Hit the Ground Running - Understanding Common Running Injuries

Hit the Ground Running - Understanding Common Running Injuries

Your brief guide to 5 common Running Injuries – Symptoms, Causes & Management

Whether you’re a seasoned runner or just getting started, this blog will help you unlock the path to injury free running. Read on for symptoms, and strategies that our physiotherapists use to manage five common running injuries.

Shin Splints

Medial tibial stress syndrome, known commonly as ‘Shin splints’, is a condition characterised by pain along the inner side of the shin bone.

Pain occurs during exercise and can affect one or both shins.

Common Symptoms:
  • Pain along the middle and lower regions of the shin which intensifies with exercise, but alleviates during running in the early stages.
  • Discomfort persisting for hours or days after ceasing activity.
  • Tenderness in the middle and lower thirds of the shin bone.
Treatment involves:
  • Resting
  • Gradually increasing physical activity
  • Specific exercises to tackle weaknesses or imbalances

Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS)

PFPS serves as an umbrella term encompassing pain starting from the kneecap and its adjacent soft tissues.

Common symptoms:
  • Pain at the front of the knee, beneath or around the edges of the kneecap.
  • Discomfort during activities that involve bending and straightening the knee. For example, squatting, stair climbing, and running.
  • Knee pain after prolonged periods of sitting.
  • Pain while wearing high heels.

Symptoms may manifest gradually or suddenly, with varying degrees of knee swelling.

PFPS usually stems from a combination of factors, including:
  • Abrupt changes in running distance, surfaces, or volume.
  • Rapid changes in activity levels. E.g., moving from a single-story residence into a two-story house; changing to a job that demands extended periods on your feet.
  • Insufficient leg strength.
  • Poor control of the hip, knee, or ankle joints.

Management will depend on the root cause of your knee pain.

Treatments may include:
  • Avoiding activities that make the pain worse.
  • Doing targeted exercises to strengthen the muscles around your knee and improve how your body moves.
  • Methods such as taping and massage.

Plantar Fasciitis

Your Plantar Fascia is a thick band of connective tissue that attaches into your heel bone and supports the arch of your foot. Plantar fasciitis is a condition triggered by irritation of the plantar fascia.

Common symptoms:
  • Heel pain upon taking the initial steps in the morning or after extended rest periods.
  • Sensitivity and tightness in the heel and arch of the foot.
  • Pain intensifying when walking on unyielding surfaces or wearing unsupportive/flat shoes.

Initially, discomfort might arise only with prolonged activities. In severe cases, it could escalate to immediate pain upon standing, leading to a limp.

Plantar fasciitis typically emerges in response to escalated activity levels. This may include increased walking or running distances.

Other risk factors include:
  • Weak foot and calf muscles
  • Inadequate control of the foot and ankle
  • Unsupportive or improper footwear choices
  • Metabolic conditions such as Diabetes Mellitus.
Running injuries blog graphics

Achilles Tendinopathy

Achilles tendinopathy refers to irritation of the Achilles Tendon. Pain can manifest suddenly or develop over time.

Common signs and symptoms:
  • Localised pain in the Achilles tendon.
  • Gradually intensifying pain during activities that require pushing off the foot or landing. Such as running, jumping, hopping, and stair-climbing.
  • Achilles pain in the morning or following periods of rest.
  • Initially, improved pain with movement, later escalating with prolonged use
  • Swelling and tenderness in the Achilles Tendon.

Factors contributing to the risk of developing Achilles Tendinopathy include:

  • Weakness of the foot and ankle
  • Wearing improper footwear
  • Incorrectly managing the amount of physical stress on your body. E.g. suddenly increasing your activity levels or resuming activity after a long break.

The risk of developing Achilles tendinopathy can be increased by a number of medical conditions, including Diabetes Mellitus and inflammatory joint diseases (such as psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis). Other Achilles tendinopathy risk factors include prolonged steroid use and antibiotics like quinolones.

Treatment varies based on the underlying cause of the tendon pain and could involve:
  • Managing activity levels.
  • Targeted tendon-strengthening exercises.
  • Ergonomic evaluation.
  • Manual therapy.

If you’d like some further info on tendiopathies, factors that may cause them to develop and methods of treatment, check out our mini blog series by CBSSMC Sports Physio Zac Caughey:

Understanding Tendon Pain: Tendon Structure & Causes of Pain

Understanding Tendon Pain: Assessment and Diagnosis

Iliotibial Band Syndrome

The iliotibial band, is a large strip of connective tissue that connects your hip to your knee, on the outer side of your leg. It is involved in iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS), a common condition leading to external knee pain.

Common signs and symptoms of ITBS:
  • Sensitivity and pain alongside the knee, sometimes extending into the side of the kneecap.
  • Exacerbated pain on the outer knee during running or descending stairs, particularly upon impact.
  • Swelling on the outer knee may be present.

While not completely understood, ITBS is linked to repetitive compression of tissues under the iliotibial band.

Contributing factors can differ, but include:
  • Weak hip muscles.
  • Problematic running technique.
  • Training errors.

Treating ITBS involves identifying and addressing these contributing factors.

Which might include:
  • Tailored exercise routines
  • Running plans
  • Hands-on treatment methods

Help! I think I may be suffering from one of these conditions!

Many of these conditions exhibit similar symptoms. It can be tricky to work out what your pain is, and the cause behind it.

If you are worried you might be suffering from any of these conditions, ensure you book in with a physiotherapist.

City Baths Physiotherapists can provide you with a diagnosis of your pain and deliver appropriate treatments to address its source. Our physios can help you devise a strategy to recover from your injury and a return to running plan, to ensure you get back to your desired level of activity safely, without your injury returning or worsening.