Its finally happened, summer has made its appearance across the country and those of us who have been awaiting its arrival can now get out and get moving. We no longer have to worry about running through Icey trails and trying to keep our balance as we hit a patch of ice that’s still hanging on around in the shadows of a mountain path. But unless we go through a period of post-stretching exercises we can find ourselves being sidelined because of an early-season injury.
Even though running is not a contact sport, it’s repetitive, high impact nature makes participants vulnerable to many different types of injuries. We are going to mention a few here that we feel rank at the top of the list for any runner, and how to avoid them.
Plantar fascia is a thick piece of tissue that runs from your heel to your toes; and simply means inflammation. Basically, plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of the tissue along the sole of your foot which causes pain particularly when standing or walking. Intense pain with the first few steps out of bed in the morning is a classic sign of this condition. The injury itself begins with microscopic tears of the ligament that supports the arch of your foot; due to the highly repetitive nature of running these tears become inflamed and painful. Potential causes of this condition are faulty foot mechanics, increasing running volume too quickly, high arches and muscle imbalances in the lower body.
Patellofemoral pain syndrome:
This condition is also known as “Runner’s Knee” because (not surprisingly!) it tends to be common in runners. Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) is a general term that describes pain behind the kneecap. It is caused by an irritation of the cartilage behind the patella (kneecap) which causes pain, swelling and possibly clicking or grinding noises. Symptoms may be felt after running long distances or sitting for an extended period of time. Contributing factors of runner’s knee are a weakness in some of the muscles around the hip, overpronation of the feet, and poor running technique.
Your Achilles tendon is the large tendon at the back of your ankle that connects your calf muscles to your heel bone; Achilles tendonitis describes pain and inflammation to this part of your body. Although it is one of the largest tendons in the body and can withstand all sorts of stresses from jumping and plyometric movements it is also susceptible to overuse and degeneration with age. This type of injury usually comes on gradually with an ache at the back of the ankle and is most common in people who suddenly ramp up their training volume. Weak or inflexible calf muscles may also contribute.
There are many potential running injuries – in fact, there are entire books and physical therapy courses dedicated to the topic. We have covered a few of the most common ones here above, but this list is in no way exhaustive.
5 Tips to Avoid a Running Injury’s this Summer
1. Start with a dynamic warm-up. Forget about stationary stretching, a movement-based warm-up, like walking, is the best way to prime your body for its run.
2. Finish with a stretch. End your run, by stretching your hamstrings and calves. These muscles are typically tight in runners.
3. Increase your mileage slowly. Gradually add distance over time. This will allow the body time to gradually adapt, decreasing your chance of injury.
4. Rest in between. When you’re getting back into the swing of things consider some cross-training. Alternate run days with elliptical, swimming, or strength training.
5. Listen to your body. This is the MOST important point here! If you start to experience aches and pains while running, stop and see your doctor for the best course of treatment. Continuing to push through the pain might lead to additional injury.
A good rule of thumb is to use the Price Method of treating an overused muscle/tendon group.
Price stands for:
Protection – protect the injured area from further injury – using a support bandage if appropriate
Rest – stop the activity that caused the injury and rest the injured joint or muscle. Avoid activity for the first 48 to 72 hours after injury
Ice – for the first 48 to 72 hours after the injury, apply a cooling therapy like Physicool which is a medically approved cold therapy treatment contained in a bandage that can be applied to multiple areas of your body. It’s in a package form which makes it easy to have on hand and once you apply it, the icy cold coolant, contained in the bandage wrap, penetrates the injured area to help relieve the pain and because its a bandage wrap, it also helps act as a compression bandage.
Compression – compress or bandage the injured area to limit any swelling and movement that could damage it further
Elevation – keep the injured area raised and supported on a pillow to help reduce swelling. Again, a product like Physicool is the perfect go-to treatment. But again, we still recommend seeing your family doctor or an emergency room based on the severity of the injury!
Knowing some of these common injuries can help you try and avoid having them happen to you. Making sure you’re doing everything you need to do in order to have an uneventful, summer running season.
Remember, taking it one step at a time as you tackle your training course while paying attention to what your body is telling you is just the smart thing to do. This way you can continue to have a productive and injury-free summer season of running!