Running is a form of fitness that many swear by. However, runners’ bodies go through a lot of pressure and can be at risk of injury if preventive care isn’t taken. Research suggests that every 3 recreational runners are bound to suffer from running injuries at some point during their life. It also states that most running injuries, 3 out of 4, are concentrated in the lower leg with common sites being the knee, ankle, foot and shin. Runners are also susceptible to bone-stress injuries as a result of heel strikes on the ground from leaping.
Most running injuries are classified as overuse or misuse injuries. They can stem from various causes like:
- A previous injury that hasn’t been fully healed.
- Incorrect gear – If running shoes aren’t able to provide an adequate arch, heel cushioning and ankle support or are worn, they will pose a higher risk of injury.
- Being overweight – The heavier a person is, the more the stress on their tendons, joints and bones which leads to an increased likelihood of injury.
- Rough terrain – The impact of running on hard surfaces, such as bitumen, can cause injuries including shin pain and stress fractures. The grasslands of parks, gold courses, woodlands or football pitches provide the most natural surface for running. They are easy on the legs but make the muscles work hard.
- An abrupt increase in mileage – “Too much too fast” is always a recipe for disaster. Most pro runners are aware that increasing mileage by more than 10 percent from one week to the next puts them at an increased risk of injury.
- Improper running technique – Excessive turning and twisting motions, overstriding or striking too hard on the ground are some of the major causes for injuries.
- Errors in training – Sudden, expert unmonitored increases in training volume and intensity and failure to take sufficient recovery time between demanding workouts can be dangerous.
Early signs of running injuries can include pain, swelling, numbness or pins and needles and tenderness to touch.
Symptoms of common runner injuries like runner’s knee are pain behind the kneecap, pain that sets in about an hour into the run and gets worse as you stop running and knees feeling sore as you climb down the stairs.
In plantar fasciitis, injury of the inflammation of the connective tissue at the bottom of the foot, pain is felt on the inside of the heel. It is intense as you step out of bend in the morning, place your foot on the floor and stand up. The pain subsides as you keep moving but sets in as you as you run and worsens unless you stop.
Shin splints are caused by the irritation or swelling in the bone at the front of the leg. They are characterized by dull pain that starts as you initiate the run which diminishes only to resurface as you finish the run. If not treated in time, shin splints can progress to become stress fractures.
In Achilles Tendinitis, runners may feel stiffness on the Achilles tendon, a thick rope-like tendon that connects the calf-muscle to the heel bone.
To prevent injuries, coaches and runners will benefit from knowing what factors increase their risk. Some tips for injury prevention and management to keep in mind are:
The RICE method: This method of Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation works best for minor injuries. Protecting the injured area from additional pain, icing it to minimize swelling and pain, wrapping it firmly, but not too tight, and elevating it above heart level aids circulation and helps in reducing soreness, and keeps the injured body part flexible so it can be used sooner.
PEACE: In this method, we first have Protection of injured areas. Next, Elevation promotes removal of fluid. Thirdly, Avoid anti-inflammatories medication. Then, Compression which includes taping and bandaging, and lastly, Education – understanding the extent of your injury and further action from your physician or physiotherapist or coach.
LOVE: The LOVE section talks about healing beyond inflammation. Starting with Load, which means resuming normal activities as soon as symptoms allow. This builds tissue tolerance and promotes repair and should be done without stretching oneself to the point of exacerbating pain. Next is Optimism, belief in recovery is essential for better outcomes. Thirdly, Vascularization talks about adding pain-free aerobic exercises like walking or cycling to your routine for mobility and improving blood flow to the injured area. Lastly, Exercise to help restore range-of-motion and strength as part of the recovery process.
Apart from these methods, it is essential to invest in the right running gear, build strength through workouts and monitor your form and technique to prevent injury. Also, it is advised to use a topical pain relief gel or spray like Zandu Fast Relief Spray or Gel as the first response to manage muscle pain due to an injury. It is specially designed to provide instant and long-lasting relief from pain in joints and muscles, sprains, strains as well as minor sports injuries. However, If the pain from the injury persists for a longer time, it is advisable to immediately seek medical advice.