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4 Common Running Injuries: Prevention and Recovery

Running is like nothing else in life. It offers an unapparelled sense of freedom, drive, and adventure for people who love to run.

'Runners high' is a real sensation, and the endorphin rush you experience after a sunrise run by the beach, on the trails, or in the park is addictive. Unfortunately, the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that comes with running makes you want to run more and run further. And if you’re not careful, that is how injuries occur.

Injuries are an unfortunate part of life as a runner. However, they can often be prevented, and they can always be treated. In this article, we discuss 4 of the most common running injuries and provide insight into how to prevent and treat your nagging injury and continue lacing up your trainers.

Common Injuries Faced by Runners

Runner's Knee and Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PPS)

Knee pain can be disheartening. Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS), or 'runner's knee', is an unfortunately common injury for runners, which can cause inflammation and intense pain around the kneecap. 'Runner's knee' is caused by the patella (kneecap) moving or “tracking” incorrectly the femur (thigh bone). It is often a result of overtraining, a rapid increase in volume or intensity, poor running form, or weak hip and glute muscles.

Prevention and Recovery:

Dealing with a knee-running injury is complex, and recovering from PFPS is an intricate process. First and foremost, you must rest. Secondly, to reduce the inflammation, reduce your running or very occasionally you may have to stop entirely for a short period of time.

Once you feel ready, gradually increase your weekly kilometres, but always check in with yourself on the pain level. If the pain is getting worse, stop. To prevent 'runner's knee,' focus on proper running form, and incorporate a tailored strength programme into your routine, to correct muscle imbalances which may be causing the problem.  You may have to build your glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps and release of tight muscles and myofascial tissue like your Illiotibial band. A professional sports physiotherapist can assess your injury and guide you on the exercises that will work for you.

Hamstring Strains and Hamstring Tendinopathy 

The hamstring is a large muscle that runs along the back of your thigh, from your hip to your knee. When you run and increase your training, your hamstrings come under stress. Therefore, hamstring injuries are common among runners. Hamstring strains and hamstring tendinopathy plague runners across the world. Hamstring strains occur when the muscle fibres are overstretched or torn, while hamstring tendinopathy is the deterioration of the tendon that attaches the hamstring muscle to the pelvis. 

Recovery and Prevention:

The RICE protocol is always your first step to recovering from a hamstring injury. This protocol involves rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Avoiding any activity or exercise that will cause pain or further damage to your hamstrings within the first few weeks is vital.

With hamstring injuries, we recommend consulting with a physiotherapist who can develop a personalised recovery plan. Your plan will involve exercises to build back your strength and flexibility. A professional can also guide you back to where you want to be - running. Once your hamstring is recovered and strong, you can gradually increase your running and get back stronger than before the injury happened. 

Lower Leg Injuries: Calf Tears and Achilles Tendinitis

We have grouped these two injuries because they often have similar causes and are the most common injuries within the lower leg.  Achilles tendinopathy is the irritation of the Achilles tendon and is usually caused by overtraining or a sudden increase in distance or intensity with your running.

calf tear occurs when either or both of the muscles within your calf (the gastrocnemius or the soleus) are overstretched. Overtraining or weak calf muscles often cause a calf tear. When your calf muscles are overworked and lack the necessary strength, they become more vulnerable and sceptical to injury.

Recovery and Prevention:

The recovery process for a calf tear or Achilles tendinitis is very similar. Resting and icing the injured area is the first protocol, as with most running injuries. After you have given yourself adequate rest, consult a physiotherapist to determine the cause. A professional can tell you if the injury is a result of overtraining, lack of strength in your lower leg muscles, or a combination of factors.

After this, a physio will provide you with a tailored strength programme, a stretching and warm-up routine, and they will guide you back into safely running and managing the stress on your body.

Plantar Fasciitis

'Plantar fasciitis' is two words that will send shivers down the spine of any runner suffering from this injury. Simply put, plantar fasciitis is the inflammation or tearing of the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue on the sole of your feet, connecting your heel to your toes. The plantar fascia maintains your foot's stability and helps absorb the running shock. However, due to overtraining, poor footwear, improper running form, or weak lower leg muscles, the plantar fascia can become inflamed, and the resulting pain can be severe. 

Prevention and Recovery

The techniques to prevent plantar fasciitis and to recover from it are very similar. To maximise your chances of avoiding injury to your plantar fascia or to get yourself back fully fit after suffering from it, it is vital to manage your training load, monitor how your body feels, and take the necessary rest.

Managing the distance you cover each week and the intensity of your training will significantly contribute to your recovery. Incorporate a dedicated strength programme focused on building the muscles in your legs and feet and practice drills to improve your running form, and you will be back fighting fit in no time.

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