With just a few more training runs before the London Marathon on 24 April, the last thing anyone needs is a running injury.
As a physiotherapist in Petersfield, I’ve seen a lot of these injuries, mostly due to people pushing too hard, or not preparing their lower limbs properly. Research indicates there’s at least a one-in-five chance of picking up a running injury every time you go out.
You can avoid most problems by using the 10% rule: only increase your running training – either time or distance – by 10% a week.
Have a look on my website for advice on preparing your body and strengthen your lower limbs for injury-free running.
And, whether you’re a beginner, or you’re training for your umpteenth marathon, here are my tips for avoiding the most common injuries for runners:
This is a common injury, mainly caused when the kneecap comes out of alignment. It’s often aggravated by running down hills. You can avoid it by strengthening your hip and buttock muscles and the tendons and muscles supporting the knee.
A small crack in a bone causing pain when you put weight on it, most likely in the tibia (shin) and metatarsals (feet). It’s more common in women than men because of hormonal differences and not eating enough calories and it can be avoided by using the 10% rule.
Pains running along the shin bone, shin splints often occur after too sharp an increase in training. People with flat feet or high arches and those training for their first marathon are most likely to develop shin splints. Stick to the 10% training rule, but if you feel shin pains, rest immediately and use ice and anti-inflammatories.
Inflammation of the large tendon that runs down the back of your lower leg, causing pain and stiffness, especially first thing in the morning. It can be caused by increased activity on tight or weak calves. Give the Achilles tendons a good stretch before running, but also use strengthening exercises.
*Actually, the Achilles tendon doesn’t become inflamed but is subject to wear and tear. Being pedantic, it should really be called Achilles tendinosis, but most people call it tendinitis.
Muscle Strains and Tears
Usually caused by tight, short muscles or muscle imbalances, eg if the quads at the front of your thighs are stronger than your hamstrings at the back. Muscle tears commonly affect hamstrings, quads, calf and groin. A physiotherapist helps to restore muscles to normal length with stretching exercises and massage and to strengthen weak muscles with appropriate exercises.
Iliotibial Band (ITB) Syndrome
The ITB is a thick band of tissue running along the outside of the thigh from the hip to the knee. If your ITB is tight, repeatedly bending and straightening the knee will rub it against the thigh bone and cause irritation. It’s common among runners with weak hip and buttock muscles, flat or pronated feet or a leg length discrepancy. Try strengthening exercises such as lunges or step-ups.
If you’re taking part in the London Marathon, then good luck. But no matter why you run, good preparation and sensible training can help avoid injury so you can enjoy a great way to exercise.