the kneecap) fails to move smoothly in the femoral groove at the lower end of the thigh bone, resulting in irritation of the cartilage on the underside of the kneecap, leading to crippling pain.

Symptoms

Runners knee is typically described as intense pain behind or around the kneecap that comes on during a run, or afterward. The pain gets worse when using the stairs, running downhill, after extended periods of sitting or during activities that require knee bending motions.

Causes

The leading causes of PFPS are weak hip rotator muscles and/or glutes, too much uphill running, and improper running mechanics.  Also, runners who overpronate are at a higher risk of getting injured.

Fix it

For starters, stop running and take a break from any activity that puts too much stress on the knees. You can also reduce your weekly mileage by half and avoid running on successive days as long as you can run pain-free.

Next, ice the injured knee for 15 to 20 minutes, two to three times per day, or just right after running if you feel any pain post-run.

Prevent it

To bulletproof your knees against PTFS, you will have to strengthen your lower body muscles—especially the hips, glutes, quads and calves. You can strengthen these muscles with clamshell, side lifts, lateral side steps, squats, and lunges—exercises you can do in the comfort of your home.

Plus, make sure also to stretch your hip flexors, and hamstrings on a regular basis. And stick to flat or uphill terrain, running on softer running surfaces whenever you can.

In addition, develop proper running form and run in the proper footwear, and, if you have to, wear motion-control shoes.

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Image Credit – KT Tape via Flickr

2. Achilles Tendonitis

The Injury Process

The Achilles’ tendon is a major tissue that connects the back of the heel to the two major calf muscles: the Gastrocnemius & Soleus muscles. This vital tendon absorbs several times the body weight with each stride you take, so it’s no surprise that Achilles tendinitis is a pretty common condition among runners.

Achilles tendinitis occurs when there is too much stress placed on this vital tendon, resulting in inflammation and irritation of the entire tendon. This condition makes up roughly 10 percent of all running injuries, according to the survey.

Causes

Achilles tendonitis is caused by many factors, including improper running shoes, tight and/or weak calf muscles, a rapid increase in training volume, and sometimes, being flat footed.

Plus, runners with a BMI of 25 or higher who run a 9-minute-per-mile pace or faster are also at greater risk of getting injured.

Symptoms

The main symptom is a tender pain in the lower calf near the heel, or on the back the heel—especially when you run, tip-toe or when you first walk in the morning after getting out of bed.

Plus, there can also be some strange noises in the tendon when the foot is flexed or pointed.

Fix it

If you have it, then you should stop running and take as many days off as possible. You cannot run through this injury as it will only get worse. And if you keep running through pain, you will exacerbate the injury, which can take you up to six months or more to fully recover.

Next, apply ice for 10 to 15 minutes on the injured area two to three times a day.

To relieve the pain, you can always stretch your calves and wear supportive shoes.  For more, research suggests that putting on compression socks for hard runs to relieve and prevent Achilles tightness.

Prevent it

First of all, strengthen your calves with calf raises and eccentric heel drops. Strong calf muscles will guard your Achilles against re-injury. Also, stop wearing flip-flops and high heels, all of which can wind the Achilles up.

Also, make sure to stretch your calves regularly—especially after a run.

Plus, work on improving your running form and find the best footstrike that works the best for you.

3. Plantar Fasciitis

The Injury Process

The plantar fascia is a thick band of tissue that covers the bones along the bottom of the foot and connects the forefoot and the heel. And when there is too much inflammation in this vital tissue, it can develop to the condition that’s known as Plantar Fasciitis.

Plantar Fasciitis is one of the most common culprits of heel pain in runners and amounts to roughly 10 percent of all running injuries.

Symptoms

Plantar fasciitis manifests as intense pain and extreme tenderness along the bottom of the foot near the heel, particularly within the first few steps after getting out of bed in the morning, getting up after prolonged periods of sitting, or, apparently, while running.

Causes

Some of the of leading causes of the injury include overtraining, and running in the wrong footwear. Extreme pronation and supination can also be culprits to the ailments.

In addition, runners with a very high or very low arch are also at greater risk of the injury. Other causes include too much standing on hard surfaces, ramping up running mileage too quickly, and tight and/or weak lower body muscles.

