Running Injuries: Common Symptoms and Treatment Options

Running injuries

Many people around the world love to jog or run, may it be as a recreational runner or a professional runner, but nearly 70% of them will at some time sustain a running-related injury.

Even though most sustained injuries are minor, some are quite serious that requires surgical repair of the injured part. Moreover, these minor running injuries may become chronic if left untreated or inappropriately treated. The common sites of running injuries include the knee, Achilles (calcaneal) tendon, hip and groin, foot and ankle and back. Among these, the knee is the most commonly affected area.

Some of the running related injuries include Shin splint Syndrome, sprain (on the knee or the ankle joints), plantar fasciitis (the most common cause of heel pain in runners), Achilles tendonitis, synovitis, and muscle soreness.

Joggers or runners may also experience hyperthermia (increased body temperature) due to prolonged sweating and inadequate replacement of water and electrolytes in hot weather.

Injury Causes

Most running injuries are attributed to improper or faulty training techniques. This may involve inadequate or lack of warm-up routines. Beginning runners, sometimes too enthusiastic and out of shape, are often hurt when they initially run too much or run too soon.

Heavy and prolonged sweating especially with inadequate replacement of fluids and electrolytes may cause hyperthermia (increased body temperature). Running on hard or uneven surfaces for extended periods and wearing poorly constructed or worn out running shoes are some factors that contribute to running injuries. Other factors also inlcude improper running posture and structural abnormalities such as flat footedness, unequal leg length and muscle imbalance.

Signs and Symptoms of Injury

The most common sign of running related injuries is pain. Other signs and symptoms include swelling, bruising, inability to move or use the joint, and sometimes a feeling of popping or tearing when the injury happens.

Temperature Related Conditions

For heat cramps, symptom includes muscle cramping in the legs or back; in heat exhaustion, signs and symptoms may include headache, confusion, muscle cramps and pulse is weak and rapid; Heat Stroke, which is a medical emergency, include the skin becomes hot and dry, absent sweating, involuntary movements, seizures and may lead to death if left untreated.

Conservative Treatment Measures

Most minor injuries may be treated initially by PRICEMS Therapy, which stands for Protection, Rest, Ice application, Compression, Elevation, Medications, and Support. Immediately apply ice pack for about 15 – 20 minutes, rest and elevate the injured part. You may also apply an elastic bandage, if possible, to compress the injured tissue. Avoid applying heat during the acute stage of injury as this will worsen the swelling. It is also helpful to take aspirin and related nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), such as ibuprofen, to minimize the pain. Continue using PRICEMS Therapy for 2 – 3 days until swelling subsides. Follow-up treatment may include alternating moist heat and ice massage. (If there is still swelling, don’t apply heat.)

For severe cases (a complete tear to the ligament or tendon), consult your doctor for proper treatment as torn ligaments and tendons take longer time to heal due to poor blood supply to these types of tissues.

It is important, during the recovery period, that the patient be active using an alternative fitness program that does not worsen the original injury. Ask your healthcare provider about these alternative fitness program.

Temperature Related Injuries

For heat cramps, rest and replacement of water and electrolytes; management of heat exhaustion include the treatment for heat cramps as well as elevating the feet and cooling the body with ice and cold towels; management for heat stroke includes the ones previously stated, plus immediate transfer to the hospital for prompt treatment.

Training for the Injured Runner

When symptoms are no longer felt (asymptomatic), graduated training program can be performed. For the first 2 weeks, the patient should do alternate walking and running every other day and on alternate days, other types of exercises can be substituted. Prior to walking or running, patient should do warm-up with calisthenics for low back and limbs and stretching exercises. Your healthcare provider (Physician or Physical Therapist) can provide you with a proper graduated training program.

Note: This information is not provided as basis for diagnosis for any particular condition but as a general guide to running injuries. Always consult your healthcare provider for any questions regarding your health.