If you’re running this year’s London Marathon on 24th April, you’ll have already started your training for it. As the training increases in its intensity and the runs get longer, the risk of injury can increase too, especially if you’re not a seasoned runner. Regular runners know that it can be unusual to be running without any sort of niggle. Often something will feel a bit sore, but when do you take action, and what action should you take?
Many runners are familiar with “runners knee”. Pain can be felt behind the knee cap, at the front of the knee or around the knee. The pain can be sharp or a dull ache. Knee pain is often brought on by having weak hip, quad or gluteal muscles. It can also be due to turning your knee inward when you run.
To help your knee get better decrease the number of runs you’re doing per week, so your knee has more rest time. If you have access to a treadmill use this on an incline to run uphill, as going uphill puts less pressure on the knees. (Going downhill can make the pain worse, so use a treadmill for this if you can). Cycling, swimming or a rebound class with mini trampolines can also help you maintain your fitness while reducing the impact on your knee. Waterfront Leisure Centre offers Rebound classes.
Applying an ice pack to the knee after a run can help reduce the inflammation, especially in the early days of the injury. Taping can also help reduce the pain.
If the knee is not improving after two weeks of rest and alternative exercise, please give us a call for advice on what to do next.
Pain in the achilles is also very common. The achilles tendon connects the two muscles in your calf to your heel bone. Achilles tendonitis is when the tendon becomes inflamed, and is often caused by a sudden increase in intensity or amount of exercise. Tight calf muscles can also cause achilles tendonitis.
Treatment at home for achilles tendonitis
If you feel a pain or swelling the back of your heel, stop running. This is not an injury to run a “run off”. Apply ice, and start doing exercises to build up your calf muscles. One exercise you can do is foot drops. Stand on a step with both heels off the edge of the step. Gently lower your heels below the level of the step and then lift up onto your tiptoes. Do this slowly at least 20 times. Wearing high heels can aggravate this injury so stick to sensible shoes until it’s better. Once it is better it’s a good idea to include a stretch for your achilles with every cool down after a run.
Shin pain, or shin splints, occurs when the muscles and tendons around your shin become inflamed. This tends to happen when you do too much too quickly. It’s most common in new runners, or people getting back into exercise after a long break. If your trainers don’t fit properly these can cause shin splints too.
How to manage shin splints
If you cut down, or stop running altogether, and ice the area for 10 minutes, ideally on the hour or at least several times a day, within 2-4 weeks you should be back on the road. Taping can also help it to heal. When you do start running again, remember to increase your mileage steadily. Visiting a specialist sports shoe shop will also help ensure you’re wearing the best trainers for your feet.
Heel pain – Plantar fasciitis
Plantar fasciitis is the clinical term for heel pain and is one of the most common foot injuries for runners. Plantar fasciitis is when there are small tears in the tendons that run from your toes to your heel, and you’ll feel a bruise along the arch of the foot or the heel.
It can be caused by having a particularly high or low arches in your feet, standing for a long time on a hard floor, tight calves, or having a weak core.
Treating plantar fasciitis yourself
The bad news is that if you have quite bad plantar fasciitis it can take up to a year to get better, although six months is more common. The best home remedies include rolling your foot over a bottle of frozen water, and working on your core strength. You may also need an arch support in your foot.
If you’re struggling to get over plantar fasciitis give us a call as this is a common ailment we treat.
The most common muscle strain for runners is a hamstring strain. The hamstring runs all the way down the back of the legs and helps us to move forward, which is especially important for those hill runs and sprint finishes.
Pain usually occurs because the muscle is weak, or if it’s too short or long (If you struggle to touch your toes, you have a short hamstring). It can also be due to a pelvic imbalance.
If you have a strain you’ll feel some discomfort down the back of your leg, possibly behind the knee. Running at a slower, steadier pace will be most comfortable and having some sports massage sessions will help it to recover. Doing these will help it to get better within a few weeks. Cycling and swimming are worth considering if running becomes too painful for your hamstring.
If it hurts when you straighten your leg, and running feels almost impossible you could have a hamstring tear, which is much more serious and requires medical attention. If you think you have a hamstring tear please contact us. We will conduct a full assessment, including looking at how other parts of your body are impacting the hamstring, ie the spine and pelvis, offer appropriate treatment, and will provide exercises you can do at home to help it improve.
Slow and steady wins the race
At the end of the day exercise is meant to be fun, and reading a list of injuries can feel a little alarming. However, these injuries are all avoidable if you:
• Increase your training at a sensible rate.
• Get your trainers fitted by a specialist. There are many shops that do this and some have gait analysis machines.
• Don’t ignore any niggles. Be aware of them and how they feel during training, as well as when you’re not training. This will help you assess if the pain is getting better or worse.
• Consult a medical expert if you feel concerned.