Fix It

For a quick fix, grab a frozen water bottle, then roll it under the sole of your foot backward and forward for five minutes at a time, a couple of times per day.

To speed up recovery, make sure to step back from running, and stretch the fascia tissue at least a couple of times per day.

If the pain persists, then you should see a physician. They might suggest putting on custom-made orthotic,  or a night splint to speed up recovery. These are all viable options to consider if all else fails.

Prevent it

First off, stretch your plantar fascia and calves on a consistent basis—especially if you are about to run in the morning as the fascia tends to tighten overnight.

Plus, make sure also to work on developing core strength—especially if you have a bad history of the injury.

Furthermore, strengthen your calves with heel raises, toes raises, and eccentric heel drops.

Plus, avoid strapping on high heel or flip-flops, both of which can irritate this band of tissue and shorten the calf muscles.

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Image Credit – Terry Johns via Flickr

4. Shin Splints

The Injury Process

Also known as medial tibia stress syndrome, MTSS for short, this injury is an inflammation of the tendons and/or the muscles located around the tibia—your shinbone—resulting from small tears that occur in the muscles around the front portion of the lower leg.

This injury is common among beginner runners and those scoring a comeback after an extended layoff. According to survey, shin splints make up about 15 percent of all running injuries.

Symptoms

The main symptom of shin splints is an aching, stabbing sensation felt along the inside front of the lower leg, about halfway down the shin or all along the bone—especially during the first few miles of a run.

Causes

If your feet tend to roll inward excessively, what’s known as overpronation, then you are more likely to develop the condition. Beginner runners and women who wear high heel often are also at a greater risk. Also, running on uneven or slanted surfaces might increase the risks of injury.

This ailment also plagues runners wearing improper footwear and those with flat feet or high arches.

Fix it

At the first sign of pain, reduce your volume and back off your running to an easy level for at least a couple of weeks before slowly ramping it up while opting for the 10 percent rule as long as you can do it pain-free.

Next,  ice the injured shine for 15 to 20 minutes per day and keep it elevated at night to ease swelling. You can also wear shock-absorbing insoles to help provide you with more support in the arch.

You might also stretch your calf muscles, preferably with foam rolling moves, and tap the shin with Kensio Tex tape to soothe the pain and speed up recovery.

During the “relative rest” day, you might choose to swim, bike, pool run or do yoga if you don’t want to lose fitness.

Return to running once you can do it pain-free—even long after you stop applying the RICE method. If the problem persistent for longer than a month, then you might need to see a physician for a thorough examination of the entire shin bone.

Prevent it

For starters, if you are a beginner runner, then you need to opt for the 10 percent rule, increasing your mileage by no more than 10 percent from one week to the next. Plus, make sure also to listen to your body and adjust accordingly.

Next, strengthen your calves with toes raises, eccentric heel drops, and calf raises.

For runners with flat feet, orthotics might help but talk to your doctor before you make any decisions.

5. Iliotibial Band Syndrome

The Injury Process

Or ITBS for short, this is an inflammation of the iliotibial band, which is a thick tendon that runs from the pelvic bone all the way down to the knee.

ITBS occurs when the IT band thickens and rubs the knee bone, resulting in inflammation and pain. According to survey, the iliotibial band syndrome makes up roughly 12 percent of al running injuries, making it the fourth most common ailment in the running world.

Symptoms

ITBS manifests as intense pain around the outside of the knee and/or the hip that’s  felt all the way down of the leg—especially when running downhill or while using the stairs.

At the first stage of the condition, you might feel a sensation of stinging on the outside of the knee—still, ITBS is NOT a knee injury.

Causes

For the most part, runners with leg-length discrepancies, or those who overpronate or suffer from weak gluteal and hip abductor muscles are at a higher risk of the injury.

Moreover, runners with a BMI of 24 or higher who do a weekly run of two hours of more are more likely to develop the condition.

Fix it

At the first sign of trouble, take a couple of days of rest and reduce your mileage by 50 percent for a couple of weeks, and you could prevent serious injury. You will only exacerbate the injury if you keep on ignoring the first warning signs of the condition and keep on running at your typical mileage and intensity.

