Many runners wonder when they should visit an orthopedic specialist or go to their primary care doctor. There are some specific times that it honestly may speed recovery time to visit the orthopedist directly. For example, anytime that that there is a suspected traumatic or repetitive motion injury to a bone, joint, tendon or nerve an orthopedic doctor is your best choice for treatment. At OrthoLive, we provide physical therapists, bracing and treatment to sep
According to Jason Fitzgerald, who writes a blog at strengthrunning.com, “running injury” is really “repetitive stress injury.” He says, “…if you repeat the same movement a thousand – or tens of thousands – of times, your risk of an overuse injury skyrockets.”
He also notes that some runners make it worse: they wear the same shoes, run the same pace every day, the same distance runs, and never vary their workout routine and suggests that by introducing more variety into our training routines, the runner can cut this cycle and reduce some of the repetition. There are countless options:
- Run many different paces
- Wear 2-3 shoes in rotation
- Vary the elevation profile of your runs
- Run on different terrain
- Schedule many types of workouts
- Train for different goal races
- Run on different surfaces
All of these factors impact the stresses, and all can be manipulated. Doing any one of these options will subtly change how impact is distributed through your legs, how you strike the ground, and how you move as you run. Often these little variations are all you need to keep a little niggle from developing into a serious injury.
Common repetitive stress injuries in Runners
1. Runner’s knee. This is a common overuse injury. Runner’s knee has several different causes. It often happens when your kneecap is out of alignment.
Over time, the cartilage on your kneecap can wear down. When that happens, you may feel pain around the kneecap, particularly when:
- Going up or down stairs
- Sitting with the knee bent for a long time
2. Stress fracture. This is a small crack in a bone that causes pain and discomfort. It typically affects runners in the shin and feet. It’s often due to working too hard before your body gets used to a new activity.
Pain gets worse with activity and improves with rest. Rest is important, as continued stress on the bone can lead to more serious injury.
3. Shin splints. This is pain that happens in the front or inside of the lower leg along the shin bone (tibia). Shin splints are common after changing your workout, such as running longer distances or increasing the number of days you run, too quickly.
People with flat feet are more likely to develop shin splints.
- Stretching exercises
- Slow return to activity after several weeks of healing
4. Achilles tendinitis. This is inflammation of the Achilles tendon. That’s the large tendon that attaches the calf to the back of the heel.
Achilles tendinitis causes pain and stiffness in the area of the tendon, especially in the morning and with activity. It is usually caused by repetitive stress to the tendon. Adding too much distance to your running routine can cause it. Tight calfmuscles can also contribute.
- Icing the area
- Calf stretches
5. Muscle pull. This is a small tear in your muscle, also called a muscle strain. It’s often caused by overstretching a muscle. If you pull a muscle, you may feel a popping sensation when the muscle tears.
Treatment includes RICE: rest, ice, compression, and elevation.
Muscle pull commonly affects these muscles:
6. Ankle sprain. This is the accidental stretching or tearing of ligaments surrounding the ankle. It often happens when the foot twists or rolls inward.
Sprains typically get better with rest, ice, compression, and elevating the foot.
7. Plantar fasciitis. An inflammation of the plantar fascia. That’s the thick band of tissue in the bottom of the foot that extends from the heel to the toes.
People with tight calf muscles and a high arch are more prone to plantar fasciitis. Although it may be linked to adding activity, plantar fasciitis can also happen without any obvious reason.
- Calf stretches
- Icing the bottom of the foot
8. IT (iliotibial) band syndrome. This syndrome causes pain on the outside of the knee. The IT band is a ligament that runs along the outside of the thigh, from the top of the hip to the outside of the knee.
IT band syndrome happens when this ligament thickens and rubs the knee bone, causing inflammation.
- Cutting back on exercise
- Heat and stretching before exercise
- Icing the area after activity