Top 5 Running Injuries And How To Prevent Them

While many of us are gearing up to run Ottawa Race Weekend, it’s common to see an influx or running injuries at the clinic as runner’s increase their mileage.

We’ve all been there, that little tweak in the knee as finish your run, that ache in your heel that you ignore. You tell your self it will go away on its own, but as your mileage increases the symptoms become more persistent.

There are 5 common running injuries that plague many runners at some point during their running career. Here we will go through how to recognize, prevent, and treat these running injuries before they become a chronic condition.  

The Top 5 Running Injuries Are:

  1. Runner’s knee: AKA Patellofemoral pain syndrome
  2. ITB Syndrome
  3. Achilles Tendonitis
  4. Hamstring Tendonitis
  5. Plantar Fasciitis

Runner’s knee: AKA Patellofemoral pain syndrome

Many runners come into our practice complaining of pain around or behind the kneecap. One identifying symptom of runner’s knee is pain when going down stairs or pain when running down hill. The cause of patellofemoral syndrome is typically abnormal mechanics either above or below the knee joint. This is often due to weak hips, including the glut medius, or weak inner quads, including the VMO. These muscles help to support the knee joint insuring it tracks properly along the femoral groove. Think of the knee cap as running along a train track. When there is more tension pulling it in a particular direction, it will slide off the track creating friction against the other structures and causing pain. This condition can often be treated by strengthening the VMO and the glut med, while working on hamstring and hip mobility to prevent running injuries.

ITB Syndrome

The IT Band is a thick band of connective tissue from the outside of the hip to the outside of the knee. ITB syndrome is one of the top running injuries, and results when the band becomes inflamed, usually due to overuse. ITB syndrome is an injury characterized by pain on the outside of the knee joint, typically presenting 5 minutes into the run. Unlike more serious knee injuries, like a tear, ITB syndrome does not typically have any swelling or clicking. The underlying cause of ITB syndrome is usually weak glut and core muscles (these help to support the IT band), or repeated track or downhill running. A good warm up as well as addressing any underlying weakness in the core and glut muscles is a great place to start addressing the IT band. Over pronation can also be a predisposing factor which can sometimes be helped with custom orthotics or footwear. Runners should also be sure to change directions if doing lots of track work. Deep tissue massage for the lateral quadriceps and hamstrings where the IT band fibres converge can also help to relieve discomfort. 

Achilles Tendonitis

The Achilles is the common tendon which connects the 2 major calf muscles: the gastrocs and the soleus. With running, the Achilles’ tendon can become thickened and develop scar tissue, making the tendon less flexible. Symptoms include a sharp pain anywhere along the tendon, but especially at the base of the tendon close to the heel, as well as limited ankle mobility. Some runners will also develop a nodule in the Achilles’ tendon which is a thickening of the scar tissue. This condition is often caused by tight and fatigued calf muscles, an increased in hill running or a long stride length. Runners who over-pronate are also more susceptible to Achilles tendonitis. In some instances, custom footwear or custom orthotics may be beneficial to help with over pronation.  Achilles tendonitis can be prevented by shortening your stride length, improving calf and ankle mobility and foam rolling the calf muscles. A detailed gait analysis could be useful with this condition to reveal the underlying cause of the Achilles pain. 

Hamstring Tendonitis

High hamstring is one of the running injuries that are common among long distance runners. They often go misdiagnosed as the runner confuses it for a glut injury. A high hamstring strain is characterized by deep glut pain as well as pain with acceleration (sprinting) while running. It is an inflammation of the common attachment site of the 3 hamstring heads. High hamstring injuries are especially prevalent in runners who suffer from lower back pain or sciatic nerve pain. A history of sciatic nerve pain or lower back injury can cause weakness in the hamstring muscles, resulting in changes to the running gait. With high hamstring strains, lower back injuries should first be ruled out. A temporary pause from running might be necessary as you focus on cross training and improving strength in the gluts, hips and calfs. Deep tissue massage therapy to release tension in the hamstring as well as shockwave therapy for high hamstring tendinitis can also be helpful for recovery. 

Plantar Fasciitis

This common running injury is characterized by intense heel pain the first few steps upon waking or after sitting. Plantar fascia is the connective tissue that runs from the heel bone to the toes. It shares a common attachment site with the calf muscles in the heel bone. Tightness and tension in the calf muscles can lead to plantar fasciitis as it pulls on the common attachment site. Plantar fasciitis often occurs with an increase in running mileage or intensity. A a general rule, try not to increase your mileage more than 10% per week. Plantar fasciitis can be treated by releasing tension in the calf muscles as well as treating the attachment site of the heel. Research shows that shockwave therapy can be an effective treatment for plantar fasciitis. 

If you are new to running or suffer from persistent running injuries, you might benefit from a professional gait analysis. A gait analysis can be helpful in identifying biomechanical abnormalities in the gait cycle. It can also provide you with valuable information on what areas to strengthen in order to avoid injuries. During the gait analysis, a professional will evaluate your running mechanics and assess for asymmetries and pronation patterns using specialized software. This assessment can provide valuable information on footwear recommendations and help to guide your rehab. Ottawa Orthotic Lab provides professional gait analysis, footwear recommendations as custom orthotics. 

If you think you might be suffering from one of these common running injuries, our team of experts at Kinetic Edge can help. We offer sports physiotherapy for runners, including shockwave therapy, dry needling and active rehabilitation programs. Our treatments are 1 on 1 in private rooms so you get the full attention of the therapist. We also offer deep tissue massage therapy for athletes as well as Rolf method of structural integration, which helps to realign the fascia and correct imbalances related to running. Don’t suffer through your running injury.

Book an assessment with one of our qualified physiotherapists, chiropractors or massage therapists, or give us a call at 613-680-7966 to learn more!

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