To treat ITBS, opt for the RICE method as long as there is pain. You may also choose to take NSAIDs and other off-the-counter anti-inflammation drugs to ease pain and speed up recovery.

During the recovery period, you can choose to cross train by opting for low-impact activities, like swimming, biking, pool running, and yoga to help you keep your fitness base.

Prevent it

Strengthen your hip abductors with exercises such hip raises, side leg lifts, bridges, lunges wall sits, aiming to strengthen the muscles around the IT band. As a result, make sure to add plenty of these exercises into your gym workouts.

Use a foam roller to loosen the band and roll out the sides of your hips, which can help break up the tissue knots in the area, reducing inflammation and pain.

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Image Credit – Bren Smith via Flickr

6. Stress Fractures

The Injury Process:

Although running is a non-contact sport, its high impact nature can lead to broken bones, too.

Stress fractures is a condition in which tiny cracks in the bone are developed by taxing the leg bones more impact that they can bear. Stress fractures are caused by repeated mechanical stress due to the high impact (and repetitive) nature of running.

As a runner, you are more likely to encounter stress fractures in the calcaneus—AKA the heels, the metatarsals—or feet, and most commonly in the tibia—the shin bone.

In my opinion, this is one of the most serious ailments that plague runners, making up to six percent of all running injuries, according to survey.

Symptoms

In most cases, if you have a stress fracture, you might feel a crescendo of pain that worsens the longer and the further you run but subsides upon rest. Tenderness and swelling of the entire bone are also common indicators of a stress fracture.

In advanced cases of the condition, stress fractures will make even the simple act of standing on your feet uncomfortable and painful.

Causes

Stress fractures do not happen as a result of a fall or slip, they occur as a result of growing strain on the leg bone.

The primary cause of this severe bone injury is a drastic increase in mileage and training volume. So if you are overtraining, then you are more likely to suffer from this condition.

Also, runners with nutritional deficiencies and female runners with low estrogen levels are more likely to develop the condition.

Fix it

The first thing you need to do here is rest and give your bones the downtime they need to recover and keep up.

Sorry, there is no way around it here.

With a stress fracture, rest is the way to go. You can always R.I.C.E to speed up recovery and alleviate pain.

In most cases, it might take up at least six to eight weeks to achieve full recovery—depending, of course, on how severe you were injured in the first place.

During the downtime, cross train,  and wear proper footwear.

You can return back to your former running routine once you can jog pain-free with no lingering pain afterward. Once you can walk pain-free, then you might try a bit of jogging or low intensity running.

But if the pain persists, then you should back off and build your mileage gradually and slowly. In extreme cases, you might need to run some tests to see if it’s time medical intervention.

Prevent it

The best prevention measure is to review your running habits and training to avoid re-injury. In most cases, addressing the root cause of the injury is the way to go.

In most cases,  try to do the bulk of your running on soft surfaces like grass and dirt trails and steer clear of harder surfaces such as asphalt and sidewalks.

Plus, make sure you are consuming enough calories and nutrients—especially calcium to keep your bones strong. You can also improve your bone density with weight training.

8. Ankle Sprains

The Injury Process

Ankle sprains happen when there is turning, twisting, or rolling movement of the foot that stretches the ligament surrounding the ankle beyond their normal range, tearing them in the process, and leading to severe swelling and pain.

This is a very common injury. In fact, roughly 25,000 people sprain their ankles on a daily basis, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. And runners are not an exception.

Symptoms

Ankle sprains manifest as tender pain in the ankles—especially when you walk or run on the injured foot.

Other symptoms of ankle sprains include bruising, skin discoloration, swelling and restricted range of motion in the whole ankle area.

Female runner suffering ankle sprained injury.

Image Credit – 4Chion Marketing via Flickr

Fix it

The standard RICE method works like a charm with this injury. If you are going an ankle sprain, then you need to R.I.C.E it for at least a couple of days before you do any weight-bearing activities like running.

You can also wrap or compress the ankle with an Ace bandage to ease the inflammation and speed up recovery.

Of course, how long should you rest depends on the sprain’s severity, so if the injury lingers for more than two weeks, then you might need to a see a physician for a more thorough action plan.

