Runners put their bodies through a lot. Injuries among runners are almost unavoidable if a person runs much, at all. Understanding your body’s limitations and building up your endurance before running long distances is key to avoiding injuries and recovering from an injury once it’s been sustained.
Common Running Injuries
Running injuries are unfortunately commonplace. According to the RunnersConnect website, recent research shows that 82% of runners will sustain a running injury at some point during their careers. That’s slightly more than 8 out of every 10 runners! Nearly 80% of runners will sustain an injury each year! That’s a lot of injuries!
The most common running injuries are:
- Plantar Fasciitis
- Achilles Tendonitis
- Shin Splints
- Patella Tendonitis
- High Hamstring Tendinopathy
- Stress Fractures
- Runners Knee
- IT Band Injuries
Plantar fasciitis is a common cause of foot pain. The pain from plantar fasciitis is caused by inflammation in the plantar fascia, the thick band of tissues that runs lengthwise along the bottom of your foot, from your heel to your toes. When this band of tissue is inflamed, it causes stabbing and sometimes extreme pain when you step. The first steps of the morning can be especially painful.
Causes of plantar fasciitis foot pain include aging, specific types of exercise that places a lot of stress on your heels, the shape of a person’s foot, extra weight, and too much time on your feet.
Running is an activity that places repeated stress on the plantar fascia. As the foot strikes the ground, the foot flexes to push off for the next step, stretching the plantar fascia over and over again. When running is engaged in without proper conditioning, plantar fasciitis is often the result.
To avoid plantar fasciitis brought on by running, increase your speed and distance slowly, as your body allows. Engage in strength and flexibility training along with the running to increase your body’s ability to structurally deal with the demands of running. Stretching exercises before and after running can help warm-up and cool down muscle groups and ligaments, like the plantar fascia, and avoid injuries during running.
If you are experiencing foot pain from plantar fasciitis, Dr. Kleis has treatments that can help.
Injuries to the Achilles tendon most often occur as a result of physical activity or overuse. When the Achilles tendon is stretched too much or used in a way that it is not accustomed to, pain and swelling can result. Running is a common cause of Achilles tendon injuries, including Achilles tendonitis.
Irritation and inflammation in your Achilles tendon could mean that you have tendinitis. Achilles tendinitis causes pain and may lead to a bone spur on the back of your heel bone. While this is an injury that most often occurs in athletes who have experienced a recent increase in intensity, it also presents in older people who play sports occasionally.
Symptoms of Achilles Tendinitis often begin with a mild ache in the leg, above the heel. This pain most often occurs immediately after running or other strenuous exercises. After very intense exercise or occasionally after climbing stairs, the pain may be more severe.
Many times, Achilles tendinitis can be treated at home, under the care of a doctor. However, left untreated or in more serious cases, tendon tears may occur, requiring surgery. Achilles tendinitis can be diagnosed through a doctor's exam. Dr. Kleis may use X-rays to rule out other common injuries or ultrasound to visualize the soft tissues of the tendon.
Dr. Kleis may prescribe treatment that includes pain medications, anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, or orthotic devices. Dr. Kleis utilizes the EPAT acoustic wave treatment and low-level laser therapy for treating Achilles tendonitis. He is one of the only doctors in Southern California to offer both treatments. These treatments are used by many professional sports teams and have been clinically proven to be some of the most effective treatments for Achille's tendinitis. After utilizing the acoustic wave and laser treatment therapies, surgery is seldom required to treat Achilles tendinitis.
Shin splints are a very common injury, affecting more than 3 million people each year in the US. The medical term for shin splints is “medial tibial stress syndrome.” Shin splints are the most common injury among athletes, like runners, who have recently seen an increase or change in their physical activity.
Shin splints are caused by repetitive stress on the connective tissues surrounding the shin bone. Beginning runners are especially at risk for developing shin splints.
To Avoid Shin Splints
- Analyze Your Running Style – Many shoe stores specializing in running will have a video analysis of your running gate and foot strike pattern. Changes in your gait and foot strike can help you avoid running injuries like shin splints.
- Avoid Dramatic Increases In Activity – Train slowly and increase your endurance and distance slowly, especially when beginning a running program. Increasing too quickly will over-stress your muscles and result in injury.
- Choose Correct Shoewear – Choosing the right shoe for running is one of the most important steps to avoiding shin splints. If you run regularly, be sure to replace your shoes every 350 to 500 miles. A shoe store specializing in running can help analyze your gait and foot strike and choose a shoe that will minimize or eliminate shin splints.
