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Summer has finally arrived! The warmer temperatures plus the disappearance of slippery pathways have allowed many of us to resume our favourite outdoor activities like cycling and running. Unfortunately an all too common story told by our patients at Leduc Physio is that they begin the summer full of excitement and motivation with a running program or race in mind and all too soon end up sidelined by aches and pains. Even though running is not a contact sport, it’s repetitive, high impact nature makes participants vulnerable to many different types of injuries. This month we will discuss some of the most common running injuries and ways to avoid running injuries so you can achieve your goals!
Plantar fascia is a thick piece of tissue than runs from your heel to your toes; the ending “itis” simply means inflammation. Basically plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of the tissue along the sole of your foot which causes pain particularly when standing or walking. Intense pain with the first few steps out of bed in the morning is a classic sign of this condition. The injury itself begins with microscopic tears of the ligament that supports the arch of your foot; due to the highly repetitive nature of running these tears become inflamed and painful. Potential causes of this condition are faulty foot mechanics, increasing running volume too quickly, high arches and muscle imbalances in the lower body.
This condition is also known as “runner’s knee” because (not surprisingly!) it tends to be common in runners. Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) is a general term that describes pain behind the kneecap. It is caused by an irritation of the cartilage behind the patella (kneecap) which causes pain, swelling and possibly clicking or grinding noises. Symptoms may be felt after running long distances or sitting for extended period of time. Contributing factors of runner’s knee are weakness in some of the muscles around the hip, overpronation of the feet, and poor running technique.
Your Achilles tendon is the large tendon at the back of your ankle that connects your calf muscles to your heel bone; achilles tendonitis describes pain and inflammation to this part of your body. Although it is one of the largest tendons in the body and can withstand all sorts of stresses from jumping and plyometric movements it is also susceptible to overuse and degeneration with age. This type of injury usually comes on gradually with an ache at the back of the ankle and is most common in people who suddenly ramp up their training volume. Weak or inflexible calf muscles may also contribute.
There are many potential running injuries – in fact there are entire books and physical therapy courses dedicated to the topic. We have covered a few of the most common ones but this list is in no way exhaustive.
1. Start with a dynamic warm-up. Forget about stationary stretching, a movement based warm-up, like walking, is the best way to prime your body for it’s run.
2. Finish with a stretch. End your run, by stretching your hamstrings and calves. These muscles are typically tight in runners.
3. Increase your mileage slowly. Gradually add distance over time. This will allow the body time to gradually adapt, decreasing your chance for injury.
4. Rest in between. When you’re getting back into the swing of things consider some cross-training. Alternate run days with elliptical, swimming, or strength training.
5. Listen to your body. If you start to experience aches and pains while running, stop and see your physiotherapist. Continuing to push through the pain might lead to additional injury.
For more information on how to avoid a running injury or to schedule your assessment call us at (780) 980-5443!