Running Injuries: Treatment and Prevention
by Vincent F. DeBono, DC, CSCS, National University of
"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
Common Running Injuries
Below are the two most common running injuries and what you can
do to prevent and treat them.
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
- 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
- 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.
The Achilles tendon is the large tendon that connects the calf
muscles to the heel. Persistent inflammation may lead to
- 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
- 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
- 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 Dr. DeBono at the
National University of Health Science Whole Health Center in Lombard,
IL, at 630-889-6513.