- Utilize Arch Supports – If you suffer from flat arches, arch support inserts can help avoid shin splints.
- Consider Insole Inserts – Shock absorbing inserts can help lessen the stress on shins and decrease your chance of developing shin splints.
- Cross Train – Supplement your running with strength training and with aerobic exercises that place less stress on your shins. Strength training will lessen your chances of most injuries, including shin splints.
If you suffer from shin splints, Dr. Kleis can help you identify the cause and devise a plan for healing from the shin splints and avoiding them in the future. Dr. Kleis may recommend specific exercises to strengthen and increase flexibility in the shins, as well as recommending orthotic inserts that will help support and protect your feet and shins.
For an evaluation of your shin splints, call Dr. Kleis at (714) 760-4944.
Commonly known as “jumpers knee,” patellar tendonitis is a fairly common injury, occurring more than 200,000 times per year in the US. Jumpers knee is an injury to the tendon that connects your kneecap to your shinbone. As the name would suggest, patellar tendonitis most often occurs in athletes whose sport of choice involves a great deal of jumping. Sports such as basketball and volleyball are especially conducive to patellar tendonitis injuries. However, runners can also develop this condition from the frequent and repeated shock placed on the knee by running long distances.
In runners, patellar tendonitis often presents as low knee pain during the run. The pain is caused by damage to the tendon structure and will continue to worsen if not addressed. Rest will allow the tendon to heal, however, specialized exercises can assist in strengthening the surrounding muscles to avoid recurring injury.
Stress fractures can occur suddenly, but they are caused by repeated stress over time. A stress fracture is a tiny crack in the surface of a bone and most frequently happens in runners who increase their mileage or intensity too quickly. A stress fracture generally begins by the bone swelling on the inside as a result of extended stress on the bone. This initial swelling is painful and, if ignored, will continue to increase until the stress fracture occurs.
By being in tune with your body and paying attention to pain as a signal that something is wrong, a runner can adjust their running program or rest the injured foot and avoid a stress fracture from developing. Once a stress fracture has occurred, it is important to see a doctor immediately.
Dr. Kleis can evaluate your injury and diagnose and treat a stress fracture. To diagnose a stress fracture, Dr. Kleis will take a complete medical history, examine the injury, and will likely require an X-ray or other scans to eliminate other possible causes for pain.
Once a stress fracture has been diagnosed, Dr. Kleis will devise an individualized treatment plan that may include an immobilization device or crutches and will almost certainly include rest, ice, over the counter pain medication, and rehabilitative exercises and treatments once the stress fracture has healed. If you suspect that you may be suffering from a stress fracture, please contact Dr. Kleis for an evaluation. Call (714) 760-4944 to schedule a consultation today.
Running Injury Causes
While there are many reasons why a runner might get injured, structural imbalances are one of the primary causes. A structural imbalance might be caused by unevenly trained muscle groups, one leg being shorter than the other, another injury that has left an area weak.
The other primary reason for running injuries is found in individuals pushing their bodies past what it’s trained to handle. Many people find that their ability to sustain aerobic activity increases more quickly than their body’s structural ability to cope with the increased activity. This means that a person may feel able to run much further than his or her muscles and ligaments are equipped to handle, resulting in structural injuries such as shin splints, IT band injuries, and stress fractures.
Avoiding Running Injuries
Combining strength training along with aerobic conditioning is key to building a body that can keep up with a person’s increased activity level. It is also important to address the “bio-mechanics” of running, which is described as finding the proper shoe fit for your body and finding the optimal footstrike and running gate for your style.
Training To Run
Many people who have never been “runners” hear about the “runners high” and see the super-fit athletes that participate in long-distance running. This leads many people to engage in running when they aren’t properly trained for fit for it. While running is excellent exercise and can be good for cardiovascular fitness, it isn’t an activity to be engaged in lightly or with little preparation. Proper training for running should be approached slowly, allowing your body plenty of time to adapt to the new demands that running will place on your body.
Engaging in strength training along with increasing your cardiovascular endurance will help ensure that your body can cope with the physical demands of running. When you run, your body absorbs a great deal of shock from the force of your feet hitting the ground. Without the proper muscle tone and ligament strength, this repeated shock absorption can result in injuries to your hips, knees, ankles, and feet.
Proper warming of the muscles before running and cooling the muscles after a run can assist in avoiding running injuries. Flexibility training, such as yoga or Pilates, can help give your muscles, ligaments, and tendons the flexibility to absorb the shock and stress that running places on your body, avoiding many strain and sprain injuries.
For treatment and prevention of running injuries, please contact Dr. Kleis at (714) 760-4944.