Whether you are an elite athlete or at the back of the pack, nothing will slow down your running routine like an injury. Our orthopedic specialists recommend you take the following steps to avoid painfully derailing your training plan.
Repeatedly pounding the ground is hard on the body. Each year, between 37 and 56 percent of recreational runners experience an injury related to the sport. That statistic increases to 90 percent amongst marathon runners.
Most running-related conditions are due to overuse. Some of the running injuries we treat at Texas Orthopedics include:
- Stress fractures
- Shin splints
- Plantar fasciitis
- Patellofemoral syndrome (runners’ knee)
- Iliotibial (IT) band syndrome
- Ankle sprain
Marathon runners most commonly injure their lower leg muscles. The injuries we see most often are IT band syndrome, runners’ knee and stress fractures.
The IT band is connective tissue that connects the knee to the hip on the lateral side of the body. When this tissue is too tight, it repeatedly rubs against the hip and knee bones and becomes inflamed and irritated, causing outside knee pain. Women experience IT band syndrome more often due to having wider hips than men. People with weak abdominal, hip and glute muscles can also be at higher risk.
Those who experience knee pain after running, especially when the pain is in the center of the front of the knee, may have patellofemoral syndrome. Commonly known as runners’ knee, this condition is the result of overuse, quadricep weakness, trauma or poor alignment in the knee. Runners’ knee pain is usually at its worst when squatting, sitting cross-legged, while using stairs and kneeling.
Another injury that marathon runners experience, stress fractures are mini cracks in bones. In marathon runners, this most often happens in feet and shin bones. People who don’t consume enough calcium or have an eating disorder are at a higher risk for this injury. Stress fracture pain is usually sharp and worsens while running. It’s important to treat stress fractures immediately because the bone can completely break if the condition progresses.
How to Prevent Injury
Preparation is key to avoiding injury. Before beginning or increasing your training, talk to your doctor. They can address your specific risk factors and may have individualized tips on how to prevent injury.
While running doesn’t require a lot of equipment, it’s important to find the right shoes. Specialty running shops can fit you for shoes that are good for your gait and foot shape. You should have enough space in your shoes to move your toes and your heel should feel snug. It is recommended running shoes be replaced every 350 to 600 miles to avoid inadequate cushioning.
Trying to do too much too fast increases your chance of injury. An easy to remember guideline is not to add more than 10 percent to your running intensity or distance in your training each week. And don’t increase mileage and intensity in the same week.
Stretching plays an important role in your training plan. Running without stretching can strain your body, limit your range of motion, and change your gait in ways that may lead to injury. Massage, using a foam roller and yoga can help muscle tightness.
Since many injuries are caused by weak muscles, it makes sense that strength training helps to avoid injury. Cross-training with weights and core exercises can help to strengthen muscles not used as much in running and gives your body a break from pounding the pavement.
Last but not least, it’s really important to pay attention to your running form. Your posture should be upright with relaxed shoulders, and you should be engaging your glute and core muscles. Your ankle, knee, hips, shoulders, and head should be in line with each other when you are running.
Listen to your body. Rest and recovery time needs to be part of your training plan. If you feel worn down and fatigued, your body probably needs a break. Take a day off from training or at least reduce your running distance and time for the day.
Treating an Injury
If you sustain a running injury, treatment typically includes:
- Physical therapy, including strengthening and stretching muscles
- Anti-inflammatory pain medication
- Steroid, hyaluronic acid or platelet-rich plasma injections
- Extreme cases may require surgery