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Long Distance Running Injuries and Treatments

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Recently I trained and completed my first half marathon. While I enjoyed the training and talking about various aspects of the sport with other runners, I was not prepared for the way I would feel after the long training runs and eventually the race day itself.

Speaking with friends, family and patients afterward, it soon became apparent that I was not the only one who had aches and pains while navigating the long distance running landscape.

In this article I am going to go through the most common injuries and setbacks that long distance running creates and what to do about it, and more importantly knowing when to start or stop your training because of them.

Runners Knee, Shin Splints, and Achilles Tendonitis are the main ones on my list that I’ll talk about today.

Runner’s Knee (Patellofemoral pain syndrome)

Runner’s knee occurs when the cartilage on the underside of the kneecap (patella) gets irritated. This often flares up during or after long runs, and especially when descending hills and stairs as that puts even more load on the cartilage. As runner’s knee gets worse, it will hurt even when going up hill.

Anyone is at risk for getting this, which is why it occurs in about 13% of runners.

However, runners that overpronate which is when you’ll see wear on the outside of your shoes, or if you have weak glutes, or quadriceps.

If you find yourself with these symptoms, you can run through it by only running up to the point before pain or taking extra days off.

You can also reduce the pain and strengthen your glutes by doing uphill treadmill runs.

If you find it difficult to run at all, then consider cross-training by doing cycling, swimming or elliptical training until you can run pain free.

You can strengthen your glutes by doing resistant band-aided side steps.

Once your pain is gone prevent it from coming by continuing to cross-train making sure to add regular squats or box squats and the lateral side-step as much as you can. 

Achilles Tendinitis

Achilles tendinitis is also a very common runner’s injury. It often occurs when training has been increased in people with tight or weak calves.

The Achilles tendon is what connects the two parts of the calf muscle to the heel, with too much stress it rubs result in irritation and inflammation.

This injury should be taken more seriously than runner’s knee. If you experience pain in the Achilles tendon don’t try to run through it. Stop! Catching it early and resting it properly for a week can prevent you from being out six months or more with a tear.

Rehab the Achilles by applying ice up to 5 times a day, swim, and use the elliptical machine instead of running or cycling.

Work out your calves by doing calf exercises such as putting your toes on a step and elevating up then slowly back down—do 20 reps at a time. These are called heel drops and should remain part of your workout routine to avoid relapse.

You’ll know you’re ready to continue training if your Achilles is no longer painful when you squeeze it.

Shin Splints

Shin splints are common in even the young.

This condition refers to the shin bone the tibia and the muscles sounding the shin. The condition occurs when small tears occur in the muscles and sometimes the covering of the bone.

Shin splints are common among those entering training for the first time or those that are re-entering running. Shin splints indicate that you are doing too much, and may be wearing the wrong shoe.

If you experience pain while running in your shins reduce your running for a few days then slowly bring your mileage back up.

Again, if it’s too painful it’s better to cross train with biking or cycling.

Rest, ice and taping is ultimately what will help recover it fastest.

Those are the top three injuries that new and long-time runners tend to get.

Hope this helps and remember being in alignment especially in the knees and pelvis can also do wonders for preventing injury and speeding up recovery!

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