Pounding the pavement might be your way of releasing pent up energy and stress, or simply your go-to calorie burning exercise. Either way, without supportive footwear, proper technique, and adequate stretching, running may leave you grasping your legs and wincing in pain. If this sounds like you, learn about common running injuries and how to treat them:
IT Band Syndrome
When the iliotibial band which runs from your hip down the side of your thigh to your skin becomes stiff or inflamed, it can cause a knee pain that professionals refer to as IT Band Syndrome. Qualified as an “overuse injury,” IT Band Syndrome typically occurs when a runner is repeatedly running with an inward turn of the leg – perhaps because of worn-out shoes, running downhill or on sloped surfaces, or simply overrunning the same track or pavement without changing direction.
IT Band Syndrome is particularly painful because as it is the responsibility of the IT band to help stabilize and move the knee joint when it isn’t working properly, any movement of the knee, from running to simply bending your knee, can result in inflammation and swelling. If you are concerned about wear and tear on your IT band, talk to you doctor about a diagnosis and referral to a sports medicine specialist who might recommend rest, cross-training, wearing an IT band support strap, ice and heat therapy, or more invasive treatments like cortisone shots.
Where the two major calf muscles meet the heel, the Achilles tendon plays the important role of connecting them. Overuse, overpronation, and not stretching calf muscles stresses the Achilles tendon to a point where sometimes it becomes tight and inflamed, and can even develop scar tissue, tears, and or ruptures. Achilles Tendinitis typically feels like a dull to sharp pain along the tendon near the heel area, and even presents itself sometimes as redness and heat around the affected area, limited ankle motion, or even a visible lump on the tendon (built up scar tissue).
If you exhibit any of those symptoms or experience pain and hear the audible cracking of the ankle when you walk or run, see your doctor or orthopedic surgeon for a customized treatment plan. Typically resting the leg, using ice and heat therapy with oral NSAIDS, massaging and trying non-weight bearing activities like swimming can help the Achilles tendon heal. Orthotic inserts that address pronation problems can also help relieve pain.
Searing heel or arch pain when running may also result from inflammation and be tearing of the plantar fascia, the connective tissue that runs along the base of the foot from the heel to the toes. When you run in old or worn-out shoes, if your body mechanics don’t have you pronating correctly, or if you significantly increase your running mileage in a short amount of time, the plantar fascia can become strained, swollen, and tight.
A doctor may recommend plantar fascia stretches, like rolling your foot over a golf ball, ice and heat therapy, foot massage, orthotic inserts, or arch supports to stabilize your pronation. Medicinal routes like taking oral NSAIDs, cortisone injections, physical or shockwave therapy may aid more long term cases.
When it comes to running, going from ‘0 to 60’ can cause undue stress on the lower leg, especially if you switch up a workout regime suddenly or start doing a lot of hill work when you usually ran flat surfaces. Inadequate stretching, worn out shoes, unstable pronation, and drastic overuse can result in tiny muscle tears and inflammation on the inside of the shin (medial) or outside of the leg (anterior).
Shin splints can be mistaken for other injuries like stress fractures (a small incomplete crack in your leg bone) or compartment syndrome (swelling of muscles within a compartment in the leg). It’s important to see a medical professional regarding your lower leg pain to keep you moving and individualize a treatment plan for pain relief. They may recommend immediate application of ice, as well as calf stretches, cross-training by biking or swimming, and orthotic inserts to assist healing.
Other common ailments runners experience might include foot pain, hammer toe, metatarsalgia, hip pain, blisters and skin irritation, and runner’s knee. Always seek the help and advice of a medical professional when it comes to acute and chronic pain that is keeping you from keeping up with your running goals.
Nathan Bradshaw is an expert marketer who specializes in promoting and growing physician practices. He currently works with UrgentWay to help improve their online footprint and garner interest in their Urgent Care, Occupational Health and Health Services.