Although running is one of the healthiest activities someone can undertake, it is not without its own unique set of risks. Beginners can fall victim to a number of common overuse injuries if not careful, often because they are not aware of how to properly avoid them. When beginning running for the first time, listening to one’s body is crucial, as well as understanding the symptoms and treatment for typical running aches and pains.
When a runner feels pain along his or her shin bone and also suffers from the inability to comfortably lift his or her toes off the ground when standing, shin splints is likely to blame. Runners that try to run too much, too soon or those who drastically increase the intensity of their exercise are most likely to be affected. Running on hard surfaces and in improper running shoes can also bring on shin complaints. Preventative measures for this common problem include gradually increasing the intensity and amount of time spent running, running on soft surfaces, and calf stretching/strengthening. The addition of strength exercises such as toe raises and walking lunges can mitigate the chances of developing shin splints, as can certain stretches, such as Downward Facing Dog. To cure shin pain, 1 -3 days of complete rest from high-impact activities is recommended. Icing the painful area in 15 minute intervals can reduce inflammation, and compression socks or sleeves can also speed recovery by drawing blood flow to the area.
A term for general pain, swelling, or tightness in the knee, runner’s knee occurs because of a muscle strain or tightness in either the calf, hamstring, or illiotibial (IT) band. Similar to shin splints, runner’s knee can occur from overuse or from running too many kilometers, too soon. It can also be caused by poor running form or weakness within a muscle group, such as the hips. To prevent runner’s knee from occurring, stretching and strengthening the problem area is the best prevention and cure. If pain is originating in the hips, certain stretches such as the Seated Figure Four or Pigeon Pose can help. Strength exercises such as squats, dead lifts, and lunges are also recommended. Relieving muscle tension is necessary in order to alleviate the knee pain. A visit to a sports massage therapist is beneficial if unsure where the tightness is originating. Otherwise, a do-it-yourself massage can do the trick. Simply take a rolling pin to the tight areas and roll back and forth to release tension and break up any muscle knots. Be sure, however, to never roll across bones or joints.
Pain and stiffness in the foot that gradually improves throughout the day is the hallmark of plantar fasciitis. A painful and stubborn condition, plantar fasciitis is one that should be taken care of immediately. Risk factors include running in worn out shoes, incorporating too many high intensity workouts into a running routine, general overuse, and poor running mechanics. Massaging the painful area with a golf ball or ice cube can alleviate the pain, as can a visit to a massage therapist. A number of devices are available to help overcome this condition, such as the Strasburg sock, but the only reliable treatment is time spent completely off from running. Preventative measures include plenty of foot stretching and strengthening exercises, such as placing a towel beneath your feet and “scrunching” and “un-scrunching” the fabric.