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The most common running injuries and how to avoid them

21 March 2017

Now we are approaching spring and nights are getting lighter, many of us have taken to running to keep fit. But did you know many injuries can be caused by running if you don’t warm up properly?

Warm up and cool down

A warm up gets your body ready for exercise and helps to reduce the chance of damage to the muscles and joints that you will be using. A gentle jog for five minutes to slightly raise your heart rate is ideal, followed by some stretches.

It is sensible to end any exercise by gradually cooling down rather than stopping suddenly and dashing for the shower. This brings your heart rate and temperature down more slowly. So if you have been running, cooling down could be finishing your workout with a gentle jog for 5 minutes.

After cooling down, you may want to stretch out. Focus on the muscles you used during your run – quadriceps (thighs), calves, hamstrings, hips and back. Hold them for at least 10 seconds and take care not to bounce. Remember pain isn’t always gain – stretches should not hurt.

 

Strengthening exercises

Something else that can help to reduce your risk of running injuries is resistance training.  Doing some simple exercises to strengthen your muscles, bones and joints may also improve how far and how fast you can run.

Spire Cheshire physiotherapist and x-ray imaging manager, Karen Whalley, gives this advice:

“You use a range of muscles when you run. The big gluteal muscles in your buttocks are some of the most important along with the quadriceps and hamstrings at the front and back of your thighs. That is not to forget your calf muscles or your core muscles”.

Try these exercises recommended by Karen to help to build up your strength for running:

Squats

  1. Stand with our feet shoulder width apart.
  2. Slowly bend your knees and imagine you are sitting down into a very low seat. Concentrate on using your core muscles and tuck your tailbone underneath.  Your chest will be leaning slightly forwards so that you keep your balance.
  3. Slowly stand up again, driving through your heels to engage your gluteals.

Lunges

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.
  2. Take a moderate step forwards. Without over striding, lower down so that your knee is at 90 degrees and directly above your toes.
  3. Then by driving upwards with your front leg, return to your starting position. Alternate stepping forwards with you right and left legs.

Single leg dips

  1. Stand on one leg – make sure you have got your balance, use something for support if you need to.
  2. Slowly bend the knee of your leg you are standing on and keep your kneecap in line with your second toe. Try to keep it straight and not leaning in or outwards.
  3. Then straighten your knee to return to your starting position.

Calf raises

  1. Stand with the front of your foot on the edge of a step.
  2. Slowly raise both your heels from the edge of the step and onto your toes (hold onto something for balance if you need to). Then lower back down.
  3. Repeat up to 12 times. As you get stronger, you can progress to doing one leg at a time.

 

Tips to prevent running injuries

By taking a few precautions and planning, you can prevent many common running injuries. 

Here are some tips for preventing injuries:

Listen to your body:  Do not ignore pain.  A little soreness is OK, but if you notice consistent pain in a muscle or joint that does not get better with rest, see your health care provider.

Create a running plan:  Before beginning a running routine, talk to a trainer.  A trainer can help you create a running plan that is in line with your current fitness abilities and long term goals.

Warm up and stretch:  Many injuries occur as a result of inadequate stretching.  Before and after you run, stretch your muscles thoroughly, especially your calf, hamstrings, groin and quadriceps. Also warm up for 5 minutes by walking, for example, before you start stretching.  Stretching cold muscles may cause injuries.

Strength train:  Add weight training and ab exercises to your routine.  This strengthens muscles and develops core strength.

Cross train:  Mix up your fitness routine.  Don’t only run.  Try swimming, biking, tennis, or some other activity. This helps prevent overuse injuries that more commonly occur when you do the same type of exercise over and over again.

Dress appropriately:  Wear lightweight, breathable clothing that keeps moisture away from your skin.  Dress in layers.  Also wear a hat to protect against the sun and the cold.

Be shoe smart:  Wear proper fitting socks and shoes with good support. If the soles of your running shoes have worn thin, it is time to get a new pair.  If you have foot problems, such as flat feet or high arches, consider using orthotic shoe inserts.

Run wisely:  Run on a flat smooth surface and avoid steep hills until your body gets used to the activity.

Be safe:  Run during the day in well-lit areas or use a light so that you can be seen.  Keep a mobile phone and identification on you.  If running with headphones, set the volume low enough so that you can hear cars and other noises.  Run with a partner when you can.

Weather matters:  Monitor the weather conditions before you go for a run.  Do not run outside if it is over 90 degrees fahrenheit, below freezing or the humidity is high.

Stay hydrated:  Make sure you drink an extra 1 ½ to 2 ½ cups of water on the days you run.  If you are running for more than an hour, drink a sports drink to replenish electrolytes lost in sweat.

 

For more information or to book a physiotherapy session at Spire Cheshire Hospital, please call 01925 215 022.

 

 

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