Running is one of the most popular forms of exercise. For ardent runners, it improves more than just physical health. It provides a form of mental and emotional release. Unfortunately, when you run frequently, injuries are bound to happen. It doesn’t matter how many precautions you take. Running injuries will keep you on the side lines.
That is a hard prospect to accept for most runners. Having the freedom to move curtailed can take an emotional toll. However, the time spent dealing with injuries and recovery can be productive. Used properly, it can make you a better and stronger runner.
5 Common Running Injuries
According to estimates, around 80% of runners get injured every year. Before you sound the alarm bell, the reality is like most forms of physical activity, injuries in running happen because of overuse.
Here are 5 of the most common running injuries:
- Runner’s Knee – Doctors refer to this as patellofemoral pain syndrome, runner’s knee usually starts as pain behind the area of the kneecap. Over time, frequent running leads to a loss in cartilage. It may also cause of a misalignment of the kneecap.
- Stress Fractures – High-impact forces can also result in cracks in the bones of your feet, shins, and knees.
- Shin Splints – This is often confused with a stress fracture. Shin splints occur when there is pain in the front and inside of your lower leg near the shin bone.
- Achilles Tendinopathy – This is a condition where the Achilles tendon which attaches the calf to the back of the heel gets inflamed and swollen.
- Pulled Muscle – This is one of the most common running injuries. A muscle that is overstretched can result in a pulled muscle which is often preceded by a popping sound.
Whether you run on the pavement, grass or the gym treadmill, running will continue to place tremendous forces on the body. Your feet take the brunt of the forces which move up to your legs, hips and lower back. Buying the most expensive, high-tech shoes won’t avoid the occurrence of injury.
Once you get injured, accept the reality that is part of the sport you love. Then, shift your focus toward recovery
6 Tips On How To Recover From Running Injuries
What you do from the moment you get injured will determine how long you stay on the side lines. The sooner you act on the injury, the earlier you can get back on your feet.
- See Your Doctor
Die-hard runners fear the doctor more than a 100km run. No one likes to hear negative prognosis. However, knowing what you’re dealing with is the first step toward recovery.
Depending on the results of the preliminary examination, you may be asked to undergo an x-ray or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). From there, your doctor may recommend a rehabilitation specialist or physical therapist. The doctor may also prescribe anti-inflammatory and pain medications.
When you get injured, the doctor becomes your coach. He/she will outline the game plan for you. Listen to what the good doctor says and you should be back pounding the pavement in no time.
- Rest The Injury
Now comes the hardest part: resting the injury. For runners, having their running time taken away is very difficult. If you have a fracture on your foot, you basically can’t do any activity that requires you to put weight on it. Unfortunately, rest is a bitter pill that you have to swallow in order to recover faster. You cannot resume running after knee injury without getting at least 72 hours rest.
Rest gives your injury time to heal. In some cases such as a fracture on your foot or leg, the doctor may require a cast to keep it immobile. Any type of movement could trigger a re-injury and extend your rehabilitation period.
The best thing you can do when you are resting the injury is to stay positive. Understand that by not doing anything you are moving your recovery and eventual return to running fast-forward.
- Stay Consistent With Rehab
Injured athletes often refer to rehab as a “necessary evil”. It can be painful and highly-uncomfortable. However, you have to be consistent with rehab to speed up the recovery process.
Rehab usually takes a few days or weeks after the injury. The purpose of rehab is to help the injured area regain function. If you have been inactive for an extended period, the body part could have lost some mobility and range of motion. Muscles around the area may have atrophied.
The rehab specialist may ask you to do resistance training through bands or machines. Some movements may have to be performed unilaterally or one body part at a time.
Low-impact exercises such as swimming and cycling are great ways to stay in shape and improve blood circulation. Remember that blood carries water, oxygen and vital nutrients. By maintaining physical activity, you can enhance the healing process for your injury.
In addition to the physical pain, you may find yourself confronted with fears and doubts about the effectiveness of rehab. However, you must stay consistent with your rehab program. Put your trust in your doctor/coach and the program he/she designed for you.
- Follow An Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Inflammation is your body’s natural remedy for injury. If your body detects an injury, it will send water and proteins in the area to conduct damage control. However, prolonged inflammation can make the pain worse or initiate swelling.
This is why it is important to eat anti-inflammatory foods when you are injured. These are foods that are high in essential fatty acids (EFAs) or omega-3s. Good examples of foods rich in omega-3s are salmon, chia seeds, organic poultry and grass-fed steak.
You should also use herbs that have an anti-inflammatory effect. These herbs include turmeric and ginger. Turmeric contains curcumin which has been the subject of more than 6,235 articles that highlight its healing benefits.
- Include Deep Tissue Massage
Massage therapy should be part of your rehabilitation program. There are many health benefits you can get from massage therapy. It will help improve blood circulation in the body. Deep tissue massage can remove toxins and at the same time, loosen up tight muscles.
A physical therapist or massage therapist can also find imbalances in your body. Once these imbalances are found, he/she can implement techniques to fix any misalignment. When you have an imbalance, you will tend to favour one side of the body over the other.
This creates an uneven distribution of forces which leads to one side receiving more pressure than the other. Imbalances can lead to injury in running especially if you tend to run on uneven terrain.
Before getting an appointment with a massage therapist, get clearance from your doctor first. Areas that have sprains and fractures should not be exposed to massage until the swelling or overall condition has significantly improved.
- Get Back Into Running Slowly
Getting the green light from your doctor is certainly a cause for celebration. However, it is not an endorsement for you to run a marathon the following day. Running after a knee injury, especially a serious one is never allowed. Take it easy and get back into your running schedule slowly.
Here are tips on how to slowly get back to a regular running schedule:
- Start out by running short distances or do light intervals.
- Run on soft surfaces like grass or use the gym treadmill.
- Run only 1 to 2 days every week; on other days, cross-train by swimming or biking.
If you are not experiencing pain or discomfort, increase your work rate by 10%. This means increasing the distance, speed or frequency by no more than 10% every week.
- Re-Assess Your Running Program
Recovery time is also the ideal period to evaluate what went wrong. How did you get injured? Was it your form or technique? Were you dealing with bone issues since before? Did you often find yourself becoming more susceptible to infections and viruses?
Injuries occur for a good reason. They are a “warning shot” that tells you to slow down and take it easy. You could be pushing yourself too hard. By keeping your foot to the pedal, you are constantly testing the limits of your body.
Maybe you should include resistance training in your running program to increase the strength or your bones, ligaments, joints, tendons and muscles. Hire a coach, attend running clinics or see a running specialist who can determine problems in your technique.
Running is a great way to stay healthy and fit. However, it can also lead to injuries that could keep you off your feet for a while. If you feel a sharp pain in your hamstring or bad knee pain after running, see your doctor right away.
Even if the sharp pain in your ankle comes and goes, don’t ignore it. The longer symptoms of injuries persist, the more serious the situation can become. Don’t let recovery after sustaining a running injury let you down.
Think of it as taking one stride back in order to take two strides forward. Properly undertaken, a recovery program can help you come back a better and stronger runner.