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How To Keep Yourself Pain & Injury Free When You Run

March 2, 2018


Ideally every runner wants 100’s of miles of pain free running. No aches, no twinges, no lingering soreness from a workout. Many runners regularly deal with some pain and discomfort - a tight hamstring, a niggling ankle, an unhappy knee and grumbling lower back. Usually these nagging issues aren't serious and therefore don’t require time off training. They are annoying, especially if you’re not fully enjoying your run. However, these aches and pains are generally warning signs and if not heeded, may turn into a more serious and long-term injury. Injury will require time off training, and most often a rehab program instigated.


There are 7 common issues connected with running: 


I’ve listed them below. When I see someone presenting with these problems, I will start to address the initial issue and put a ‘health plan’ in place. These plans consist of physical active treatment, and ‘homework’ in the form of various stretches and use of a foam roller and/or tennis ball.


1. Runner's Knee:


Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS), or "runner's knee," is caused by irritation of the cartilage on the underside of the patella (kneecap). Approximately 40% of running injuries are knee injuries. 13% percent of runners suffered knee pain in the past year, according to poll. PFPS typically flares up during or after long runs, after extended periods of sitting, or while descending hills and stairs.


Who's at Risk?


Anyone with weak quad, tight hips and glutes and tight IT Band. Certain biomechanical factors will also contribute, i.e.: things that put extra load on the knees, e.g.: over pronation.


2. Achilles Tendonitis


The Achilles tendon is the distal attachment of two major calf muscles. This tendon attaches to the back of the heel and is then connected via a fascial connection to the Plantar Fascia. Under too much strain of muscle contraction, the tendinous attachments become tight and irritated (tendinitis). Achilles Tendonitis makes up 11% of all running injuries; 8% of poll respondents dealt with Achilles Tendonitis last year.


Who's at Risk?

Runners who have tight calves and those who dramatically increase their training, especially hill and speedwork.


3. Hamstring Issues

These are big muscles that run down the backs of our thighs. They are responsible for bending our knees and extending our legs. They are the main ‘drivers’ up hill, and power us in our finish-line bursts. When our hamstrings are too tight (or weak) to perform well, we will feel it. 8% - 25% of runners will experience some type of hamstring injury during their running career. If these are not dealt with at the first signs of pain and discomfort, you may be in for a serious injury.


Who's at Risk?

Hamstring issues usually arise because these muscles are either too long or too short. The post common is too short – or tightness. However, flexible people are prone to hamstring problems because their lengthened muscles are more vulnerable to damage. These need extra work to be strengthened. Tight and shortened muscles are under greater tension and when muscles are working hard and being continuously contracted, they need to be lengthened. Another contributor is muscle imbalance i.e.: quads that are stronger than hamstrings. Without equalising the muscles in tone and strength, you’re susceptible to injury.



4. Plantar Fasciitis

About 15% of all running injuries affect the foot.  We spend a lot of time on our feet, without adding in the extra stress of running. Our feet absorb a force several times our body weight. Plantar fasciitis is due to small tears, inflammation and tightness of the connective tissue, tendons and ligaments that run from your heel to your toes. Plantar Fasciitis is the top foot complaint amongst runners. The pain, which feels like a bruise along the bottom of your foot, is usually worse first thing in the morning.


Who's at Risk?

Most runners are vulnerable because of the strain exerted on the foot during foot strike. Tight calf muscles may also contribute as the fascia in the calves is connected to the fascia on the bottom of your feet. So, a tightness in one area will cause pulling in another. Other causes are extreme pronation or supination and increasing your mileage too quickly. Standing for long periods of time, particularly on hard floors without supportive footwear, may exacerbate the problem. Again, biomechanical issues can contribute to Plantar Fasciitis e.g.: tilted pelvis, tight hip flexors, lower back issues.


5. Shin Splints

Shin Splints are medial tibial pain syndrome, an achy pain caused by small tears in the connective tissue attached to your tibia (shin bone). This makes up about 15% of running injuries.


Who's at Risk?

Shin Splints are common with new runners and those returning to running after an period of time off. They are simply a sign that you've done too much, too soon. The cause may be due to the muscle within this fascial ‘bag’ not being able to expand and so strain is put on the fascia, causing it to pull on the tibial bone and micro-tear.


6. Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS)

The iliotibial (IT) band is a band of fascia that lies along the outside of the thigh. It connects the hip to the knee. This is a common injury with runners and is due to tightness in the connective tissue. The tightness then pulls on the knee joint and hip joint, causing irritation.


Who's at Risk?

Any runner is at risk of this problem. Discrepancy between leg length my contribute as can difference between tone and strength of quads and hamstrings. Tight hip flexors and extensors and glutes may also be a cause.


7. Stress Fracture

A stress fractures develops because of cumulative and compounding strain on the bone. The most common stress fracture runners experience is in their tibia, metatarsals (feet) or heel.


Who's at Risk?

Those who over train and don’t give their body and bones time to settle after an intense workout. Again, those who up their training or running intensity too quickly will be more susceptible to stress fractures. Your bones need time to repair. Stress fractures are more common i n women than men, usually due to nutritional deficits, low oestrogen levels, and inadequate calorie intake.


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