Runners of all skill levels usually experience some kind of injury, ache or pain. Most of the time, running injuries happen when you overexert, or when you’re not paying attention to proper body mechanics, or sometimes just dumb luck.
Here’s a quick list of the top five of the most common injuries (WebMD, et al) and some ideas about how to treat them.
1. Runner’s knee. Basically, this is when your form, running shoes, or terrain causes your kneecap to misalign. You’ll especially feel this when sitting for a long time, squatting, or climbing a hill or stairs. Over time, the cartilage around your kneecap can wear down causing bone-to-bone friction which results in pain, especially around the edges of your kneecap.
R.I.C.E. helps a lot, as does taking a good look at your footwear and moving to a smoother, flatter running surface for a while. Sports massage, especially deep tissue and myofascial work around the patella and surrounding structures, can work wonders, too.
2. Shin splint. Super common. You’ll feel this one along your shin bone (tibia), especially along the front or inside parts of your legs. Usually, shin splints are caused by overtraining, whether it’s drastically changing your distance or terrain or run frequency, it’s just too much for your shins all at once.
Once again, RICE is the way to go. Stretching and taking a week or so break from running helps too. A qualified massage therapist will work both the body and attachments of the muscles in the lower leg to help speed recovery.
3. Plantar fascitis. This occurs when small tears or inflammation happen in the tendons and ligaments that run from your toes to your heel. Usually flat footed runners, or those with very high arches, are most susceptible, as are excessive pronation (foot rolls inward) or supination (foot rolls outward). Increasing your mileage too quickly is a common cause as well.
The best way to fight this one is NOT to run through it. The recovery time for plantar fasciitis will dramatically lengthen if you do. instead, try a foam roller, or roll your foot over a frozen water bottle. Swimming and pool running are great rehabs too. A sports massage therapist can assist with point work, assisted stretches and range of motion techniques that can dramatically speed healing and reduce pain, too.
4. Achilles tendonitis. This is inflammation of the Calcaneal tendon (aka Achilles tendon), the tendon that attached your calf muscle to your heel. Achilles tendonitis usually occurs when you overtrain–like making a big increase in the distance you run without building up to it, or when calf muscles are shortened by overwork or other stressors.
Achilles tendonitis responds to RICE, and is often helped by stretching. A qualified massage therapist can show you stretches, as well as conduct stretches where they help you mobilize joints and relax calf muscles to allow the tendons to relax.
5. IT Band syndrome. The IT band (Iliotibial band) runs from the top of the hip to the outside of the knees, along the outside of the thigh. IT band syndrome usually occurs because the runner didn’t stretch properly before the run or the running surface (like asphalt) was hard and the runner ran longer than usual.
Resting the IT band is the best treatment, along with ice, compression and elevation (RICE). A qualified sports massage therapist can work on the IT band too, ironing the band an working on ligament attachments to reduce the strain caused by a thickened IT band.
If you’re an astute reader, you’ll see a couple of patterns here. When it comes to running injuries, having the proper shoes, working up carefully to a longer run, and running on grass or softer terrain will help prevent nearly all of them. And sports massage can help you recover much more quickly from each of these if they should occur.