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How to Avoid 5 Common Running Injuries

Spencer E. Romine, MD | October 4, 2022

For many, running is more than an exercise. It’s a way to relax, blow off steam, and meditate. But unfortunately, if you run often enough, you’ll likely experience an injury. So, let’s examine some of the most common running injuries and how they happen so you can avoid them as much as possible.

Shin Splints

Also known as medial tibial stress syndrome, shin splints involve pain along the inside or front of the shin bone. The condition can also feature mild swelling, and the pain worsens as you run. Shin splints is one of the most common running injuries experienced by beginner runners because many don’t properly condition their lower legs. You can prevent the problem by pacing yourself and slowly increasing your mileage as you strengthen your lower legs and feet. But if you do experience shin splints, simply treat it with rest.

Runner’s Knee

“Runner’s knee” is the layman’s term for patellofemoral pain syndrome, and it refers to pain felt underneath or around the kneecap. It’s also one of the most common running injuries people face.

Abnormal movement of the patella—along with weak core, glute, and hip muscles—can cause runner’s knee. These factors can strain or irritate the kneecap, resulting in pain that worsens with activities like walking up staircases or squatting.

To avoid runner’s knee, strengthen your hips and the muscles around your knees, increase your mileage gradually, and remember to wear running shoes that fit properly.

Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis occurs when the tissue on the sole of your foot, called the plantar fascia, becomes inflamed. If you develop this condition, you will feel dull or stabbing pain in your midfoot or heel, and it may feel worse in the morning or after a long bout of activity. Those with flat feet or high arches are particularly vulnerable to the injury.

Avoid plantar fasciitis by stretching, strengthening your leg muscles, gradually increasing your running distance, wearing proper footwear, and running with correct form.

Iliotibial Band Syndrome

Your Iliotibial band, or “IT band,” is a length of connective tissue that runs from your hip to the top of your shinbone and stabilizes your knee as you walk or run. Sometimes, this band gets inflamed after rubbing against a leg bone, causing pain on the outside of your knee. When this happens, you develop iliotibial band syndrome. It’s commonly seen in those who run on the road and often affects the leg positioned closest to the curb.

Prevent the condition by strengthening your glutes, abdominals, and hips to ease the strain on your IT band. And, as always, stretch your muscles, wear proper footwear, and use correct running form. Additionally, try changing running surfaces, especially if running on local roads.

Achilles Tendonitis

Repetitive motions, like running, can inflame your Achilles tendon, which connects the calf muscle and heel. As a result of this inflammation, pain can flare up first thing in the morning or after you increase your running intensity. If you develop Achilles tendonitis, you may feel swelling along the tendon, dull pain above your heel, or limited range of motion when flexing your foot toward your shin.

Prevent Achilles tendonitis by slowly increasing your running distances, wearing the right shoes, and stretching correctly. However, if you do start to feel heel pain, schedule an immediate appointment with the physical therapists at the Orthopaedic Institute of Western Kentucky. Otherwise, you risk a tendon rupture that would require surgery and months of recovery.

As we’ve said, you can prevent most running injuries by gradually increasing your running distances, wearing the right shoes, running with correct form, stretching, and strengthening your muscles. Primary treatment for these conditions often includes rest, ice, compression, and elevation, along with anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy, and splints.

But if you think you may have experienced one of these injuries, call our physical therapists immediately for an official diagnosis. They can help ease your pain as quickly as possible so you can return to everyday life. Schedule an appointment at (270) 442-9461.