Facts about running injuries.
It is estimated that 2 out of every 3 runners develops an injury related to running. The 5 most common injuries to recreational runners are:
- Patellofemoral pain
- Shin splints or tibial stress
- Iliotibial band syndrome
- Achilles tendonitis
- Plantar fascitis
A brief account of each type of injury follows:
- Patellofemoral pain. Starting as an ache felt in the front of the knee, this condition is due to excessive pressure and friction between the knee cap (patella) and the thigh bone (femur). It may lead to sharp pain that is felt at certain angles of knee bending, with pain or ache when walking up and down stairs. The pain is more evident when running on inclined ground.
- Shin splints. Pain or ache on the inner aspect of the shin bone (tibia) may lead to reduction in running distance and enjoyment. The pain is commonly felt in the lower part of the inner leg, and its onset becomes progressively earlier into the run.
- Iliotibial band syndrome. The common “ITB” pain is felt over the outer part of the knee often after increasing running distance and over hilly terrain. The pain subsides with rest but if untreated, appears earlier and earlier on in the run.
- Achilles tendonitis. This pain is felt on the back of the heel over the Achilles tendon or where the tendon is attached to the heel bone. The pain is worse when increasing running speed (eg. sprints, intervals) and when pushing off even on climbing stairs.
- Plantar fascitis. Classically felt as a pain underneath the heel, this pain is worse first thing in the morning and seems to ease out as the days progresses. It is made worse by prolonged standing and use of high heels.
Main causes of running injuries: Most running injuries arise from several common factors. These include:
- Running pattern. Changes in running pattern that are too sudden to give the body time to adapt to the new stresses. These changes may include increases in number of times a person runs each week (frequency), how hard the run is or hard you push during the run (intensity), and the duration (time) of the run. In addition, sudden changes in running surface such as more hilly or uneven terrain, increase the chances of injury. In addition, inadequate warm-up and inattention to flexibility (eg. calf muscles) can predispose a person to injury.
- Running shoes. Using the wrong running shoes, or shoes which are wearing out. People have different foot types which should be matched by running shoes that help their particular foot type. For example, a person with arches which are very flat or flattening (pronation) need more arch support. If they do not get this support from their shoes, they may increase the stress going up their legs when they run, and this leads to injury. In addition, shoes have a use-by date. The materials which give a new shoe its great cushioning, support, and stability (from the heel material to the inner shoe structure) wear out over time. The speed of this wearing out depends on the running style of the runner, his or her weight, the surfaces used to run on, and how often he or she runs. Excessive shoe wear leads to reduced support, impact cushioning and stability, and this can result in injury.
- Running style. Changes in running style. In the search for improved running performance, runners are influenced by what they read or the experience of their fellow exercise enthusiasts. This leads them to question the sufficiency or efficiency of their running style, leading to experimentation with new running form. A classic example of this is when a person who is a traditional heel-toe runner decides to try and shift style to that of a midfoot or forefoot running style. If this change is not accompanied by good advice or instruction, and the runner does not make allowance for the body’s need to adapt to the new stresses of the style, this may increase the risk of injury.
- Injury management. Ignoring signs of injury .. until it is too late!! The usual aches and pain that runners feel often leads them to not be aware of signs of injury, or to deny the presence of the injury. Recurrent aches, pain, limitation of running form, and impact on daily activities such as walking and standing. These are signs that an injury may be developing. Injuries are not, unfortunately, like fine wine: they do not get better with age!! Delaying management of an injury may increase the severity of the condition while prolonging the time needed to allow injured tissues to heal. Having an injury seen early and getting an accurate diagnosis will lead to earlier treatment plus development of steps to prevent further injuries.