Pain – unfortunately – is a familiar concept for runners. Running is a high-impact activity and a certain degree of pain is to be expected.
But when the pain a runner experiences is recurring or increasing, both after and during workouts, we might be looking at an injury.
Injuries are usually caused by a mix of three factors: sudden increase in training volume, incorrect technique and biomechanical unbalance. In most cases you can diagnose your overuse injury on your own, as runners typically fall victims of one of the following four common injuries. This doesn’t mean you shoud avoid seeing a specialist, but it is important to recognize the symptoms at an early stage, so that you can correct your training and prevent the injury from becoming something serious.
Knee Pain, Runner’s Knee
Runner’s Knee is the common name for chondromalacia, a condition where the cartilage underneath the kneecap wears as a consequence of the friction caused by an incorrect tracking of the kneecap during the running motion. The recognizeable symptoms are inflammation and pain under the kneecap while running.
The main biomechanical causes of this condition are overpronation of the foot and an imbalance between the hamstrings and the quadriceps – in particular loos quadriceps and tight hamstrings. The quadriceps-hamstrings imbalance can accentuate overpronation.
Stretching is the best way to prevent knee pain. As for healing an existing condition, the two most common devices are shoe orthotics and knee straps. For both, we recommend a visit to a specialist, who can identify the exact causes of your problem.
Shin splints is a name commonly given to an array of issues related to the shins. Practically, a shin splint is a pain on the inside or the outside of the shin that occurs during running. The most probable cause of shin splints is increasing the training volume too soon too early. They usually occur in one leg at a time, usually the runner’s dominant leg.
Anterior shin splints are associated with overpronation, medial (internal) shin splints are commonly associated with an unbalance of the muscles of the lower leg.
The best way to treat shin splints is to reduce the volume of training (mileage) and ceasing running completely for a while – focusing on reducing the inflammation and thoroughly stretching the calg muscles.
The plantar fascia is a band of tissues that runs from the heel to the forefoot at the bottom of your foot. This tendon maintains the arch during each stride (walking, running, jumping…) and absorbs the shock. Plantar fasciitis is a condition that occurs as a consequence of tearing and scarring of the plantar fascia.
Early symptoms of plantar fasciitis are pain in the heel while walking first in the morning and while starting to run. As the condition develops, the pain lasts longer in the morning and while running. Acute plantar fasciitis can be so painful that makes running impossible.
It is very important to give the plantar fascia a rest when the symptom occur, both by stretching, not putting too much pressure on it and wearing some correction devices such as a tension night splint or shoes/boots with higher heels.
The Greek mithology tells us that Achilles – the strongest of the Greek warriors – was dipped by his mother in the waters of the Styx river in order to make him invulnerable. Unfortunately, his mother was holding him by his ankles while dipping him in the water, therefore making his ankles the only vulnerable part of his body. Years later an arrow would hit him in the ankle – and Achilles would die.
We refer to Achilles Tendonitis (tendinitis) as an inflammation of the Achilles tendon, which connects the two major muscles of the calf to the heel bone. This condition needs to be taken seriously, as the tendon can develop nodules of scar tissues or even rupture. When symptoms occur, take all the necessary precautions to reduce inflammation and stretch the calf muscle.
Overpronation is also a factor. If this is the case, consider swithching to more stable shoes.