With the promise of better weather and sunshine, many of us are tempted back to running, run more often, or take up this super-healthy sport for the first time. As a result, here at Meadowside we’ve seen an increase in the number of runners asking for help for running injuries and pains.
We can broadly categorise running injuries into two main groups:
- Traumatic injuries such as a twisted ankle or a fall
- Cumulative injuries that occur from small, repeated impact that takes place over a long period of time
By far the most common injuries sustained by runners, are the cumulative injuries, most frequently affecting the hip, knee, ankle or foot.
Injuries such as runners knee pain, Achilles tendonitis, iliotibial band (ITB) syndrome and plantar fasciitis are particularly common within the running community.
In addition, low back pain, ankle pain and even stress fractures can also occur in keen runners.
Preventing injury: The 3 most important factors
Studies have shown that when we run, we can generate a ground reaction force that is equivalent to around 3 times our body weight, meaning a very high impact through our body.
And as Strava accounts up and down the country show, many runners are recording hundreds of miles each year – a highly repetitive impact, which could lead to strains and injury over time.
When a cumulative injury develops following high and sustained loads, many runners search for spot solutions specific to the injured area, such as ice, stretches, foam rollers or tape.
However while these have their place, we believe that in order to achieve long-term recovery from injury, and avoid its recurrence, a runner must ensure he has good levels of these 3 factors:
Here’s why and how to achieve and optimise these 3 factors, for your best chance of a long and successful running career:
Having strong muscles can help support the joints and increase your body’s ability to tolerate the loads placed on it whilst running. And of course, not only does strength play a major role in injury prevention, it can also improve your running performance overall.
Muscle groups such as the glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings and calves are all at work during your running gait cycle. It’s therefore very important to identify those muscles who might be falling short, and develop a balanced and targeted strength program to work on any areas of weakness.
Flexibility is an area often overlooked when it comes to running injuries. A joint can be too stiff or too flexible, and either may increase the risk of injury.
If a joint is very stiff, other joints and muscles will be recruited and work harder to fulfil the range of motion required to run efficiently, and those may become strained or injured as a result.
A highly flexible or unstable joint will be prone to pain and inflammation with demanding use such as running, and will therefore require more strength to support it. The risk of over-stretching or loading the supporting tendons and ligaments during running is higher in this type of joint.
In summary, a good balance of both strength and flexibility is required to help prevent and recover from most, if not all, running injuries.
Arguably one of the most important aspects for injury prevention is running technique and biomechanics. Everybody’s running style will be different, however, if your technique leads to an increase in the load on a particular part of your body, this could lead to injury and pain.
Biomechanical assessments or running analysis are a great way to address technique-related issues that may be associated with pain.
Small, specific tweaks to your technique can be extremely beneficial in reducing pain and encouraging recovery, by adapting the levels of load on specific joints.
Personal factors such as your age, sex and height, training factors like run length and frequency, and health and lifestyle factors such as previous injury or smoking history all play a role in running injuries.
How we can help
If you are experiencing pain or discomfort associated with running, then it’s important to get a proper diagnosis to ensure the correct measures are put in place to help you recover and prevent further injury.
Our highly qualified and experienced therapists at Meadowside Osteopathy can help diagnose your injury, assess your technique, and test your muscles and joints in rest and in motion.
We will then offer hands-on treatment and sports massage, as well as providing you with a structured and bespoke strength and rehabilitation program to get you back on track.
Hamill et al (2012) Coordinative variability and overuse injury. Sports Medicine, Arthroscopy, Rehabilitation, Therapy & Technology. 4:45
Kluitenberg et al. (2012) Comparison of vertical ground reaction forces
during overground and treadmill running. A validation study. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders.
Van der Worp et al. (2015) Injuries in Runners; A Systematic Review on Risk Factors and Sex Differences. PLoS ONE. 10:2
Pope D, et al. (2019) Recommendations for running injuries. Br J Sports Med Vol 53:3.
Krabak BJ, Roberts WO, Tenforde AS, et al. (2020) Youth running consensus statement: minimising risk of injury and illness in youth runners. British Journal of Sports Medicine. doi:10.1136/ bjsports-2020-102518