In most cases, your physician might recommend tapping the ankle, an air case or an ankle brace to speed up recovery and/or prevent re-injury as you slowly return back to your running routine.

Prevent it

Ankle sprains will usually heal in one to two weeks, but if you have a bad history of the condition (read: you sprain your ankles a lot), then there are a few things you need to do to prevent that from happening.

To bullet-proof your body against ankle sprains, start doing balance exercises to strengthen the muscles around your ankles and build prioperception—the awareness of your own body in space.

Once the pain subsides and you can run pain-free, you might consider strengthening the muscles surrounding your ankle with balance training exercise such as xxx and yyy to improve ankle stability and prevent a flare-up—especially if you have a bad history of the condition.

9. Muscle Strains

The Injury Process

Muscles strains are common among athletes from all backgrounds and training levels, and the most common type that plagues runners is hamstrings strains, the group of muscles running down the back of the thigh.

Hamstring strains is a condition is which there a slight tear or overextension of one or more of the three muscles in the back of the thigh (the semitendinosus, the semimembranosus, and the biceps femoris), all of which are in charge of bending the knee.

Causes

Beginner runners are more prone to muscle strains because their muscles are not used to the high-impact nature of the sport.

If you do any sprinting or a lot of speedwork, then you are more likely get the condition. Other causes of the condition include skipping a warm-up, doing too much too soon.

Symptoms

Hamstrings strains manifest as tender stiffness and pain along the back of the thigh, especially when trying to stretch the muscle, speeding up or slowing down while running, or sometimes, anytime you perform any knee bending activity.

Fix it

Most hamstring strains can be treated at home and without much hassle. If you have just strained your hamstrings, then stop running immediately and apply the RICE method on the spot.

Take a couple of days off (or more) from running, ice the painful area for 15 to 20 minutes a couple of times a day, and keep the injured leg elevated on a pillow to speed up recovery and reduce swelling.

Recovery time varies from one runner to the next, taking anything from two weeks to three months, depending on how serious the muscle strain is.

Prevent it

First of all, make sure to start all of your runs with a proper warm-up.

If you are planning to do a sprint or speedwork session, then invest at least 15 to 20 minutes in a dynamic warm-up, comprising of light jogging, dynamic exercises, such as inchworms, squats, and lunges, and running drills to get your body and muscles ready to fire at maximum speed.

A wide range of motion in the lower body is also vital. As a result, increase your flexibility and mobility in the posterior muscles and tendons so your hamstrings are no longer prone to being strained or overstretched.

You can also reduce the strain placed on the hamstrings by strengthening your glutes and hip abductors, reducing hamstring irritation.

10. Patellar Tendinitis

The Injury Process

Also known as “Jumpers knee,” patellar tendinitis is an inflammation of the patellar tendon, which is the tendon that runs from the kneecap to the top of the tibia.

This vital tendon assists leg extension during running and other knee-bending motion, but the repeated high impact nature of running might place too much stress on the patella, resulting in small tears in the tendon, leading to pain and swelling.

Symptoms

In most cases, patellar tendinitis pain is felt at the bottom of the kneecap—directly over the patellar tendon to be precise. However, the tenderness might take place anywhere along this structure.

In most cases, the pain is worse when you do any knee bending activity, such as kneeling, squatting, sitting, jumping or ascending stairs.

Causes

Some of the most common causes of the condition include overpronation (other biomechanical challenges), overtraining, and too much hill training.

Not only that, if you do any sport that requires repeated stress on the knees can lead to the condition. Also, running on uneven or slanted surfaces might lead to the injury.

Treat it

First, step back from your running and/or drastically reduce your weekly mileage, giving your body the time it needs to begin the healing process.

Next, ice the injured area for 15 to 20 minutes three to four time per day, and return gradually to your former running mileage once you can do it pain-free.

Prevent it

First off, work on strengthening the muscles surrounding your knees, mainly the quads, hamstring and calves to provide more support to the patellar tendon and reduce the strain placed on the knees.

Make sure also to stretch your hamstrings and calves on a regular basis.

Increase your mileage by no more than 10 percent from one week to the next, making sure to make recovery a priority here.

Featured Image Credit – Greatist via Flickr

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