As far as exercise goes, running is one of the most natural and beneficial options you have. Your endorphins flood the brain, you lower the risk of multiple physical ailments, and you can shed calories fast.
Unfortunately, while human beings love to push themselves through activities like running, it puts the body through some unfamiliar stress and can lead to injury. Reports estimate that up 80% of runners are injured each year, and while most of the said injuries are nothing too serious, some of them are, and the consequences can be devastating. Your best bet is to know your enemies, learning how to sidestep them, as well as how to deal with them if they do occur.
Here are five of the most common running injuries to keep an eye on:
1. Runner's Knee
When they name an injury after the sport itself, you know you might be in trouble. Officially known as patellofemoral pain syndrome, it is the long-distance repetitive force on your joints which does the most harm, as this stress manifests into the inflammation of cartilage around and behind the kneecap. With up to 40% of all running issues directly affecting the knee, it's worth taking the time to ensure your technique is not to blame for any mishaps.
Your best defense? Run on soft surfaces, wear a knee brace, swallow some anti-inflammatory medication, and then slow down! If symptoms begin to nag, take more rest days, reduce your distance, and listen to your body when it screams for you to stop. Alternatively, move to bike riding or swimming for a less strenuous workout.
2. Achilles Tendinitis
Reportedly contributing to around 11% of all running injuries, the swelling and tightening of the Achilles tissue is usually a result of either increasing your mileage without proper preparation, wearing incorrect footwear, running with tight calf muscles, or even the curse of the flat foot. This is why every running publication in the world begs you to stretch before and after each run, and to always wear the most supportive shoes you can find.
They don't call it the Achilles heel for nothing, and so at the very first sign of pain, stop running immediately! Apply ice five times daily, wrap it up tight, and stop wearing flip-flops/high heels for a while. In this downtime, focus on calf strengthening exercises like the heel drop, and avoid climbing any hills.
3. Plantar Fasciitis
You know those tendons and ligaments that connect your heel to your toes? That's called the plantar fascia. Now, if this tissue becomes inflamed or tears, that's called plantar fasciitis, recognized by a stabbing pain in your arch. And when considering how much weight your feet are absorbing each step, it's no wonder that 15% of all running injuries are in some way foot related.
With this specific trauma, it's usually a result of unsupportive footwear, high or low arches, incorrect stepping, or insufficient core strength. To avoid or relieve the pain, try wearing socks with arch support, rolling the agony out over a golf ball, and taking some time off. In the most desperate cases, one can also request a steroid injection to the heel. Ouch!
4. Shin Splints
Known to attack new runners or those who are back in the game after a long break, the irritation of the shin's tendons and muscles are a sign of too much, too soon, totaling up around 15% of all running injuries. And unfortunately, no one is 100% sure how to prevent them. That said, experts do suggest that using shock-absorbing insoles, wearing an ankle brace, and running on soft surfaces should help.
If splints do strike, however, stop running immediately and then slowly build yourself back up, using ice and anti-inflammatory medication to dull the pain, whilst keeping the limb elevated throughout the night.
5. Iliotibial Band Syndrome
If your glutes are not up to scratch, then your pelvis may move around more than it should, which causes the femur to pull the iliotibial band away from your knee, resulting in much tendon pain. 12% of all running injuries fall into this category, and it has built the reputation of tormenting long-distance runners the most.
Avoid this evil syndrome by stretching these muscles with a foam roller before and after a run, whilst shortening your stride, and centering your weight onto each foot. If your knee sends out any warning signs, do not ignore them! Rest for a few days, lower your mileage for at least a week, and remember that a casual bicycle ride is not a recommended replacement, as this motion can also aggravate the issue. Go for a swim instead, it's more refreshing anyway.