Warmer weather brings us out of the house, off the couch, and back on the roads and trails. A few 10k and marathons have already come and gone in Toronto this season and many people are already dealing with running related injuries
Running is a great form of exercise, gets the heart and lungs working, builds stronger muscles, and many more great benefits. However, running is a very repetitive and weight bearing activity which can bring along many aches and pains if not done safely.
Common Running Injuries
Most running injuries are due to overuse, poor mechanics, or weak muscles. If your knee cap tracks improperly, or arches fall flat, it can put a lot of strain on the body.
1. Runner's Knee (Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome) - pain in the front of the knee, often due to cartilage changes under the knee cap. There will be sharp pain, grinding, occasional buckling
2. Shin Splints (Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome) - repetitive muscle contraction of the shin muscle on the shin bone (tibialis anterior on the tibia). The body is unable to respond and heal fast enough before the next damage occurs. Vague pain typically felt over the shin muscle or along the inner border of the shin bone in the lower third.
3. Plantar Fasciitis - Inflammation and pain at the bottom of the heel. The plantar fascia runs along the sole of the foot and attaches to the heel bone, this becomes damaged and causes sharp pain with contact. Typically the first few steps out of bed in the morning will be painful.
How To Avoid Injury
1. Decide if running is the best cardio exercise for your body and your goals. If you have flat feet, have suddenly increased weight, have previous injuries in the lower body, running may not be for you.
2. Always progress into a running program gradually. Start slow and build your distance and speed.
3. Proper footwear is very important as well, good cushion and arch support.
4. Strengthen important supporting muscles like your core, glutes, soleus, and tibialis posterior
5. Running up or down hill is much more taxing on certain muscle groups, start on flat ground.
6. Seek professional advice from a physiotherapist to determine if their is joint restriction or muscle weakness throwing your mechanics off balance.
7. Hydrate! Drink a lot of water to keep the body functioning at its best.
Before beginning any running program it is best practice to get a full body running assessment. This will identify any areas of potential limitation or concern which could lead to running injuries.