Common running injuries and physiotherapy management

Running is a popular form of aerobic exercise with several health benefits beyond just physical fitness. Running helps improve cardiovascular health by strengthening the heart and increasing lung capacity. It also helps burn calories, aiding in weight management and promoting overall fitness. Regular running can strengthen muscles, bones, and joints, enhancing physical strength and endurance.

Beyond the physical benefits, running is also known to have positive effects on mental health. It can reduce stress levels, alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression, and boost mood by triggering the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals.

In this article, we will learn about common running injuries, how to decrease the risk of injuries with running, and how physiotherapy can help you if you have any injuries affecting your run.

  • Runner’s Knee (Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome): This is a common overuse injury characterized by pain around or behind the kneecap, often aggravated by running, squatting, or climbing stairs. It’s typically caused by factors like overpronation, muscle imbalances, or improper running technique.
  • Shin Splints (Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome): Shin splints cause pain along the shinbone (tibia), usually on the inner side of the shin. It’s often associated with overuse, improper footwear, or running on hard surfaces. 
  • Achilles Tendinitis: Achilles tendinitis involves inflammation of the Achilles tendon, which connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. It’s often caused by overuse, sudden increases in training intensity, or inadequate stretching. 
  • Plantar Fasciitis: This condition involves inflammation of the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue that runs across the bottom of the foot, connecting the heel bone to the toes. It causes stabbing pain near the heel, especially noticeable in the morning or after long periods of rest. 
  • Iliotibial (IT) Band Syndrome: IT band syndrome is characterized by pain on the outside of the knee, often caused by friction between the iliotibial band (a thick band of tissue that runs from the hip to the knee) and the knee joint. It’s commonly seen in runners who increase mileage too quickly or have biomechanical issues. 
  • Hip adductor and hip flexor strains:
    Hip adductor (groin) strain is a strain or tear to muscles or tendons on the inside of the thigh resulting in on the inside of hip and thigh. Hip flexor strain is a strain or tear to muscles or tendons on the front of the thigh resulting in on the front of hip and thigh. 
  • Piriformis syndrome
    Causes pain in the buttock which may radiate down the leg. Piriformis syndrome occurs when the piriformis muscle compresses or pinches the sciatic nerve.
  • Stress Fractures: Stress fractures are tiny cracks in the bone caused by repetitive force, often resulting from overtraining, sudden increases in mileage, or improper footwear. They commonly occur in the shins, feet, or hips and typically require rest and sometimes immobilization to heal properly.
  • Hamstring Strain: A hamstring strain involves the tearing or stretching of the muscles or tendons at the back of the thigh. It can occur due to sudden acceleration or deceleration, overuse, or inadequate warm-up. 

How to Prevent Running injuries: 

  • Warm-Up and Cool-Down: Prioritize dynamic warm-up exercises to prepare your muscles and joints for activity, and include static stretches during the cool-down to improve flexibility and reduce muscle tension.
  • Gradual Progression: Increase mileage, intensity, and speed gradually to allow your body time to adapt and strengthen. Sudden spikes in training volume can increase the risk of overuse injuries.
  • Proper Footwear: Invest in quality running shoes that suit your foot type and running style. Replace them regularly to maintain adequate cushioning and support.
  • Cross-Training: Incorporate activities like swimming, cycling, or strength training into your routine to build overall fitness and reduce the repetitive strain on specific muscles.
  • Strength and Flexibility Training: Incorporate strength exercises targeting muscles used in running, especially the core, hips, and lower body. Also, regularly stretch tight muscles to improve flexibility and reduce the risk of injury.
  • Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to any signs of pain, discomfort, or fatigue during or after running. Rest when needed, and don’t push through significant pain, as it could lead to more severe injury.
  • Proper Technique: Maintain good running form to reduce stress on your muscles and joints. Focus on a relaxed posture, short strides, and a mid-foot strike pattern.
  • Hydration and Nutrition: Stay properly hydrated and fuel your body with balanced nutrition to support optimal performance and recovery.
  • Recovery Strategies: Incorporate rest days, active recovery, and techniques like foam rolling or massage to help your body recover between workouts.
  • Professional Guidance: Consider working with a coach, physical therapist, or running specialist to assess your form, develop a tailored training plan, and address any biomechanical issues. Runners Den in Owen Sound regularly conducts running clinics which could be a good place to start for beginners to learn the basics of running.

By incorporating these strategies you can help minimize the risk of injury and enjoy a safer, more sustainable running experience.

How Can a Physiotherapy help?

Physiotherapy plays a crucial role in addressing running injuries by focusing on rehabilitation, pain management, and prevention. Here’s how we can help you:

  • Diagnosis and Assessment: In our clinic, our assessment would focus on assessing the root cause of your running injuries. Through a comprehensive examination involving biomechanics, gait analysis, muscle imbalances, and flexibility assessments, we will uncover the underlying factors contributing to your injury. This enables us to build a personalized treatment plan designed to target and resolve specific issues, ensuring effective rehabilitation and optimal recovery.
  • Pain Management: We would use various modalities such as manual therapy, electrotherapy, and therapeutic exercises to alleviate pain associated with running injuries. They may employ techniques like massage, ultrasound, or dry needling to facilitate inflammation and promote tissue healing.
  • Rehabilitation Exercises: We will prescribe customized exercise programs to strengthen weak muscles, improve flexibility, and restore proper movement patterns. These exercises help address underlying imbalances and prevent recurring injuries.
  • Biomechanical Correction: We will address faulty movement patterns or biomechanical abnormalities contributing to your running injuries through gait analysis and functional movement assessments. We will implement corrective strategies, such as posture re-education and gait retraining. If needed we would refer you to a chiropodist or a podiatrist for custom orthotics. In most instances, a good pair shoes goes a long way in correcting faulty movement patterns to improve running efficiency and reduce the risk of injury.
  • Manual Therapy: Hands-on techniques like joint mobilization, soft tissue mobilization, and stretching help to improve joint mobility, release muscle tension, and promote tissue healing which would in turn help to alleviate pain and restore function in injured runners.
  • Education and return to running: We will discuss with you proper running mechanics, footwear selection, training modifications, and injury prevention strategies to help prevent future injuries. We will work with you on structured return-to-running programs tailored to your injury severity, fitness levels, and running goals to ensure long-term success in running. 

We hope this information was useful for you. Please share this information with your friends and family if you believe this would help them as well.

Happy Running!

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