AustinPUG Health

AustinPUG Health

Running is one of the most popular and effective forms of exercise, but while relatively simple, it’s not without risks. Runners of all experience and fitness levels are susceptible to injuries, which can range from mild discomfort to serious, debilitating pain.

Most of these injuries can be avoided with a basic understanding of how and why they occur.

Runner’s Knee

The term runner’s knee? is used to refer to a number of conditions, including anterior knee pain syndrome, patellofemoral malalignment and chondromalacia patella, which cause pain and discomfort around the front of the knee. In most cases, the pain of runner’s knee is dull and aching, and located under the kneecap.

Runner’s knee is an irritation of the cartilage around the knee, often a result of the kneecap (patella) being out of alignment, which then causes irritation and breakdown of the soft tissue under the kneecap. Some of the contributing factors to the misalignment or irritation are flat fleet, problems with the running stride or weak thigh, hip or gluteal muscles.

In most cases, runner’s knee is treated with rest and strengthening exercises. In the short term, rest is usually the most effective way to treat the condition; when the pain begins, use the RICE (rest, ice, compression and elevation) method to reduce pain and swelling. If the pain persists, visit your doctor to rule out a more serious injury. Your physician may also recommend a strengthening-and-conditioning regimen to improve muscle flexibility and strength as well as shoe inserts or braces to provide extra support. In rare cases, you may need surgery to remove the damaged cartilage and realign the kneecap.

You can avoid runner’s knee from the start by wearing proper footwear, gradually increasing your activity level, staying in good shape and stretching adequately before and after each run.

Shin Splints

One of the most common exercise-related injuries is medial tibial stress syndrome, or shin splints. An inflammation of the muscles, tendons and bone tissue surrounding the tibia (shinbone), shin splints typically result from changes in physical activity or repetitive overuse. For example, adding additional days to your workout schedule or running up and down hills can cause this pain. The pain of shin splints is usually localized along the tibia’s inner edge, and may occur with swelling and tenderness when touched.

Your doctor will diagnose shin splints after a thorough examination and medical history. In some cases, diagnosing shin splints is a matter of ruling out other conditions, including tendonitis or stress fracture, via imaging tests. Once your doctor confirms the diagnosis, treatment involves RICE protocols, orthotics or more supportive footwear and a gradual return to activity. Surgery for shin splints is rare, and only required in extreme cases in which nonsurgical treatments are ineffective.

You can avoid shin splints by wearing proper athletic footwear, conditioning and gradually increasing or decreasing your activity levels.

Stress Fractures

Stress fractures are among the most serious of running injuries. Not only are they painful, they generally take several months to heal and left untreated, could cause more serious injuries.

An overuse injury, a stress fracture is a crack in the bone. Fractures most commonly occur in the second and third metatarsals of the foot, but can also occur in the heel, the lower leg or the top of the foot. Generally, they happen when the muscles of the foot can no longer handle the stress of the activity. The muscles then transfer some of that stress to the bone, creating tiny cracks. These fractures begin with moderate pain that increases with activity, and then becomes almost constant. There may also be swelling, bruising or tenderness at the injury site.

In most cases, an MRI is required for a definitive diagnosis of a stress fracture, as X-rays generally don’t reveal the cracks until they’ve started to heal. Once a diagnosis is made, treatment requires rest, protective footwear or even a cast. In rare cases, surgery may be required to pin or screw the bones together so they can heal. Once the fracture is healed, you can gradually return to activity with conditioning and strength training.

Avoiding stress fractures requires paying close attention to your body and your limits, and gradually increasing your workouts’ duration and intensity. Wearing the right footwear, strengthening your muscles and maintaining a healthy diet with plenty of calcium and Vitamin D to keep your bones strong can also prevent injury.

These are a few of the injuries runners may experience; other common problems include knee ligament tears, which are brought on by sudden changes in direction, or ankle injuries due to falls or improper form. In most cases, injury can be avoided by wearing the right shoes, incorporating strength-and flexibility-training and gradually increasing activity level. If you do those things, you’ll be able to keep on running without being sidelined by an injury.

Image by Sura Nualpradid from

About the Author: A competitive runner for most of her life, Bridget Carmichael has experienced painful injuries on several occasions. She writes about running for several publications.

Categories: General

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