5 Common Running Injuries and How to Prevent Them

While running is a great workout, the risk for running-related injuries increases as people seek that finish line. Taking care of one’s shins, knees, hips and back is critical to a runner’s overall health. Wearing supportive running shoes and taking a workout onto forgiving surfaces are tried-and-true practices for runners to reduce shock on the legs and body. Read on for the basics of the five most common running injuries.
1. Shin splints. One of the most common injuries among runners is shin splints, a term given to any pain experienced at the front of the lower leg. Shin splints occur at the front inside of the shin bone and are caused by long-distance, high-impact running, inadequate footwear, an increase of training too quickly or running on hard surfaces—or a combination of all of these. However, it can be tough to gauge the severity of shin splints. The pain usually fades over the course of the exercise session or run, but it will most likely return after the activity and may even be worse.
How to Prevent Shin Splits
  • Before and after running, stretch the calf muscle and Achilles tendon to target the muscles of the lower leg.
  • Engage the muscles of the back of the legs rather than place all of the impact on the shin and front-leg muscles.
  • Don’t overstride. Keep your stride longer in back and shorter in front.
  • Engage in strength-training exercises for the calf muscles.
  • Warm up before increasing speed during a run.
2. Runner's knee. Runner’s knee results from the overuse of the knee and is commonly developed in novice runners as well as women. “To ensure muscles are not overworked, long-distance runners should make it a rule not to increase their distances more than 10 percent per week. One sign of runner’s knee is pain on the outside of the knee, which can become aggravated by running, especially downhill. Other symptoms are tender trigger points in the gluteal area, as well as tightness and pain during flexion or extension of the knee.
How to Prevent Runner’s Knee
  • Avoid aggressive runs, especially downhill.
  • Strengthen the quadriceps muscle, as a weak quad is a common cause of the ailment.
  • Because runner’s knee can be caused by tight hamstrings and calf muscles, be sure to stretch both of these muscles before and after running.
  • Use insoles or heel pads during your run to reduce impact.
3. Snapping hip. Snapping hip is a condition that results in an audible snapping or popping feeling around the hip joint when the hip is flexed and extended. This sensation can either be felt externally or internally. Athletes are at special risk for developing this syndrome as a result of the repetitive and physically demanding movements they do. With runners, snapping hip is attributed to extreme thickening of the tendons in the hip region. Pain can be reduced through rest and inactivity, but symptoms can last for an extended period of time, causing it to eventually become very painful.
How to Prevent Snapping Hip
  • Avoid running for an extended period of time to alleviate pain and prevent recurrence.
  • Maintain good flexibility and strength by lightly stretching the muscles around the thigh, hip and pelvis.
  • Before engaging in running again, have a specialist assess your running technique to determine if that is causing the ailment.
4. Neck pain. Stress tends to accumulate in the neck area, and neck ailments in runners are common. As the neck balances a 10-pound head and compensates for deficiencies in imbalances in the arches of the feet or the curves of the back, the neck takes on a lot of physical burden, and for runners, sometimes the ailment is coupled with poor running form or tense muscles during the run.
How to Prevent Neck Pain
  • Take breaks when standing or sitting for a long period of time.
  • Adjust your desk, chair and computer so that your computer monitor is at eye-level, your knees rest at a point slightly lower than hips, and you have chair armrests available for additional support.
  • Slowly introduce yoga postures for neck and back pain to strengthen muscles.
  • Concentrate on standing with correct posture. Keep your head centered over your spine, so gravity works with your neck rather than against it.
5. Lower-back pain. Runners who already have lower-back problems may find that their ailments are worsened by the impact running places on their body.  In some cases, lower-back pain can lead to sciatica, herniated disc or degenerative disc disease. Lower-back pain can develop after running too far a distance before properly warming up and can be experienced in muscular strains, spasms and pains.
How to Prevent Lower-Back Pain
  • Prior to a run, be sure to perform a thorough warm-up.
  • Engage in gentle daily stretching that alleviates tight back muscles and loosens tight hamstrings.
  • Do strength-training routines to condition and tone the core muscles of the back.
  • Adjust your chair so that the positioning doesn’t strain the lower back.

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