Most Common Running Injuries
By Samuel W. Ascioti, DC
For those of you who have met me, you know that I’m a distance runner, with three marathons under my belt as well as a handful of half-marathons to accompany them. One of the best things about running for miles and miles is that it affords me plenty of time to think; during the Buffalo Marathon last week, I certainly had plenty of time to do just that. While my left foot’s toes screamed in agony and my calves stopped cooperating, I naturally began to think about the myriad of ways in which a runner can get hurt, which then evolved into the nugget of a thought for one of Corning Chiropractic Associates’ Health Topics of the Month. From shinsplints to plantar fasciitis to stress fractures, this month’s article will be all about some of the most common injuries a runner can sustain, as well as some tips on how to prevent and treat them at home!
Ask any runner (novice or veteran) about shin splints, and you’ll likely get an earful about them. Also known as medial tibial stress syndrome , shin splints feel like an achy pain surrounding your tibia (shin bone). The achiness comes from small tearing that occurs in the muscles around this bone, and up to 15% of running injuries are due to this condition. New runners and those who wear ill-fitting or old, worn-down shoes are more likely to be affected by shin splints; anatomically, runners with high arches or flat feet are also prone to this. If your leg feels tight and achy while running, but fine while walking, proceed with caution – ideally, you should return to running only after you’re completely pain-free while running.
Home Treatment: as a rule of thumb, the RICE protocol (R est, I ce, C ompression, E levation) can be utilized for most injuries on this list. Ice the affected area for 10-15 minutes throughout the day; some runners may find success using ibuprofen, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAID). Another suggestion: go see your chiropractor!
Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS)
Also referred to as the IT band, ITBS occurs when the IT band creates excessive friction on the outer part of the thigh during the knee flexion/extension segments of running. Tacking on too many miles at once during training can certainly contribute to this. For training purposes, it’s generally advised that a runner should increase her mileage by only 10% every week to prevent running injuries and burnout. Of all running injuries, ITBS is responsible for 12% of them. Those runners who overpronate or have weak hip abductors/gluteal muscles are at risk for developing ITBS.
Home Treatment: keep exercising and foam-roll the IT band to oblivion! Be careful, though: both hiking and bicycling can actually aggravate ITBS. The RICE protocol can help, and so can your chiropractor!
In my short time as a practicing chiropractor, I’ve already treated many, many patients with plantar fasciitis. Covering the bottom of the foot (which is also called the plantar surface of the foot) is a thick type of connective tissue called fascia ; when this tissue gets torn, the area can become inflamed, and it can then lead to a very painful dull and achy feeling. Sometimes, the problems can be attributed to muscular tissue: weak back and core muscles and overly tight hip flexor muscles can contribute to this. Those runners with either abnormally tall or shallow arches to their feet, or those who spend large amounts of time with poor-quality footwear on hard floors, are susceptible to this sometimes-debilitating injury as well.
Home Treatment: freeze a water bottle solid, and step on it with the sole of your affected foot over a facecloth; massage the water bottle back and forth and up and down with your foot, 5-10 minutes and to tolerance (this will both act as cryotherapy and massage therapy). Stretching the plantar fascia may help as well. Go see your chiropractor, ya dang turkey!
In Greek mythology, the hero Achilles was fatally shot through his left by a poisoned arrow, and for this reason the Achilles tendon was named as such; these tendons are part of the gastrocnemius-soleus tendon complex, and are the strongest tendon in the human body. When this tendon gets injured, it can tighten and become inflamed, and be very painful. If pain in the back of the ankle is present while running or walking, it is important to recognize this injury for what it is and give it the respect and attention it needs.
Home Treatment: again, RICE protocol may help, and chiropractors can help you create a home-exercise program to help the Achilles tendon heal properly. If you have access to a pool, great! Do some pool running – that’ll help you you stay in shape as well as give your ankle a vigorous workout with minimal stress. Although it seems counter-intuitive, it is important to note that aggressive calf stretching can delay recovery. Lastly, wear compression socks!
Out of all injuries due to running, knee injuries take the cake. Just around 40% of all running injuries occur at the knee! A common knee injury is runner’s knee, or patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) . This injury is indicated by pain around the kneecap that gets worse when sitting with bent knees, going up or down stairs, and squatting. Reduce running mileage and get in the weight room!
Home Treatment: when bothersome, apply RICE and call your chiropractor. A couple muscles will need to be addressed: strong gluteal muscles help ensure strong hip extension and will stabilize the knee, and strong hip musculature to stabilize the hip. Consider shortening your stride as well – you should be running at a pace around 180 steps (or 90 strides) per minute.
Nothing can ruin a run more quickly than the existence of a blister. When skin is exposed to too much friction, it begins to undergo damage and the body responds by building a protective pocket around the damaged tissue. Although unsightly, blisters play a very important role in protecting the damaged tissues underneath. The fluid inside a blister is sterile, and efforts should be made to prevent it from popping or draining.
Home Treatment: keep it protected and dry at all times; if the blister pops, cleanse the exposed blister and keep it covered, clean, and dry. Consider applying mole-skin to the blister if on the foot, or vaseline to the affected body part to increase lubrication. Examine footwear.
Easily forgotten, the temperature can cause potentially serious injuries, such as hypothermia, frostbite, heat-exhaustion, and sunburn. A good runner will always check the weather before the run. Dress appropriately for the season, and be conservative with decisions – personally, I’d rather overdress, as layers can always be shed mid-run. Proper hydration is a must regardless of season – even during winter, the body sweats and expels moisture, and that liquid needs to be replaced.
“10 Common Running Injuries.” WebMD , WebMD, www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/guide/running-injuries-causes-prevention-treatment#1.
Aschwanden, Christie. “The Big 7 Body Breakdowns.” Runner’s World , Runner’s World, 25 May 2018, www.runnersworld.com/health-injuries/a20780912/the-seven-most-common-running-injuries/.
Foundation For Chiropractic Progress. www.f4cp.com/.
Gallo, Robert A., et al. “Common Leg Injuries of Long-Distance Runners.” Advances in Pediatrics. , U.S. National Library of Medicine, Nov. 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3497945/.