Running injuries can happen to anyone at any time – no matter how experienced a runner you may be.
Though not usually life-threatening, running injuries can nonetheless cause pain and discomfort for weeks or months after the initial incident and are usually the result of overuse, improper training, or poor form.
Some runners experience shin splints, plantar fasciitis, stress fractures, Achilles tendonitis, and other conditions.
You should never ignore these types of injuries. Even minor injuries can turn into major problems if left untreated – but just how can you tell if your running injury is something more serious?
We put together all you need to know to ensure that your body stays as strong and healthy as possible.
What Causes Running Injuries?
One of the best ways to understand running injuries is to have a good understanding of what causes them – and there are a few possibilities here.
Some of the most common causes of running injuries include:
This is when an athlete trains too much, too often, without taking enough rest between workouts.
The problem with this is that muscles become tired and sore, which leads to inflammation and muscle damage. If you train too hard, too often, it’s likely that you’ll end up with some sort of running-related injury.
Another common cause of running injuries is poor form. It’s easy to get into bad habits while running, such as lifting your knees high in the air or landing on your heels instead of absorbing the impact through your midfoot.
These bad habits lead to overuse injuries like shin splints, plantars fasciitis, and Achilles tendinosis.
Failing To Warm Up
While warming up before a run is important, many athletes don’t do enough of it. A warm-up helps prepare your muscles for the rigors of exercise by increasing blood flow, loosening tight muscles, and improving flexibility.
As a result, you’ll feel less stiff during your workout, and will be able to absorb the shock of each stride better.
Failing to warm up is a very common cause of injury and one that can have a long-term impact on your training and progress.
Wearing the right shoes is crucial for reducing the risk of injury when running, and many people make the mistake of wearing shoes that aren’t designed for their feet.
It is a good idea to go to a professional and have your feet measured properly – these experts will be able to assess your gait and ensure that you have well-fitted shoes to support your back and legs.
Inadequate Recovery Time
It’s also essential that you take adequate recovery time between runs. This means getting plenty of sleep, eating well, and allowing your body to recover from the previous day’s activity.
Not only does proper recovery help prevent injury, but it also allows you to perform at your peak level for longer periods of time.
How Do You Know If Your Injury Is Serious?
If you suspect that you’ve injured yourself while running, you should seek medical attention immediately.
While not every injury needs immediate treatment, you should always consult a doctor if you think you may have sustained an injury that requires medical attention.
The first thing you should do is stop running until you see a physician. If you continue to run after experiencing pain, you could aggravate the injury further.
There are a few signs that your running injury could be something a little more serious, and these include:
Pain That Lingers
If you experience pain that lasts for longer than around two weeks, this could be a sign that you need to get your injury checked out, as something more serious may be going on.
If you suddenly start feeling pain while running, this could mean that you’ve torn a ligament or tendon. Stop running immediately, and seek the advice of your doctor.
Numbness Or Tingling
This is another symptom that could indicate a serious injury. Numbness or tingling in your lower extremities (legs) could be caused by nerve damage.
Loss Of Strength And Range Of Motion
Loss of strength or range of motion in your joints could be a sign of arthritis or other joint problems. Seek medical attention if you notice any loss of strength or range of movement.
If you find that you cannot walk without assistance, this could be a warning sign that you have suffered a severe injury.
Swelling Around The Injury Point
If you notice swelling around the area where you were injured, this could be a signal that you have suffered a sprain or strain.
Common Running Injuries
Some of the most common running injuries that you may face include:
An Achilles tendinitis occurs when the tendon becomes inflamed, causing pain and stiffness in the heel. It usually affects runners who overuse the muscles in their calves.
Bursitis is inflammation of the fluid sacs that cushion the bones in your knees.
It often happens when you repeatedly land on your knees and can be caused by poor form or ill-fitting shoes. Running on very hard surfaces can also cause this injury.
Hamstring strains occur when the muscle fibers in your hamstring become damaged.
These injuries typically affect athletes who engage in repetitive motions such as sprinting, jumping, and kicking.
Knee sprains happen when the ligaments in your knee become stretched beyond their normal limits.
Most commonly they occur when you fall during a run, but they can also be caused by sudden changes in direction and failing to warm up your joints properly before a run.
Shin splints are painful conditions that affect the shin-bone and surrounding tissue. This condition is caused by repeated stress on the muscles and tendons in your shins.
Tendonitis is inflammation of the connective tissues that attach muscles to bones.
Commonly, it occurs in the Achilles tendon, which connects the calf muscles to the heel bone.
A wrist sprain occurs when the ligaments in the wrist become strained. Wrist sprains are usually caused by an awkward landing after a jump or a change in direction.
How Can I Prevent Running Injuries?
Preventing running injuries is easier said than done, but there are some things you can do to help keep them at bay. Here are some tips to help you stay injury free:
Get Your Shoes Right
The right pair of running shoes will make all the difference between having a comfortable run and suffering from an injury.
A good rule of thumb is to get shoes with enough support for your feet, but not so much that they restrict your natural stride.
Get Proper Form
Proper form means keeping your body upright throughout each step. You should be able to feel your foot hitting the ground directly under your center of gravity.
If you’re unsure about how to achieve proper form, consult a professional trainer or coach.
Stretch Before And After Runs
Stretching is important because it helps prevent tightness in your muscles and improves blood flow. Try stretching for five minutes before and after every run.
Drink Plenty Of Water
Water keeps your body hydrated and healthy. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after runs.
Injury prevention isn’t always easy, but if you follow these simple guidelines, you can reduce your chance of injury, and ensure that you get the medical support and assistance that you require.