Monday, June 27, 2011

Common Running Injuries

If you are suffering from a running related injury right now, don't worry, you aren't alone. In fact, statistically, one of your running friends is probably injured right now as well. About 60% of all runners get injured in some way, shape, or form each year. Since running is the number one participant sport in the world, that is a bunch of hurt people limping around. I wanted to talk about some of the more common injuries, how to prevent them, and what to do if you just so happen to get one.
The number one injury prevention technique is stretching, everybody knows that. But what everyone doesn't know is that there are a myriad of injury prevention tools available at your local running store. A couple of good to have tools are foam rollers and little poles called "The Stick." Both of these simulate deep tissue massage to smooth out fascia and knock out lactic acid from your muscles. The foam roller (the black thing in the middle of the picture) is going to be a deeper massage, while The Stick is going to provide you with more maneuverability so you can reach harder to reach places. Also included in the picture is KT Tape, Body Glide, and Superfeet Insoles, but we will talk more about those later. Right now let's talk about some of the more prevalent injuries runners see.
1. Plantar Fasciitis - Some even wince at the name, Plantar Fasciitis, or PF for short, is the tightening and tearing of your Plantar Fascia, which is located on the bottom of your foot, originating on the bottom of your heel bone extending down toward your toes.
How do I get it? PF is often brought on by extended weight bearing exercise. If you're running excessively, hitting with 2-3 times your body weight every step, PF could be right around the corner waiting for you to not stretch so it can come in and bite on that heel. If you know someone who has it that doesn't run, a high BMI is often times the cause of PF in non-runners.
How do I know if I have it? Trust me, you will know. You will have a shooting pain in your heel or arch that is especially bad in the morning. Another symptom commonly found with pain is the loss of flexibility of bending your toes toward your shin, called dorsiflexion.
I think I have it, what now? Through many trial and error cases, the single most important thing I have found that works for people is Superfeet insoles. Superfeet has a variety of different insoles, different colors for different arch heights. The reason Superfeet help so much is the heel cup it provides. The heel cup keeps your Plantar Fascia from tightening, allowing for it to heal quicker than walking around barefoot or in a super cushioned shoe. Speaking of shoes, if you have PF and a cushy shoe, consider changing to a more rigid shoe. The same kind of concept applies as the insoles, you don't want your foot to go where it wants because that aggravates the fascia, so by providing your foot with a stable platform with little give, it gives your foot a chance to heal a little bit more. Since it is a little impractical to use a big foam roller on the bottom of your foot, try freezing a golf ball and rolling that under your arch and heel to smooth out some of the tightness. The cold acts as an anti-inflammatory and the small dense ball acts as a massager, which almost instantly alleviates some of the pain. One final tip to help get rid of PF, try to dorsiflex your foot as much as possible (bring your toes to your shin). That is going to help stretch out a constantly tightening band of fascia, which in turn will help get rid of your problem. Warning! Plantar Fasciitis can last years, so if you feel a little pain you think might be the start of something, seek the advice of a podiatrist right away to diagnose you. The sooner you start stretching and trying to heal your foot, the better.
2. Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS) - Another one of those injuries that makes you feel sick just thinking about it. ITBS is the inflammation of your IT band, which is a big V-shaped tendon starting at your hip and shrinking down connecting to the outside bottom of your knee.
How do I get it? Common ways to get ITBS are running on a banked surface (lateral or vertical) repeatedly, inadequate stretching, lack of cross-training (like swimming or cycling), and even having the wrong type of running shoes.
How do I know if I have it? You will likely feel a sharp pain where the IT band connects to your muscles, either in your hip, or on the lateral (outside) side of your knee. Knee pain is more common with runners, but it's not impossible to get some hip pain. A typical ITBS pain won't start immediately during your workout, it will get worse as time goes on. Often time I hear people complaining about a pain in their knee about 2 miles into a workout and instantly ITBS pops into my head. That is a tell-tale sign you have it, you don't feel it at first but it consistently flares up after a couple of miles into your workout.
