15 Most Common Runner’s Injuries and How To Avoid Them
Running is one of the most popular ways to burn fat, improve endurance, and support athletic performance. Runners are prone to some injuries that are easily preventable. Let’s review the 15 most common running injuries from least severe to most serious along with tips on how to avoid them.
15 Most Common Running Injuries and How To Avoid Them
More annoying than an actual injury, blisters can become quite painful when the skin breaks open, and you continue to push yourself through the run.
To avoid blisters, you can tape your toes and wear specialized socks however; most runners can prevent blisters by making sure your shoes are in good condition and fit correctly and also by making sure your feet don’t slip around in your shoes after you tie them (but not tying your laces too tight).
For more information on how to select the best running shoes check out our blog on the topic!
Check out our instructional videos on how to properly lace and tie your shoes, if you suffer from frequent blisters it could make all the difference!
Lower Back Pain
Running is not likely to cause lower back pain; instead, it can aggravate an already existing condition. For example, if you sit at a desk all day for work without adequately stretching or taking walking breaks, you’ll be at a higher risk for lower back pain during a run.
Lower back pain comes from over-worked muscles that are compensating for weaker muscle groups. If you want to avoid lower back pain, you need to stretch as well as perform resistance exercises to strengthen the core muscles: abdominals, obliques, transverse abdominous (deep ab muscle), and glutes.
Because of the involved muscle groups, visiting a chiropractic physician who is trained in SFMA movement assessments is a great place to find out which muscles are weak and which movements are causing overcompensation so that an individualized treatment program including physical therapy and muscle retraining can get you back on track right away.
The muscles on the back of your legs are called the hamstrings. While we typically associate running as a front-favoring movement, once we increase in speed and lengthen our strides, our hamstrings begin to play a more active role. If you have weak hamstrings – the number one reason for a hamstring strain – then putting a higher demand on the muscle is going to increase your risk for injury.
To avoid straining the hamstring muscles, it’s essential that you correct any strength imbalances. It’s great if you love to squat, but be sure to include hamstring-focused exercises as well. Romanian deadlifts, leg curls, and reverse lunges are excellent choices. It’s also essential to get your balance evaluated and work on any deficiencies that are discovered.
Just as common as a strained hamstring is a pulled quadricep or muscle on the front of your leg. Given the workload that the quadriceps are under during training, it’s no wonder that a strain is inevitable for most runners. Most of the time, this is an overuse injury, especially if you’ve been skipping on recovery days.
Want to avoid pulling your quadriceps? Focus on rest and recovery. Give your muscles time to heal by eating a nutritious diet and getting enough quality sleep. Naturally, warming up, stretching, and resistance training should also accompany any running program to avoid injury.
A strained calf muscle can quickly make you cancel your running plans. There are several common reasons that runners get strained calves: First, it could be your posture. Some runners have a posture that naturally puts them at a higher risk. Second, the type of shoe you wear can exacerbate poor pronation of the foot, increasing the risk of injury. Finally, your age and history of injury can determine whether or not you strain your calf.
Schedule a visit to your chiropractor and make sure you don’t have a leg length discrepancy. You should also get fitted for proper footwear. Also, if you have previous issues with your calves, be sure to adopt a comprehensive stretching and strengthening the program to lower your risk.
If you’re a long-time runner who hung up their shoes for many years and now you’re inspired to hit the pavement again, you might want to take a step back. Shin splints are almost always the result of doing too much activity too quickly; this is especially true of former runners who want to get back into their old routines.
Take your time with your running workouts. If you’ve been away from physical fitness for a while, you’ll need to ease back into a consistent routine. Try to increase time and distance first, then the intensity gradually, and give your body plenty of time to recover. Stretching is going to be a big help during recovery.
Often the result of explosive exercises or movements such as sprinting or sports drills, a groin pull – or injury of the adductor muscles – can be extremely painful and make you hang up your sneakers for several months.
The best way to prevent a groin pull is to consistently stretch the adductor muscles while strengthening them and the surrounding muscle groups: hip abductors, quadriceps, hamstrings, and core.
Hands down, the most common injury in running is the appropriately named runner’s knee. There are two primary reasons this occurs that involves tightness and weakness. Over time, when weak quadriceps muscles (front of the legs) allow the kneecap to shift out of place and can wear down cartilage, and the result is inflammation and pain.
