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3 Most Common Running Injuries (and what to do about them)

The key to staying away from injury in running is understanding where injury comes from. If you understand what commonly gets injured in a runner and why, you’re more able to avoid the most common pitfalls that injured runners fall in. But life happens and injuries do too. So, if you face one of these most common running injuries, here’s a few tips that would greatly speed up your recovery.

1. Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

Patellofemoral pain, also called anterior knee pain, is a general term indicating pain in the front of, behind, around or under the kneecap. The cause is usually the kneecap is not tracking through its groove properly. It’s like a bobsledder bumping into the walls. This tracking is controlled mostly by the muscles of the thigh and hip.

What you can do:
Don’t let an x-ray stress you out. It is OK to get an x-ray to ensure there is no fracture but do not be dismayed by the presence of some kneecap osteoarthritis. This is a common finding in runners without pain. Plus, the obtaining of an x-ray is usually within a few months of you developing the pain. So think about this: would that x-ray have been any different if you had been filmed the day before you hurt? Answer is very likely no.

Incorporate a strength training program that focuses on the hip, especially the gluteal muscles. Research has found weak gluteal muscles is a common finding in people with patellofemoral pain.

2. Iliotibial Band Friction Syndrome

This common injury’s hallmark sign is pain on the outside of the knee but it can also be felt up the outside of the thigh. The IT band supports the outside of the knee and attaches up to the outside of the hip. Here again, hip weakness is the usual culprit in straining the IT band.

What you can do:
Know that IT band syndrome is solvable nearly 100% of the time. It’s simply a mechanical issue where the IT band is being overstressed beyond its capacity to manage the stress. Through improved hip strength and improved running form, you can unload this tissue and it will heal well.

Make sure you can do a mini pistol squat without your knee diving inward. Face a mirror, stand on one leg and bend the standing knee about 20-30 deg. Does the knee want to go toward the other knee (inward)? Don’t let it. Train it to bend straight toward the mirror, move slow and controlled,10 reps x 2 times a day until mastered. This is training the muscles that relieve the stress off the IT band.

3. Plantar Fasciitis

If you’ve never had it, you’re still probably familiar with it because several of your friends have had it. The hallmark sign of plantar fasciitis is pain at the base of the heel bone where the arch attaches and pain with first steps in the morning. Like IT band syndrome, this injury is nearly always solvable without invasive treatment.

What you can do:
Avoid a cortisone shot if possible. Cortisone is a painful injection that delays healing and puts your planter fascia at risk for tearing.

Pick up a Strassburg sock at your local running store. The sock will stretch the plantar fascia at night while you sleep making your first steps in the morning more comfortable. And, the sock is consistent with the goal of realigning scar tissue inside the plantar fascia which makes the tissue stronger. Research supports the use of the sock for resolving plantar fascia symptoms. It should be used in conjunction with skilled running based physical therapy for quickest symptom resolution.

Collectively, these three injuries make up a significant percentage of all running injuries. And, beautifully, these three injuries are hundred percent solvable in the majority of cases with non-invasive treatments which can include clinical soft tissue work and/or specific movement retraining exercises.

Follow the above guidelines to be well-educated on these common injuries so you know what to do for quick resolution if they come your way.

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