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Running injuries 101

Overload injuries account for 90% of all running injuries. That perhaps shows that our enthusiasm is often our undoing. Increases in distance, speed or adding things like hills too quickly can mean our tissues haven’t had the time to adapt to the new loads (see our Pacing blog for tips!).

Running injuries often don’t have an “incident” that you can recall, they typically come on gradually and increase until we can’t ignore them anymore! Sudden injuries, such as ankle sprains, make up the remaining 10% of injuries.

What are the most common running injuries?

1. Not surprisingly, knee injuries make up 40-60% of running injuries. This groups together the kneecap-related injuries and the iliotibial band (“ITB”) injuries. The kneecap-related injuries typically cause pain at the front of the knee, and sometimes swelling, whereas the ITB pain tends to occur on the outside of the knee without much obvious swelling. Both injuries can be caused by muscle weakness in the glutes/hip region, as well as footwear issues, the terrain on which you are running and sometimes areas of muscle tightness. Less than ideal running technique can also lead to developing knee pain.

2. “Shin splints”, or more correctly “Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome” accounts for approximately 15% of running injuries. Common contributing factors to developing this problem include poor foot/calf strength, poor footwear choices or even sudden changes to the type/style of runners, as well as rapid increases in running load.

3. The Achilles tendon has a large role to play in our running, so it is not surprising that Achilles injuries make up between 10-15% of injuries to runners. Once again, sudden increases in load are often largely responsible- adding distance, speed or hills too quickly (or all at once). Other factors that may contribute are tightness or weakness of the calf and changes in footwear, particularly changing the type of runners from a higher heel drop to a lower heel drop.

4. Given the sheer number of steps most of us take during a run, it is also not surprising to see that plantar fascia injuries account for 10-15% of injuries. Plantar fasciitis is a painful condition and can be caused by load changes, footwear changes, stiffness in the ankle and weakness in the foot muscles. Having a job that means you have a lot of time on your feet in addition to your running load can also be a factor with plantar pain.

Check out the Marna instagram page for injury education posted weekly on Wednesdays!

The majority of running injuries can be avoided with a carefully structured running program. There are lots of good programs online but linking with a local running coach who can tailor the program to your injury history, lifestyle and goals can be a good way to minimise your injury history. Likewise, seeing a physio as soon as you notice an unusual niggle will often nip things in the bud.

As a rule of thumb, if something is still painful after 2-3 runs, then it's time to make an appointment!!

Most runners avoid coming to the physio for fear that we will stop them running, but unless it’s a stress fracture, complete rest is rarely the answer.

We may reduce the running load temporarily, but a physio who runs knows the frustration of being sidelined so we will get you back to your usual running loads as soon as it is safe to do so.


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