With lockdown preventing us from going to gyms and participating in team sports, many of us have flocked to running as their exercise of choice – either running more often or taking up the activity for the first time. As a result, here at the Practice we’ve seen an increase in the number of runners asking for help for associated injuries and pains.
We can broadly categorise running injuries into two main groups:
- Traumatic injuries such as a twisted ankle or fall
- Cumulative injuries that occur from small, repeated impacts that take 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 and foot.
Injuries such as patellofemoral knee pain, Achilles tendonitis, iliotibial band (ITB) syndrome and plantar fasciitis are particularly common within the running community. In addition, low back, ankle pain and even stress fractures can also occur.
The running load is made up of both impact and repetition.
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 strength, flexibility and technique.
Having strong muscles can help support the joints and increase the ability of the body to tolerate the loads placed upon 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 gluteals, quadriceps, hamstrings and calves are all at work during our running gait cycle. It’s therefore important to identify those muscles who are 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 as a result.
A highly flexible or unstable joint will require more strength to support it, as the risk of over-stretching or loading the supporting tendons and ligaments during running is higher in this case.
Therefore, a good balance of both strength and flexibility is required to help prevent and recover from injury.
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.
Biomechanical assessments or running analysis are a great way to address any of these technique-related issues that may be associated with pain.
Small, specific and sometimes even short-term tweaks to your technique can be beneficial in reducing pain and encouraging recovery, by adapting the levels of load on specific joints.
Other risk factors
There are various other factors that can increase an individual’s risk of injury when it comes to running. 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 osteopaths at Meadowside Osteopathy can help diagnose your injury, assess your technique, and test your muscles and joints in rest and in motion.
We can then offer hands-on treatment and sports massage, as well as providing you with a structured and bespoke 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