Running is an easy and enjoyable form of exercise with the benefits well documented. Unfortunately, it is associated with a higher risk of overuse injury than other form of exercise such as walking, swimming and cycling. A recent study found that the highest proportion of running injuries occurred from the knee downwards and that women seem to suffer more knee injuries relative to men. One of the main reasons for individuals to sustain an injury is due a sudden change in training/running load whether that be distance, number of runs, intensity of running. This may occur when people decide to increase or start training at a fitness level they are not accustomed to. Outlined below are some of the more common running injuries with some quick tips to manage symptoms;
Achilles Tendon Pain
This is pain in the middle of the tendon that attaches the calf to the heel and in the medical world known as an achilles tendinopathy. If you think you have an achilles tendon injury some of these symptoms may sound familiar. Pain in the tendon with starting a new sport or activity or return to an activity after a period of rest. You may find the tendon is stiff or sore in the mornings and better as the day progresses. You may find that when you increase your activity i.e. start running that your achilles is sore and as you warm up it settles down but when you cool down the pain returns. You may have swelling or a small lump along the tendon when you compare it to the other side. Progressive strengthening exercises have been shown to be the main treatment for tendon injuries accompanied by a gradual return to running program.
Heel pain is also known as plantar fasciitis. It causes tenderness and soreness on the sole of the foot under the heel which may extend sometimes into the arch of the foot. The prevalence and prognosis of this condition is not known and symptoms do tend to resolve over time in most people. Patients that present with plantar heel pain usually report heel pain first thing in morning after getting up out of bed, sometimes with an inability to put heel on ground. It can ease with movement however can worsen with prolonged weight bearing and after a period of inactivity. If you press on the heel where the plantar fascia inserts onto the calcaneus (heel bone) this will be tender/painful. In a lot of cases the onset of heel pain will have been precipitated by a recent increase in weightbearing activities. Seeing a chartered physiotherapist can assist with settling symptoms through manual therapy, individualised rehabilitation programs to strengthen the foot and leg and assist with gradual return to running programs.
There can be several structures around the front of the knee joint that can cause pain. With people who run a lot you may hear them describe “runners knee” which is pain around the kneecap and front of the knee. They may describe pain on the front of the knee going up or down the stairs, their pain may get progressively worse with running or after sitting for a period of time. When they come to see a chartered physiotherapist they will probably have tightness and weakness in the lower limb muscles and will benefit from a stretching and strengthening program.
Ilio-tibial Band Syndrome
This is an overuse injury which typically presents as an ache on the outside of the knee that is aggravated by running or cycling. The pain often comes on at the same time/distance in every run and longer running sessions, running downhill or on a cambered surface can often aggravate symptoms. Treatment for this injury includes strengthening of the muscles around the hip and lower limb to ensure that the leg is strong enough to sustain the body during high impact exercise like running.