When does a niggle become an injury? Don’t leave it too long to find out!

All runners get aches and pains but how do you know when you should get them checked out further? A good guide is if the pain is affecting the way you run and you can feel it for three consecutive runs, it’s time to get it looked at.

Here are the big five injuries we see at Body Rehab so if you are experiencing pain in any of these areas don’t hesitate to get it seen to. 

Shin Splints

If you’re experiencing a dull aching pain in your shins that becomes progressively sharp, this may be a sign of shin splints. If you discover you have this problem, you can ice the area to reduce pain and swelling. Your next step will be to rest and book an appointment to get it checked over by a physio. It’s really important not to ‘push through the pain’ as you may cause serious damage to bones and connective tissues in the area.

Shin splints can be caused by running footwear, flat feet and other muscular imbalances and tightness. You may be particularly at risk of this injury if you’ve taken up running in the last 5 years or so, as the body is not yet adapted to the high level of impact and pressure upon the joints as you run. A physio can assess the damage and advise you on a suitable rehabilitation program to gradually ease you back into your training. Shin splints can effect mainly the muscle or the bone. Which of the two areas is inflamed will determine how long it will take to settle down. The soft muscle down the front of your shin is called Tibialis Anterior and this can be easier to treat than the bony Tibial stress syndrome that can develop. No two shin splints are the same so please get them checked out by a professional.

Plantar Fasciitis

Your plantar fascia is a strong band of tissue that stretches from your heel to your mid-foot, supporting the arch of your foot and absorbing shock. Plantar fasciitis is when this band becomes inflammed, causing pain in the sole of your foot. Pain is the main symptom of this injury and the area under your sole about 4 inches from the heel may also be tender to touch.

Plantar Fascitiis can be caused by a number of factors:

  • a sudden increase in running intensity or mileage
  • footwear with not enough cushioning or support
  • new runners that are not yet used to the heavy impact of running
  • a change in running surface

Getting this injury treated sooner rather than later can ease pain and speed up the recovery process as fascia tissue heals relatively slowly.  We can give you specific exercises and stretches to treat this issue so if you’re suspect you may be suffering from this injury, don’t hesitate to book an assessment.

ITB Syndrome

This injury is a very common overuse injury experienced by long distance runners, beginners or seasoned runners alike. It occurs when the ITB band, a structure running down the thigh to the knee, is inflamed and not functioning correctly. This can cause pain and swelling on the outside of the knee and is therefore sometimes mistaken by runners to be a knee injury.

This is caused by the knee continually rolling inwards as you run, causing painful rubbing between the ITB band and the bone. Root causes need to be looked at including your running trainers, running technique and your warm up. If you don’t get this checked over you may unwittingly cause a chronic problem. A physio can diagnose this very common injury and advise you on the best course of action for recovery.

Achilles Tendon Injuries

An injured achilles tendon is very common and can affect novice and beginner runners. Your achilles tendon runs from the back of your heel to your calf muscles. Injury to the area may be caused by ill-fitting trainers, poor running technique and stepping up your mileage or speed too quickly.

Sometimes an achilles tendon injury can be pre-empted by a feeling of tightness along the back of your heel and calf. Watch out for particular tightness and if necessary, ease up on your training for a few days, returning slowly to test the waters.

If you feel pain along the back of foot or above the heel, you may have already damaged the tendon. The pain may be accompanied by swelling and tenderness to touch. The tendon may swell or you may find that the pocket of fluid behind it – the bursa may swell.

If you suspect you have injured your achilles you will need to take a complete rest from your training, and see a physio for an expert diagnosis. A physio can give you stretching and strengthening exercises and advise you on your next steps to recovery.

Anterior Knee Pain

Sometimes known as ‘runners knee’, this injury is very common in sports that require a lot of knee bending. Repeated bending of the knee can irritate and overstretch tendons around the knee, causing pain and inflammation. The weight-bearing nature of running in particular puts added pressure upon the knee joint and its surrounding connective tissues.

Symptoms of this injury can include swelling and an aching type pain around the knee cap, especially at the top where the femur meets the kneecap. Pain will be worse upon bending the knee, so stairs or walking downhill may be particularly difficult and you may not be able to put your weight on the affected leg. At home, you can elevate the leg and use ice to reduce the inflammation and put as little weight on the leg as possible. You then need to come in and see a physio to assess the damage and discuss your recovery.

In summary

These 5 injuries will need a combined approach to settle them down. Crucially we need to check you are wearing the correct trainers, your biomechanics and muscle lengths. Further to this we can use ultrasound, acupuncture and taping to relieve some of the pain and get you back to training more quickly. Often the major muscle groups of runners become tight and overused leading to imbalance and injury.

The best stretches you can do to help prevent some of these problems are calf stretches, quads stretches and using a foam roller to release your ITB. You can also make sure you increase you mileage gradually to give your muscles time to adapt and recover. Many injuries are caused by a sudden up in training intensity.

As official physio for the Brighton Marathon Weekend we are offering all runners an initial assessment at half price. Come and see one of our Body Rehab physios for some expert advice and reassurance.

Good luck out there and don’t forget don’t let a niggle become a long term problem – get it checked!

– Dawn Buoy, Body Rehab Studios – Official Physiotherapist
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