Running is a very common physical activity around the world. It’s great because it’s very accessible and relatively cheap compared to other forms of physical activity.
However, given running is a type of impact exercise there is risk of injury due to the loads and intensity of training. This risk can be managed and reduced/prevented with attention to proper preparation of your body and load monitoring.
Types of Injury
Running can be a risk factor for a number of injuries, most commonly lower limb injuries, along with the potential for back and pelvic issues. The most common injuries associated with running are:
- Muscle strains and tears (commonly in the calf or hamstring)
- Tendinitis/Tendinopathy (In the ankle/achilles, knee or hip Joint strains (In the foot/ankle or knee))
- Bone stress response or stress fracture (In the foot or shin)
While there are several risk factors and injury management and prevention strategies, here are some specific things to note relating to running injuries:
Proper warm up is very important to prevent muscle injuries; make sure you warm up properly spending the time your body needs to be adequately ready to run. Ensure you include the hamstrings and calves in your warmup as these will be the muscles doing a fair bit of the work while you are running. Stretching afterwards is equally important for preventing muscle injuries as it will help muscles recover before your next run. If muscles haven’t recovered before you run again you can be at increased risk of injury.
Tendinopathy is technically the correct term for this injury however it is commonly known in the general population as tendinitis. This will occur if you are pushing your body too hard with the running, or your biomechanics are not optimal. Checking your biomechanics and muscle memory along with strength in your lower limb can help screen for the risk of this occurring. Secondly, make sure you aren’t building your running loads too quickly as the tendons need time to adapt to the impact loading.
These can occur from too much jarring on the joint or uneven stresses due to poor biomechanics. Looking again at biomechanics, along with strength, will ensure your joints are adequately supported as you land and can help reduce the risk of these injuries occurring. Proper footwear can help distribute the load through the lower limb more favourably to reduce the stress on the joints.
Bone stress injuries
Bone stress response which can progress to a stress fracture is one of the slowest healing injuries related to running. It is therefore important to avoid this one as much as possible. Bone stress injuries occur due to poor biomechanics, along with overtraining.
The most important factor to reduce the risk of these is to ensure you have enough rest days to allow your body to heal/recover along with making sure your increases in running distance/speed aren’t too rapid. If you sign up to an event you will often be sent out a sample running plan. These are typically good guidelines to show how running load should be increased gradually to allow the bones to adapt and respond to the cumulative impact and repair properly. Consider appropriate footwear and its role in shock absorption along with the surface you are running on.
The above information has just scratched the surface on running injury prevention. Being properly prepared and managing your load is one of the most important things you can do with your running. Especially since several running injuries can take months to heal and recover.
As the weather improves and more and more Melbournians get outside and into running, we encourage you to be proactive about injury management and prevention.
Contact our team at Fairfield Physiotherapy to discuss your running intentions and identify any risk factors you may have to get a plan to address them before anything occurs.