About 8-in-10 runners get a running injury once a year. Given that about 40 million Americans run regularly to stay fit and for other reasons, that’s about 32 million running injuries every year.
The severity of the injuries varies significantly. While others are mild enough to heal naturally within days, others are so serious that the patient may never run again. A few people have even broken their legs, with a few permanently shunned to wheelchairs.
Also, the injuries can affect different parts of the body. Indeed, the severity of the injury is often determined by the location. The knee, lower leg, upper leg, foot ad ankles are the most commonly injured areas. The hip, pelvis, groin, and lower back follow in that order.
We believe that the first step to dealing with running injuries is to know the injuries you’re most likely to suffer as a runner and how to prevent them.
The Six Most Common Running Injuries
The following is a list of six of the most common running injuries, their symptoms, and general prevention and treatment tips.
1. Runner’s Knee
Runner’s knee is, by far, the most common type of runner injuries, accounting for up to 50% of all running injuries. Also known as patellofemoral syndrome, runner’s knee is an overuse injury in nearly all sports that involve running and jumping.
It causes dull pain felt in one or both knees. The pain can be mild or intense and gets worse with prolonged sitting or exercise. An X-ray is recommended to confirm the injury, after which the doctor can recommend treatment.
2. Achilles Tendinitis
Accounting for up to 20% of running injuries, Achilles tendinitis is another common running injury. It mainly occurs when the Achilles tendon, which connects the two primary calf muscles to the back of the heel, comes under too much stress. The resulting tightness can cause stinging pain at the back of the foot. Limited range of motion and swelling over the Achilles tendon are other common signs.
Here too, only a professional physical therapist can recommend treatment. Remember that if left untreated, Achilles tendinitis can cause rupturing of the Achilles tendon, which requires surgery to repair.
3. Stress fracture
Stress fractures are small cracks in the bones that cause pain and discomfort. They are caused by repetitive force, often from overuse, and are common in sports where participants repetitively jump up and down or run long distances. The condition mostly happens in weight-bearing bones of the lower leg and foot.
Symptoms may be nonexistent initially. However, slowly, the patient begins to feel mild pain that worsens with time. Swelling around the affected area is also possible. Making changes slowly, using proper footwear, and cross-training can help prevent the issue. But, once you’re affected, you have to see the doctor.
4. Shin splint
Shin splint injuries are pains on the front or inside of the lower leg along the tibia (shin bone). The injury is common after changing your workout. For instance, you’re more likely to get a shin splint after adopting increasing the number of days you run or starting to run longer distances.
Symptoms are almost similar to those of a stress fracture. Therefore, an X-ray may be needed to find out the exact injury. Treatment includes pain injections followed by plenty of rest and stretching exercises.
5. Hamstring injuries
A hamstring injury refers to a strain or tear of the tendons or large muscles at the back of the thigh. There are three grades of hamstring injuries. Grade one refers to mild muscle pulls r strains. Grade two hamstrings are partial muscle tears, and grade three are complete muscle tears.
Symptoms include pain and tenderness at the back of the thigh. The pain is typically mild for grade one hamstrings and extreme for grade three hamstrings. Swelling and a popping sensation are also common. Rest, icing, and compression are recommended before you see the doctor.
6. IT Band Syndrome
The iliotibial band, commonly known as the IT Band, is a connective tissue that runs from the outer hip to the knee. Its function is to stabilize the knee when you’re walking. However, this tissue can be strained, overstretched, or even torn by the resulting friction when the tissue repeatedly rubs against the leg bone.
Symptoms include sharp pain on the outer side of the leg, just above the knee. The pain tends to get worse when you bend the knee. Tenderness in the affected area is also common. Rest is recommended as the first step in treatment. After that, you may need to see a physician.
Prevention is Better than Cure
The good news is that common running injuries can be treated. Unfortunately, they can cause a lot of pain and suffering and may even cost you your ability to walk, let alone run. So, we strongly recommend that you work closely with your coach to prevent unnecessary injuries.