Injury Glossary

The 10 most common running injuries

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By Debbie Morgan

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From blisters to all manner of aches and pains, we have compiled the 10 most common running injuries and how best to treat and prevent them. Though we couldn’t do it all on our own! Sally Cole, a Chartered Physiotherapist at Harley Street Physiotherapy, helped us with our list and gave us her expert tips as well. It’s clear that the number one cause for the majority of running injuries is over training – so whilst we encourage you to join Team ELLE in our running challenges this year, we urge you not to go crazy! Follow a training programme that best suits your ability, and remember, rest and recovery is just as important as the runs are themselves.

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You have a pain in your…

1. SHIN

Commonly known as ‘shin splints’, the general term (not favoured by the experts) describes pain that runs along your shin bone

Causes: Overuse/excessive training; running on hard surfaces; inadequate footwear; poor running technique; flat and high-arched feet, causing the foot to roll inwards, which in turn affects the muscles around the shin causing pain.

Prevention: Wear appropriate footwear; avoid training on hard surfaces; follow a training programme to build sessions slowly and allow rest between runs; improve muscle strength and flexibility.

Treatment: Rest, and improve muscle strength and flexibility – if symptoms do not settle, seek medical advice.

NB: See point 3 for other possible shin injuries.

2. OUTER HIP-LOWER THIGH

Or, more specifically, Iliotibial Band (ITB) Syndrome – ITB is a strong band of connective tissue that runs from your outer hip to your outer knee, which helps stabilize the knee during running. Injury is more likely to occur in women as hips tilt in a way that causes the knee to turn in.

Causes: Overuse and training errors (ie. running too long a distance and/or increasing the speed of your run too quickly); any activity which causes the leg to repeatedly turn inwards; worn out shoes; running downhill or on tilted surfaces.

Prevention: Follow a training programme to build up distances slowly; wear appropriate footwear; avoid prolonged running on hard/tilted surfaces and downhill.

Treatment: Rest or reduce mileage/frequency of runs; stretch the ITB using a foam roller.

Expert Tip: “Foam rollering the ITB and quadriceps can significantly reduce the pain but strengthening the hip musculature, eg. the gluteal muscles, can help prevent the problem recurring.”

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3. PELVIS

This may be due to a stress fracture – a crack or small break in a bone from overuse/abnormal stress on the bone – which can also occur in the shin, thigh and bones around the foot and ankle.

Causes: Overuse and training mistakes.

Prevention: Follow a specific training programme; wear appropriate footwear.

Treatment: STOP running and allow the bone/tissues to heal; wear cushioned footwear with arch support; seek medical advice.

Expert Tip: “Although it is possible to run through some injuries during training, a pain that continues between runs and worsens should be investigated. A stress fracture must not be ignored.

4. KNEE

‘Runners Knee’ is another general term for pain felt in the front part of your knee, mainly from the joint where the knee cap rests on the thigh.

Causes: Overload to the joint from muscle imbalances caused by increased training (speed/hills); muscle imbalances; increased rotation of the leg; inadequate flexibility.

Prevention: Avoid training on hard surfaces; wear appropriate footwear; don’t over-train - follow a training programme; ensure good muscle flexibility and strength.

Treatment: Rest from activities that could further aggravate the injury until the pain settles; stretch; wear supportive footwear. See a chartered physiotherapist if pain persists.

Expert Tip: “Pain in the knee can be caused by abnormal foot biomechanics, causing pain further up the kinetic chain. It is therefore important to wear specific supportive running shoes and to change these regularly.”

5. HEEL/ARCH OF FOOT

One of the causes could be what is known as Plantar Fasciitis, which arises from damage and inflammation to a strong connective tissue (plantar fascia) that runs from the toes to the heel, acting as a shock absorber.

Causes: Overuse, particularly in training on hard ground; tight calf, hamstring and gluteal muscles; ill-fitting footwear, flat and high-arched feet; hip weakness.

Prevention: Follow a training programme;, wear appropriate running shoes with arch support; stretch the calf, hamstring and gluteal muscles; dynamic stretching as part of a running ptrogramme; maintain core stability.

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Treatment: Rest – both from running and prolonged walking; use a pediroller or roll the foot on a golf ball; ice (an ice pack for 10-15 minutes to avoid an ice burn); massage/stretch the relevant muscles; wear cushioned shoes with arch support; see a chartered physiotherapist if pain persists.

Expert Tip: “Strengthening the intrinsic foot muscles can help with injury prevention and treatment.”

6. ACHILLES HEEL

(And we’re not referring to the Toploader track.) Pain, swelling and stiffness arising from overuse of the Achilles’ tendon – the strong tendon that connects the heel bone to the calf muscles - related to tiny repeated injuries to the tendon that do not heal (the injury is known as Achilles Tendinopathy).

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Causes: Over training or an increase of running intensity; general muscle imbalances; inadequate footwear; poor running technique; high-arched and flat feet.

Prevention: Follow a graded training programme; improve general flexibility and strength; ensure there is no tightness in the ankle joint.

Treatment: Rest to avoid further damage to the tendon; use of ice packs; exercises to help stretch and strengthen the tendon; see a chartered physiotherapist for assessment and advice.

Expert Tip: “Eccentric calf muscle training can form part of the rehabilitation programme for Achilles tendinopathy, but it is important to obtain a diagnosis to ensure that it is appropriate for the problem.”

7. MUSCLES

Either from strain or tears which occur from the stress placed on them through running, particularly with sudden acceleration/deceleration – common affected muscles are hamstrings, quadriceps, and calf muscles - all muscles that run over two joints, like the hip and knee, knee and ankle.

Causes: Overuse; previous injury; reduced flexibility/strength in muscles; hamstring problems.

Prevention: Combined training programmes; improving muscle flexibility/strength.

Treatment: Rest and ice, to minimize extent of injury.

Expert Tip: “Dynamic stretching as part of the warm up for running is generally considered more appropriate than static stretching. Some research has demonstrated that static stretching does not prevent injuries and in some cases may cause muscle damage.”

You have problems with…

8. CHAFING OF THE SKIN

Any kind of skin irritation, notably skin-to-skin contact (think armpits, thighs and, erm, nipples) but also from clothing.

Causes: Repetitive friction of skin or clothing; salt residue from sweat.

Prevention: Avoid rough material in clothing; protect vulnerable areas with vaseline or tape.

9. BLACKENED TOENAILS

Essentially, bleeding under the nail… Pain arises from the increased pressure under the nail, the more pressure, the blacker the nail becomes and can eventually loosen.

Causes: Repeated pressure from footwear; ill-fitting footwear; direct injury; excessive running; abnormal foot structure.

Prevention: Wear appropriate shoes and socks; avoid overuse.

Treatment: The injury will heal on its own with lack of aggravation, and unless there is damage to the nailbed, even if nails fall off, they will regrow as normal. Seek medical advice if the symptoms persist.

10. BLISTERS, CORNS & CALLUSES

Delightful bumps, bubbles and patches found on your feet!

Causes: Rubbing and/or irritation; ill-fitting footwear; excessive running.

Prevention: Appropriate footwear.

Treatment: For blisters, cover with a dressing - don’t go popping them yourself, which may lead to infection, but seek medical advice if it is/they are particularly large; cover corns with a corn plaster.

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