To avoid runner’s knee, you need to keep your legs healthy. Adopt a weight-bearing program that strengthens the quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves. Squats, lunges, and deadlifts are great exercises to add to your training program.
Second, only to runner’s knee as the most common injury in running, plantar fasciitis is when the band of connective tissue found on the underside of your foot becomes inflamed. You’ll instantly know if you have plantar fasciitis if you experience pain in the arch of the foot upon waking in the morning.
The two best things you can do to prevent plantar fasciitis: First, make sure to stretch your calf muscles before AND after a run thoroughly. Second, get the proper footwear. It’s not enough to have comfy shoes. You must make sure that the shoe provides adequate support. If you have high or low arches, it would be appropriate to have an examination for custom foot orthotics (not the one size fits all from the drug store).
For more information on Plantar Fasciitis, please see our article on the topic.
Another overuse injury, Achilles tendinitis is usually the result of skipping a warmup and exercising too long without sufficient rest. The Achilles tendon attaches your calf muscle to your heel, so this is where you’ll feel the pain.
Naturally, since it’s connected to your calf muscle, one of the best ways to prevent this injury is to stretch for several minutes. Once warmed up, take it slow as you increase in speed and power. Also, proper footwear is going to help immensely with preventing Achilles tendinitis.
Iliotibial (IT) Band Syndrome
Your iliotibial band or IT band runs from the outside of your hip to the top of your knee. IT band irritations come about from the excessive use of the muscle in an improper form. For example, if your knees tend to cave in during a run, the IT band is more likely to be inflamed or injured.
Correct any muscle imbalances by strengthening your legs and core as a whole. If you need help determining your muscle imbalances, check in with your chiropractor. When running, choose a flat and sturdy surface; avoid areas that tend to slant to one side. Finally, make sure you spend the first ten minutes warming up and stretching the muscles.
Patellar tendinitis is often mistaken for runner’s knee, but the difference is that patellar tendinitis is an overuse injury – not an issue of muscle weakness and imbalance. Pain from patellar tendinitis begins in the lower part of the knee, and it can work its way down the shin. It’s most common in athletes who play jumping-based sports such as basketball, but runners also develop it.
Avoiding patellar tendinitis begins with strengthening the lower body musculature. Focus on more than your quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves; you’ll also want to exercise your hip flexors, glutes, and lower back. Glute bridges, clamshells, and cable pull throughs are great exercises to pair with squats and lunges.
Inside of your knee, you’ll find two ligaments; one of which is called the anterior cruciate ligament, more commonly known as the ACL. The role of the ACL is to help with stabilization of the knee. An ACL sprain occurs when you bend your knee too far to one side. We don’t usually associate bending our knees to the side while running but consider uneven terrain, surprises on the running path, or those with tight adductor muscles that pull the knees inward.
To avoid an ACL sprain, be sure to run on a flat and stable surface. If you have a muscle imbalance and you notice that your knees favor the inside or outside of your legs – not straight on – then this must be corrected with stretching and strength training.
Similar to an ACL sprain, an ankle sprain occurs when a runner rolls his or her ankle. This can happen from an uneven running surface or if you have to change directions quickly.
Mirroring an ACL sprain, be sure to run on a level surface. Also, unless you’re specifically training for agility, focus on a proper running form and gait.
One very serious yet common runner’s injury is a stress fracture. This type of damage comes from the overuse of muscle and bone. Think about running: Your foot and shin bone are taking the impact of slamming into the concrete over and over again. This is setting the stage for a potential injury.
To avoid a stress fracture, you have to pay attention to three things: how hard you’re pushing yourself, your diet, and your sleeping habits. You should be pacing yourself as you increase the length and difficulty level of your runs. A healthy diet isn’t an option; it’s a requirement. Make sure you are taking in sufficient vitamin D and calcium and that you are absorbing it. And if you’re running several days a week, your body needs plenty of sleep; at least eight hours per night. Sleep is the only time the body has to heal itself.
Have You Recently Experienced a Runner’s Injury?
Do you have pain in your kneecap? Maybe your ankle feels inflamed, and you’re not sure how to alleviate the pain. The experts at Ravenswood Chiropractic in Chicago specialize in diagnosing and treating runner’s injuries. Give us a call today with your questions and to schedule an appointment 773.878.7330.