How to Treat and Prevent Common Running Injuries

Running injuries come in many shapes and in many places. It is difficult to generalize about avoiding all potential damage or how to recover. Each injury can be unique in its own way. As an athlete and a trainer, I have seen that some injuries are much more likely to happen than others. If you can figure out how to avoid getting the common ones, you`ll stay ahead of the game. Most running injuries only last a few weeks and are preventable if you run smart and do all the things that promote healthy running --- things like stretching, strengthening, knowing when to back off on your training and getting new shoes. Here are the most common injuries and what you can do about them. THE KNEE One of the most common knee injuries is called condromalicia. This is wearing of the cartilage underneath the kneecap, resulting in pain and inflammation. The cartilage becomes like sandpaper because the kneecap is not riding smoothly over the knees. Symptoms would include pain beneath or to the side of the kneecap. This begins as a nagging discomfort that worsens when running hills. In time, you begin to feel and in some cases `hear` the grinding of the cartilage. Causes for this condition include an overpronation of the foot, which can twist the kneecap sideways rather than allowing the kneecap to glide in its proper groove. Weak quadriceps muscles can alsocause improper tracking when fatigued, as can an imbalance between your quad and hamstring muscles. Hill running, over training and uneven roads are typical ways to irritate the condition. Preventive measures start with stretching and strengthening your quads, hamstrings and calves. If you overpronate, switch to motion-control shoes with a firm sole and possibly an insert. Get on a regular schedule of changing your shoes before they become totally worn out. Avoid excessive downhill running and stay off uneven roads or paths. Do not overtrain. Be certain to incorporate the rest you need into your training regime. THE FOOT Another common injury is Plantar Fasciitis. This is an inflammation of the plantar fascia, which is a thick band of tissue in the bottom of the foot that runs from the heel to the base of the toes. When under too much stress, the fascia stretches too far and tears, causing inflammation of the fascia and surrounding tissue. Symptoms include pain at the base of the heel that sometimes moves into the middle of the bottom of the foot. Pain is usually more severe in the morning or the beginning of the run because the fascia is tighter at those times. Causes include stress, tension and pulling on the plantar fascia. A tight Achilles tendon or high arches, worn out shoes and overpronation can aggravate this problem. Preventive measures should include stretching your calf muscles. Strengthen the muscles of the foot by picking up marbles or golf balls with your toes. Roll your foot over a golf ball to help loosen up the fascia each morning and after each run. Wear orthotics if you overpronate or have flat feet. Make certain your shoes are in proper running condition. ILIOTIBAL BAND This condition is inflammation and pain on the outside of the knee where the IT band rubs against the femur, the large leg bone. Symptoms include a dull ache a mile or two into a run that lingers and can even increase as you run. In some cases, the pain can be severe and swelling occurs on the outside of the knee. Causes include anything that allows the leg to bend inward, stretching the IT band against the femur. Bowlegs, overpronation, worn shoes, downhill or uneven running surfaces can cause IT band syndrome. Preventive measures are stretching, stretching and more stretching after your run. Strengthen your quads and hamstrings and warm up well before running. Avoid hard runs on cambered roads or indoor short tracks. SHINSPLINTS A very common and nagging injury, shinsplints are an inflammation of the tendons on the inside of the front of the lower leg. Symptoms are an aching or throbbing along the inside of the shin, about halfway down. Pain increases when you press down on the inflamed area. The pain is the most severe when you begin your run and lessens while running. As with tendonitis, pain resumes after rest. Causes include inflexible calf muscles or running on hard surfaces such as concrete sidewalks. Beginning runners often get shinsplints, uusually due to a poor choice of running shoe or putting in too many miles too soon. Preventive measures begin with stretching and strengthening the muscles in the front of the leg. Using a large therapy band or ankle weights, attach the resistance to the top of the foot over the toes and, without bending the knee, move the foot in an up-and-down motion. Make certain you wear motion-control shoes and possibly orthotics. Don`t over stride and don`t run on hard surfaces. One of the most over-looked measures to prevent injuries is rest. Never run injured. See a doctor or physical therapist to find the cause of whatever problem you are having and implement the proper treatment to correct it. Run long or hard enough and you`ll probably come down with an ache that will sideline you temporarily. After a few days or weeks of rest and corrective measures, you can return to your routine. The best treatment is not to get injured in the first place. While that may seem impossible, if you adopt these principles I`ve discussed, you`ll have a reasonable chance of running in good health indefinitely. JR Rosania is the organizer for the 2000-2001 PhoenixFit marathon-training season. A former strength and conditioning coach for the Phoenix Suns, JR has more than 20 years of performance enhancement training expertise, has completed more than 75 triathlons including three Ironman races and was selected one of the countrys top 25 trainers by Vogue magazine. Email him at or call 602-295-0652.

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