- Posted by Covent Garden Physio
- On 20th March 2019
- 0 Comments
- running, Running Injuries
Running is a fantastic way to keep fit. It’s what our bodies evolved to do best and a well-paced running programme has tremendous benefits for your health and fitness – not to mention the personal satisfaction in beating your personal best distance or time.
With London’s parks packed with new runners or people training for the next marathon, now is the ideal time to talk about the running injuries we treat at CGP and the steps you can take to reduce your risk.
What are the most common running injuries?
As you would expect, running injuries typically occur in the lower limbs – unless you suffer a particularly dramatic fall.
We can broadly separate running injuries into those which occur suddenly, such as a sprained ankle, and those which develop gradually, such as patellafemoral pain syndrome – which Anthony covered in last month’s blog on knee pain.
Running injuries usually occur in the ankles and the knees, as these are the points in the legs which absorb the most force, contain the most complex structures and are most vulnerable to trauma following sudden changes in direction.
For example, tendinitis in the ankle often develops in people who run in poor footwear, as the lack of support causes the tendons in the ankle joint to be overwhelmed for the forces sustained during running.
Knee injuries, on the other hand, often develop because the muscles elsewhere in the legs and hips aren’t strong enough, resulting in a lack of stability that can cause the knee to twist in ways that it is not supposed to.
Acute injuries and chronic injuries are also often related. An untreated acute injury can lead to imbalances and weaknesses which develop into chronic injuries, while untreated chronic injuries can increase your vulnerability to acute injuries.
This means that while we can say that ankle sprains and knee pain are amongst the most common running injuries, each must be treated on a case by case basis as there can be many overlapping causes, from your general fitness and injury history to your footwear and running surface.
Why is overloading so common in running?
Many of the overloading injuries I treat occur when people are starting running for the first time or are resuming after a long break.
This time of year is something of a running injury high season, as the improving weather and longer days sees people starting running or resuming programmes that they dropped over winter.
What these people then discover – and enjoy – is very rapid progress in how far and how hard they can run, sometimes doubling their distance every week.
But what they don’t realise until too late is that different parts of the body repair at different rates. Your muscles and cardiovascular system adapt quite quickly to new loads, while your tendons take much longer.
The gains in muscle strength and cardiovascular capacity allow you to run further and further at an impressive rate but, meanwhile, your tendons are struggling to keep up and can eventually give in.
Progress then grinds to a painful halt as you need to take weeks off running for rehabilitation.
So, if you’ve started running or are taking it on after a long break, resist the temptation to overload yourself and follow a very gradual and sustainable programme.
What else can I do to support my running?
Now that you know what not to do, here’s a few things that you should.
First of all: rest days. This doesn’t mean days of no exercise at all, just a break from running so that your body has time to repair. If you’re still sore from your last run, wait another day. Be patient: the amount you have to rest will reduce over time.
Rest days don’t mean doing nothing, either. If you want to keep building your cardiovascular capacity, you can cycle or swim on rest days as these don’t stress the same areas of your body that running does.
To give your body extra support to adapt to your new running programme, it’s recommended that you also work your strength and flexibility.
After running and on your rest days, complete a series of stretches for your glutes, quads, hamstring and calves. Doing yoga and/or pilates during your rest days is a good way to keep yourself limber.
You might also want to use a foam roller or massage ball, especially if you have particularly tight muscles which need some extra attention.
Strength training such as squats and lunges will build muscle mass to help power your runs and improve stability. Your gluteus medius is particularly important to hip stability, which you can learn about by clicking here for Andy’s blog on the subject.
Finally, don’t skimp on footwear. Your pair of fashionable trainers might be by a sports brand, but if they’re not running shoes they’re not going to do you any good.
Different footwear is better for different people, so it’s worth checking in with a physiotherapist to see what type of shoes they recommend and whether you could benefit from orthotics.
Come and see us to start running on the right foot
The more you know your body, the more able you’ll be to take measures to reduce your risk of running injury. Physiotherapy isn’t just for rehabilitation, we’re also experts in prevention. And, believe me, preventing is always better than treating.
We offer a range of services which benefit runners, from gait analysis and bespoke exercise programmes to full body testing to identify your unique strengths, weaknesses and imbalances.