The one bit of data that is thrown around a lot about running, is that 80% active runners are injured each year.
While this data is true, the corollary is that 50% of the injuries sustained by runners could have been avoided if a few simple steps had been followed, such as stretches before and after scheduled runs, building strength in the body – especially muscles involved in running, building up mileage gradually, listening to post-run feedback from your body and taking action on time, be it visiting a physiotherapist, or RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression & Elevation).
That being established, let’s look at some of the common issues that bug runners:
Pulled muscles & sprains: These can be caused due to overwork of muscle groups (especially hamstrings, quadriceps and calves). Sometimes, not doing proper warm-up exercises before starting a run, or not doing cool-down stretches after a run can cause these pulled muscles to happen. Ankle sprains on the other hand, are caused when the foot twists on the running surface, causing overextension of ligaments. These can be extremely painful and need sufficient rest, for recovery.
Blisters & chafing: Blisters are caused typically in the feet, because the feet are constantly rubbing against the shoes, causing a rupture between skin layers. You can manage areas that tend to get blisters by applying a band-aid on that area prior to a run. Chafing occurs when skin rubs against skin (thighs, arm against side of chest etc.) To avoid these, layers of clothing between friction causing areas, such as a long pair of running shorts or arm warmers will help, so will applying Vaseline on the affected parts before starting your run.
Stitches: This painful condition, especially in the side of the abdomen, is caused due to the diaphragm spasming due to overwork, during long runs. Ensuring right hydration, and right posture (so the body is not bent forward while running, causing the diaphragm to contract painfully) are the way to deal with this issue.
Runner’s knee, and the dreaded ITBS: Knee related injuries are among the most common for runners. Since it is impacts the knee every time your feet touchdown, expect some knee related issues. Pain in the region of the kneecap, or patellofemoral pain syndrome, commonly called Runner’s Knee, is something that can occur either due to overtraining or muscular imbalances, such as hip adductor and abductor muscles not being powerful enough to pull the muscles through. Pain in the underside of the knee or the outer side of the thighs could indicate Iliotibial Band Syndrome. Both these warrant a visit to the doctor.
Achilles tendinitis: Achilles tendon is a muscle in the back of the calves, really close to the heels. These muscles get inflamed, often due to calf muscles being tight. Foam-rolling or stretching the calves reduce incidences of this issue.
Plantar fasciitis: Wrong shoes, overtraining, miling up too quickly etc. cause this painful issue. The heel is the area of focus for this injury and the pain feels like stepping on a nail everytime you take a step. Stretching and strengthening calf muscles assiduously everyday reduces the incidence of this problem significantly.
Remember, if something feels ‘off’ that is data for you from your body that you need intervention from an experienced sports medicine professional. Delaying the visit compounds the issue and makes it a harder road to recovery for you.