Running has become a popular pastime for many Americans due to its seemingly endless list of benefits. It promotes good health, relieves stress, eliminates depression, controls weight, and even boosts your confidence. However, there is also a negative side effect that is all too common: injury. Depending on the average distance you run and your unique fitness level, you can suffer from a number of common running injuries. Although initially painful, these injuries are usually not the sign of something serious and can be healed through a number of simple treatments. In this article, I will briefly discuss the most common running injuries and provide a list of 6 simple and effective ways you can treat them.
Common Running Injuries
The most common injuries sustained while running include strains, sprains, shin splints, tendonitis, and stress fractures. These injuries typically affect your ankles, knees, hips and back. Although painful, you should not be sidelined by these minor injuries for more than a couple days. However, with simple treatments, you can get back to the sport you love faster than ever.
Diagnosis and Treatments
The best way to diagnose a running injury is to examine the conditions and history of your average run. Certain injuries result from specific running conditions, like hills and pavement, as well as the intensity of your running regimen. You should be able to identify the type of injury sustained after a quick self-analysis; however, consulting a medical professional may also be required. In some cases, x-rays, MRIs, and diagnostic ultrasound will help rule out a more serious injury like fractures and torn ligaments. If the diagnosis shows a minor injury, use the treatments below to help in your recovery.
The best thing you can do after sustaining a running injury is to rest. Your body needs time to heal itself from an injury and further aggravation will only make things worse. The amount of rest you need will depend on your specific injury; however, no more than 48 hours of rest is usually needed. In fact, long-term immobilization can be worse for your injury, and the faster you become active again, the quicker your recovery.
Depending on your injury, applying ice or heat to the affected region can help you recover faster. If your injury invokes swelling, apply ice within 48 hours to decrease swelling and reduce pain. If your injury is the result of an overuse injury like tendonitis or shin splints, apply heat to relax the muscles and promote blood flow. Never leave ice or heat on the affected region for extended periods of time to avoid burns.
Elevating the injured area above heart level reduces swelling and pain. When you sustain an injury, blood rushes to the affected region to help in the healing process. This causes tissue in the area to swell which can hinder the recovery process. Elevating an injury helps reduce this blood.
Compressing the injured area helps reduce swelling and can relieve pain. Achieve compression by wrapping an ACE bandage around the swollen area tightly. If you begin to feel a throbbing feeling, loosen the bandage slightly to avoid circulation issues while maintaining compression of the swollen area.
Pain relievers have become a common treatment for minor running injuries, and for good reason. Pain relievers provide fast relief to minor injuries and can help get you back in action faster. Over-the-counter pain medication should work for minor injuries, but prescription pain medication may also be needed. However, it is important to remember that you still have sustained an injury. Pain medication only masks the injury and you should not push yourself before your body is ready.
Research has shown that, in some cases, joint manipulation can be an effective treatment for injuries involving the musculoskeletal system. Joint manipulation is a treatment performed by a chiropractor to help realign the spinal system and reduce pain throughout the body. Speak with your chiropractor to determine if joint manipulation will be beneficial for your specific injury.
After a day or two of treatment, these minor injuries will likely begin to heal themselves. Although you should never overexert an injury, a prompt return to physical activity can help hasten the recovery process. Before utilizing any of these treatments, be sure to understand exactly what type of injury you have sustained to avoid improper healing or future injury. If you are an avid runner, injuries are bound to happen. The best thing you can do for your body is to give it the proper amount of time to heal and get back to doing the activities you love when you are ready.
Dr. Kevin Christie is a Chiropractic Physician and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) in Miami, FL at Health-Fit Chiropractic & Sports Medicine where he treats college athletes, as well as professional athletes from the NFL, MLB, and NHL. Dr. Christie was appointed by Gov. Charlie Crist to the Board of Athletic Trainers as the Chiropractic Advisor. He is also part of the IRONMAN® Provider Network through A.R.T., which sets up a treatment tent for every IRONMAN event to provide treatment to IRONMAN athletes.