Patient Care

Running Injuries: Treatment and Prevention

"What the heck am I running for? Parts of my body that never hurt before are killing me!"

Does this sound like you? Take comfort in knowing that you are not alone. The majority of people who take up running for sport or recreation have to deal with some kind of injury during their training. As people become more active, their rate of injury actually rises, but it is important to note that the recovery time for active people is dramatically lower then people with sedentary life styles.

Common Running Injuries

Below are the two most common running injuries and what you can do to prevent and treat them.

Plantar Fascitis
The plantar fascia is a thick fibrous band of tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot from the heel to the base of the toes. When it becomes inflamed (swollen) it is known a plantar fasciitis.

  • Symptoms - Deep bruise-like pain at the base of the heel. The pain is worse in the morning and at the beginning of the run. Pain may fade as the fascia loosens.
  • Causes - Occurs when plantar fascia is placed under too much stress, which causes inflammation and tearing of the fascia. Tight Achilles tendons, flat feet that overpronate, and rigid high arches are susceptible to plantar fasciitis. Worn out shoes that allow excessive overpronation or too stiff shoes may lead to plantar fasciitis.
  • Treatment - Correct shoes and inserts may help alleviate pain. Reduce running during acute periods and use ice and anti-inflammatory therapies. If condition worsens or persists, ultrasound and soft tissue stripping may be helpful as well as custom made orthotics. Heel spurs are commonly found with plantar fasciitis but surgery to remove the spur usually does not help. The spur is not the problem but a reaction to the chronic stress the plantar fascia places on its insertion at the heel.
  • Prevention - Stretch calf muscles and Achilles tendon. Strengthen by picking up marbles or golf balls or by scrunching up a towel with your toes. Stretch plantar fascia with a tennis or golf ball and towel stretches. Make sure you have good shoes that correct any overpronation problems.

Achilles Tendonitis
The Achilles tendon is the large tendon that connects the calf muscles to the heel. Persistent inflammation may lead to rupture.

  • Symptoms - Dull or sharp pains along the course of the tendon, usually close to the heel. Ankle motion is usually present. Nodules can be felt over tendon and a crackling sound may be heard when the ankle moves.
  • Causes - Tight or fatigued calf muscles. This causes the Achilles tendon to handle most of the load while running. Excessive speed work, hill running or increasing mileage too quickly can lead to Achilles tendon inflammation. Inflexible running shoes and overpronation may lead to Achilles tendonitis.
  • Treatment - Rest with ice and anti-inflammatory therapies. If injury does not respond to self-care, ultrasound over tendon along with myofascial release and deep tendon friction massage may help. If severe, surgery may need to be performed to remove scar tissue from tendon. Resume easy running when toe raises are not painful.
  • Prevention - Stretch Achilles tendon before and after each run using curbs. Strengthen and stretch muscles of lower extremity and calf. Control pronation with motion control shoes. Take proper rest intervals during training.

This article is for educational purposes only. Your physician should assess all injuries. If you would like more information or would like to schedule a consultation, contact National University of Health Sciences at 630-889-6491.

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