Running is a great way to stay in shape, but it can also be hard on the body. Injuries are common among runners, especially those who don't take the time to properly train and stretch. Physical therapy can help you recover from running injuries and prevent new ones from occurring. In this blog post, we will discuss five of the most common running injuries and how physical therapy can help you overcome them. It is important to remember that the best physical therapy for runners is individualized to the specific person. This means taking into account body structure, previous injuries, current symptoms and presentation, and of course goals of mileage.
If you're a runner, chances are you've experienced one or more of the following injuries: plantar fasciitis, achilles tendonitis, shin splints, anterior knee pain, or stress fractures. These injuries are all caused by overuse and can be extremely painful. Fortunately, physical therapy can help you recover from them and prevent future injuries.
Plantar fasciitis is a common injury that affects the bottom of the foot. It is characterized by pain in the heel and arch of the foot and is often worse in the morning when you first get out of bed. Physical therapy can help to stretch and strengthen the muscles in your foot to relieve pain and improve range of motion. Often times if we can improve mobility of the foot and ankle and strengthen the muscles around this area we can reduce the pain in the heel. One often overlooked area to strengthen with plantar fasciitis is the gluteus medius, which is a hip abductor. The reason why this muscle is important is because it helps to prevent the knee from collapsing in during contact with the ground. When the knee falls in, the foot follows. This can cause extra stress on the arch and in turn cause plantar fasciitis. Below are a few exercises and progressions we use to strengthen the hips.
Achilles tendonitis is a condition where the tendon at the back of your ankle gets inflamed. This pain can either be right at the heel bone, which would be insertional tendinitis or you can get pain in the achilles itself. If this continues long enough, you get what is described as tendinosis. This is where the collagen structure of the tendon is actually altered which causes a more chronic issue. The best way to improve or prevent achilles tendonitis is to make sure that you have adequate calf muscle length. Our favorite way to improve mobility of the ankle is through stretching on a wedge. We like to perform long duration low intensity stretching followed by dynamic stretching where you are moving in and out of the calf stretch,
Shin splints (medial tibial stress syndrome) are a common running injury that causes pain along the shinbone. They occur due to impact and force at the muscles of the lower leg. They are typically more painful when standing, walking, and especially with running and jumping. One way to improve this pain is to perform stretches for the lower extremities. The calf stretch shown above is great for this as well. We also like to perform deep tissue massage of the calf, tibialis posterior, and tibialis anterior. You can do this on yourself by running your thumb or fingers up and down the muscle on the inside of the shin (as far behind the bone as you can get) and then also the outside of the shin where the muscle meets the bone.
Anterior knee pain is a common running injury that affects the front of the knee. Physical therapy can help to stretch and strengthen the muscles in your leg to relieve pain and improve range of motion. Oftentimes, if we can improve the mobility of the knee and strengthen the muscles around this area, we can reduce the pain in the front of the knee. It's counterintuitive but loading the knee and quad is typically the only way to reduce pain in the knee in the long run. Having pain in the knee is a vicious cycle. The knee pain causes you to not want to use the knee, which in turn causes weakness. This weakness causes the tendon to become even less healthy and causes more pain. This cycle continues until we break it. The key is to perform knee strengthening exercises through non-painful positions. This can be done by either changing the depth of the exercise such as doing a quarter or half squat rather than a full squat or changing the load by somehow reducing weight. Below is an example of a quad strengthening exercise we would do in the clinic. Here you can edit the range by not going as deep and you can also edit the load by adding weight or using something like a TRX to reduce the weight.
The last type of common injury we see with running are stress fractures. These typically occur due to too much mileage. The pain you get with these is typically throughout the shin bone. They can mimic shin splints so it is important to get a full evaluation by a doctor or physical therapist to discern between the two. Unfortunately, with this type of injury there is no avoiding some time off. Best to let the fractures heal and then work to return to running. Some things that can help to reduce the likelihood of stress fractures would be to slowly ramp up mileage, where supportive shoes that help to reduce impact forces, and to maintain a healthy diet that includes foods rich in vitamin D and calcium.
Have you been experiencing pain when running? Do you feel like your injury is taking too long to heal? If so, it might be time for you to book a physical therapy visit. Physical therapy can help you overcome common running injuries and prevent new ones from occurring. At our clinic, we offer individualized treatment plans that are tailored to the specific needs of each patient. We will work with you to develop a plan that helps you meet your fitness goals, whether that means returning to your previous level of activity or simply improving your overall health and well-being. So don't wait any longer – contact us today to schedule an appointment!