Uh oh. That's me. What can I do? Invest in a foam roller. They only cost $13 and they are well worth it. To work on your IT band, put the foam roller on the ground and lie on it with your hip. Slowly roll down the roller until you reach your knee, then go back up to your hip. NEVER ROLL OVER A JOINT WITH A FOAM ROLLER! Do about 12 repetitions in a set and 3 sets a day. After a week or so, there will be a definite difference in the way your knee/hip feels during a run. You can also use The Stick instead of a foam roller, but it isn't as effective. Instead of lying on the roller, just grab The Stick on both ends and roll up and down your leg. I personally would do 20-25 reps instead of 12 because of the whole "not as effective" thing. For right now though, to get through a run while you have ITBS, try getting some KT Tape, or other kinesio tape and wrapping your knee as pictured below, this acts like a band-aid in that it feels better now, but it isn't really healed yet.
3. Shin Splints - I would say this is the most common injury in beginning runners. Shin splints are a pain often felt on the inside of the legs below the knee. Pain can range from sharp pokes to dull throbs, but don't worry, we know how to fix it.
How do I get it? Beginning runners get it because they try to do too much too soon. Their muscles and tendons aren't built up enough to take all that new pounding they are presenting themselves with, and the muscles fatigue and cause the Sharpey fibers in your leg to become disrupted. If you have shin splints and you aren't new to running, it could be one of two things causing your problem: your shoes are worn out, or you aren't taking enough rest days. Not only could your shoes be worn out, but if they aren't correcting you the right amount, it could cause shin splints because the inward rolling (pronation) is causing some unwanted torque on your legs. Now, to determine if your shoes are worn out, there are a couple easy tests. First, if you look at the bottom and the tread is completely smooth, you need a new pair of shoes. Two, if you grab the forefoot with one hand and can bend it almost in half, the integrity of the midsole is shot and it's time to go pick up another pair. The reason a worn out shoe would cause shin splints is because now nothing is protecting you from the ground, sending all 3 times your body weight's worth of impact straight into your legs.
What can I do about it? As I said earlier, check to make sure it's not your shoes. Try finding a place like RunOn! near you who provides a free service to watch you walk and analyze your gait and look at the wear patterns on your shoes to tell you if they are worn out and if it was a good shoe for you. BUT if it wasn't the shoes, there is a good acronym to follow:
R - rest
I - ice
C - compression
E - elevation
This is very simple, just take a couple days off, put on some ice and a leg sleeve and kick back and enjoy your time off. Oh and one more thing, for a couple of days after you start to feel better, try running just in the grass or on a low-impact treadmill just to give your legs a tiny bit of extra time to recover.
4. Chafing - While technically not an injury, this one haunts runners young and old alike. Chafing in runners can be under your armpits, between your thighs, or even between your toes. Often looking like a red rash, you won't typically know you're chafed until you hop in the shower after a run and feel a good old fashioned burning wherever it may be.
How do I get chafed? Chafing is caused by the rubbing of two parts of skin over and over again. Runners with bigger legs often get their upper thighs chafed while heavier-set runners often get chafing under their armpits.
How can I prevent it? Using a lubricant is the best way to prevent chafing. My personal favorite is Body Glide. It comes in stick-deodorant form and a liquid powder form. Just put this on wherever you are prone to getting chafed and it prevents that skin to skin friction that causes those nasty chafes. Another good way to prevent some inner thigh chafing is by wearing the right kind of shorts. Typical running shorts have either a brief liner inside or a compression short specifically designed to prevent chafing. But in lieu of buying a bunch of $40 shorts, your $9 body glide will have to do for now.
What can I do now that I'm already chafed? Well it's too late now for Body Glide, but what I typically do after I get chafed is apply a generous portion of A&D cream to the afflicted area and it usually clears up in about a day. For really bad chafes, I would take some time off to recover and try to keep the area open and friction free as best as I possibly could.
So there is your very own guide to running injuries! I hope you learned how to prevent some future injuries or even how to treat for one you have now. Running is no fun if you hurt the whole time! I want everybody to be able to run to their full potential, but how can they do it when they are hurt all the time! So take some preventative measures and let's take that 60% down to 20%! Thanks for reading and sharing The Life of a Runner.

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