Most common running injuries are due to over use, over-training, improper shoes, or not listening to your body and taking uncalculated risks on the road. As a runner, understanding injuries and injury prevention is critical to your longevity in the sport.
Sometimes, you might stop for a spell, then start running again. Typically, if you take off for more than 2-3 months from a regular running routine, chances are when you start again you will start “where you left off,” and actually over-train. Basically, you are running too far, too soon. It takes time to build up to a rigorous amount of running so go slow, even if you used to run that sort of distance, last year.
Here are my selection of books that I find useful in learning about preventing running injuries: Read Running Doc’s Guide to Healthy Running: How to Fix Injuries, Stay Active, and Run Pain-Freeor Running Injuries: Treatment and Prevention.
Photo credit - Runners+ by Pablo Lancaster-Jones
Here are some common injuries that runners might face, and how to prevent them:
1. Shin splints
One of the most common injuries among runners is shin splints, a term given to any pain experienced at the front of the lower leg. Shin splints occur at the front inside of the shin bone and are caused by long-distance, high-impact running, inadequate footwear, an increase of training too quickly or running on hard surfaces—or a combination of all of these. The pain usually fades over the course of the exercise session or run, but it will most likely return after the activity and may even be worse.
How to Prevent Shin Splits
- Before and after running, stretch the calf muscle and Achilles tendon to target the muscles of the lower leg.
- Engage the muscles of the back of the legs rather than place all of the impact on the shin and front-leg muscles.
- Don’t overstride. Keep your stride longer in back and shorter in front.
- Engage in strength-training exercises for the calf muscles.
- Warm up before increasing speed during a run.
2. Runner’s knee
Runner’s knee results from the overuse of the knee and can hit any runner, at anytime. You should only increase your distance by 10% every week if you are going for the long distance run. One sign of runner’s knee is pain on the outside of the knee, which can become aggravated by running, especially downhill. Other symptoms are tender trigger points in the gluteal area, as well as tightness and pain during flexion or extension of the knee.
How to Prevent Runner’s Knee
- Avoid aggressive runs, especially downhill.
- Strengthen the quadriceps muscle, as a weak quad is a common cause of the ailment.
- Because runner’s knee can be caused by tight hamstrings and calf muscles, be sure to stretch both of these muscles before and after running.
- Use insoles or heel pads during your run to reduce impact.
3. Snapping hip
Snapping hip is a condition that results in an audible snapping or popping feeling around the hip joint when the hip is flexed and extended. This sensation can either be felt externally or internally. Athletes are at special risk for developing this syndrome as a result of the repetitive and physically demanding movements they do. With runners, snapping hip is attributed to extreme thickening of the tendons in the hip region.
How to Prevent Snapping Hip
- Avoid running for an extended period of time to alleviate pain and prevent recurrence.
- Maintain good flexibility and strength by lightly stretching the muscles around the thigh, hip and pelvis.
- Before engaging in running again, have a specialist assess your running technique to determine if that is causing some mis-alignment.
4. Neck pain
Stress tends to accumulate in the neck area, and neck ailments in runners are common. As the neck balances a 10-pound head and compensates for deficiencies in imbalances in the arches of the feet or the curves of the back, the neck takes on a lot of physical burden. This pain in the neck can be further aggravated by a poor running form.
How to Prevent Neck Pain
- Take breaks when standing or sitting for a long period of time.
- Adjust your desk, chair and computer so that your computer monitor is at eye-level, your knees rest at a point slightly lower than hips, and you have chair armrests available for additional support.
- Concentrate on standing with correct posture. Keep your head centered over your spine, so gravity works with your neck rather than against it.
5. Lower-back pain
If you are already prone to lower back pain, running can aggravate this situation. In some cases, lower-back pain can lead to sciatica, herniated disc or degenerative disc disease. Lower-back pain can develop after running too far a distance before properly warming up and can be experienced in muscular strains, spasms and pains.
How to Prevent Lower-Back Pain
- Prior to a run, be sure to perform a thorough warm-up.
- Engage in gentle daily stretching that alleviates tight back muscles and loosens tight hamstrings.
- Do strength-training routines to condition and tone the core muscles of the back.
- Adjust your chair so that the positioning doesn’t strain the lower back.
Are you a regular long distance runner? What difficulties did you face or what injuries have you had in the past? How did you overcome them?