The running injury index

Struggling with injury and not sure where to start? Our injury index is the first step on the road to recovery.

The running injury index

Injuries are part and parcel of a runner’s life. Sooner or later a niggle will appear that may throw a spanner in the works of your running plans. But rather than fret and fuss over the aches and pains that may visit you, use our quick fire guide to identify common running injuries and how to fix them. Although we will do our best to help, as with all health issues, your first port of call should be your GP.

1. Shin splints

Shin splints can be a cover-all term for a range of different shin-focused pain, but is most commonly used to describe medial tibial stress syndrome. This is a pain that will occur in the inside of the shin. You’ll likely feel it at the end of a run and the area will be sore to prod and poke. Continuing to run on shin splints is a definite no-no, and the fact you have them may well be a result of doing too much too soon.

Rest is vital, before addressing your lower leg strength and performing stretching exercises, and perhaps looking at your footwear. It’s possible that arch-supporting insoles or trainers will help you get back to your training.

2. Plantar Fasciitis

Hard to pronounce, hard to live with, this is the bane of many a runner’s life. Let’s locate it first: the plantar fascia is a thick connective tissue structure that stretches from your heel bone (calcaneous), to the ‘knuckles’ of your foot on the underside. 

Injury to this part of your foot can be caused by any manner of foot-striking issues, be they high arches, flat feet or over-pronation (a rolling in of the foot as it hits the floor). It usually presents itself as a nasty pain in the heel first thing in the morning and can persist while you’re sitting at your desk, too. 

3. Runner’s Knee

Your knees take a huge amount of force through them as you run, and as a result they can get hurt. Runner’s knee commonly presents as pain on the outer side of the joint where your iliotibial band (ITB) runs down your leg.

A good physio will assess the cause of your aching knee by looking at your whole chain, ie from your foot up to your hip, to find out what’s going wrong, and from there they’ll be able to recommend what you need to do to fix it. Initially though, it’s about getting rid of that pain with rest, ice and anti-inflammatories.

4. Back pain

You might get a sore lower back from running if other areas aren’t quite strong enough, as physiotherapist Paula Coates explains. Strength training for runners can play an important part in avoiding back pain, with moves that improve your core strength and stability useful to add to your weekly routine. If you do have back pain, identify the cause and rest to allow it to settle down. Sometimes this is all it takes for it to clear up, but if you’re unsure as to what has caused it, seek expert advice.

5. Calf strain

Your calves provide you with much of the forward propulsion used when you run, so it stands to reason they are susceptible to injury. The lower calf is where the action happens, thanks to a muscle called the soleus. This can feel stiff or sore after a run and can get better with rest and stretching, but prolonged soreness should be looked into by an expert to investigate whether there might be a tear.

The Achilles' tendon is also in this area, running from the base of the heel up the calf, attaching to the soleus, and any pain here should be taken seriously to avoid a lengthy lay-off. Avoiding trouble with your calves can be done with a good pre-run warm up that includes exercises.

6. Hamstring strain

Your hamstrings run down the back of your thigh and, in runners, pain can be felt as low down as the back of the knee. If you feel pain here, ice and rest for 48 hours may see it subside. If it hasn’t settled after that time, there may be a tear that needs further treatment.

Your hamstrings are vital to warm up, especially in cold weather when they will be more vulnerable to injury when you start running. A hamstring tear can take weeks to heal, so it’s important to make sure they are stretched and warm before you begin.

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