5 Common Running Injuries and How to Treat and Prevent Them

Fitness & Athletics Pain Treatment / December 15, 2022
A man running down a two-lane road with the sun in the background.

Running injuries are among the most common type of incidents among athletes. Whether you’re an avid morning jogger, hit the treadmill at the gym, or play a sport that involves running, you’re susceptible to a running injury. Common injuries for runners include things like soft tissue damage, broken bones, sprains, dislocations, and more. While everyone wants to get back in the game, running with an injury can be highly detrimental. It can worsen the condition, lead to more severe damage, and inhibit your recovery process.

Here at ChiroCare of Florida, we have experienced sports chiropractors on staff who are familiar with treating all types of running injuries. You may have an injury resulting from overuse or general wear and tear, or you may have been in an accident during the game or suffered a slip and fall. No matter how you suffered one of the most common injuries for runners, we’re here to help you get better as quickly as possible.

Furthermore, we can go above and beyond and provide you with ongoing care once your injury heals. From physical therapy to regular chiropractic adjustments to keep your body balanced, we can help develop a wellness plan just for you. This can keep you at the top of your game, even after you’re cleared for running with an injury.

Keep reading to learn more about the most common running injuries, how to identify them, how long they generally last, how to prevent future injuries, and how the sports chiropractors at ChiroCare of Florida can help.

Common Running Injuries

There are several injuries that we commonly see in runners and athletes. These affect patients’ joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles, and bones. Some are minor and may recover with rest and a brief series of treatments, while others are more severe and require an extensive treatment plan.

Here are the five most common running injuries.

1) Shin Splints

Shin splints are one of the most common running injuries. The condition is marked by pain that runs along the shinbone, front bone, and lower leg. It’s an injury resulting from overuse, which means that those who regularly run can develop shin splits. They’re most common in those who have recently amped up their activity, running more frequently on different surfaces or training more intensely than before.

It’s a very common condition, with more than 3 million new diagnoses in the United States annually.

How to Identify Shin Splints

You can usually identify shin splints yourself or at least highly suspect that they result from your pain. However, it’s always important to get evaluated by a professional. The best way to treat shin splints is to rest and ice the area.

The recovery time is different for each person. For some, shin splints may resolve within a few days. Others experience months. The more you continue running while you have shin splints, the longer you’ll likely have pain in the area.

2) Runner’s Knee

It likely doesn’t come as a surprise that an injury named “Runner’s Knee” is one of the most common conditions associated with the activity. Runner’s knee can be particularly painful as it affects the soft tissue below your kneecap. It’s another injury that results from overuse.

How to Identify Runner’s Knee

Unlike shin splints, runner’s knee typically requires a medical diagnosis, and professional imaging, such as MRIs, is often necessary to identify the cause of pain. However, some key symptoms may clue you into the condition. When you notice these symptoms, seek help as soon as possible to avoid worsening the condition.

You may notice that the pain in your knee worsens when you walk up or down the stairs, kneel or squat, or sit with your legs crossed. For most people, runner’s knee takes several months to heal.

3) Stress Fractures

Stress fractures aren’t as complete bone breaks but are rather tiny cracks that form in your bone. The condition is another often caused by overuse, such as regularly running long distances or back and forth across a field or court. These fractures can occur in your feet, ankle, or legs.

How to Identify Stress Fractures

Stress fractures are difficult to diagnose on your own, although they’re among the most common injuries for runners. Instead, a doctor will likely need to see X-rays of the affected area. Indications that you may have a stress fracture from running include swelling and pain in the area that will worsen over time, despite any at-home treatments you try.

If you have a stress fracture, you’ll likely require crutches, a walking boot, or a brace to take pressure off the leg or foot. Recovery from this condition usually takes a few months.

4) Achilles Tendinopathy

Also called Achilles tendinitis occurs when your Achilles tendon, which attaches your heel bone to your calf, becomes swollen and irritated. You’ll likely experience pain in your heel and the back of your lower leg. Repetitive and stress on the tendon causes this pain, as can having tight calf muscles. Proper stretching is essential to avoid tight calf muscles before running or playing sports.

How to Identify Achilles Tendinopathy

This is another injury that requires a medical diagnosis yet rarely needs medical imaging. There are several key symptoms to know about this running injury. You may feel pain or burning in the area, along with stiffness and loss of range of motion. These symptoms will likely worsen during use or upon waking in the morning.

This is one of the common injuries for runners that can become degenerative if you don’t treat it correctly. However, there are many simple treatments for the condition, and it generally only takes a week or so to begin seeing improvements.

5) Sprained Ankle

Runner or not, everyone experiences a sprained ankle at one time or another. And while it’s not a break or fracture, it can be pretty painful. Another one of the most common running injuries, more than 3 million adults experience an ankle sprain each year. Sprains occur when you stretch or tear the ligaments or tendons in the ankle.

Unlike other common running injuries, a sprained ankle is not the result of overuse. Instead, it’s usually the result of an injury, such as a trip, misstep, or fall during impact sports.

How to Identify a Sprained Ankle

You’ll likely know when you sprain an ankle, but getting an X-ray or MRI is always a good idea to ensure that you don’t have a minor break or fracture since symptoms may be similar. Symptoms include swelling, tenderness, and redness in the area. Loss of motion and stiffness are also common.

The best way to treat an ankle sprain is with rest, ice, and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication. The pain will likely be so severe that you won’t be able to continue your physical activity until the recovery process is complete–this may take a few days to a few weeks depending on the severity of the injury. If you don’t notice an improvement after a few days, seek a medical evaluation.

How Long Should You Wait to Run after an Injury?

The question we often hear from patients is how long before they can begin running with an injury and how quickly they’ll likely recover. We understand, as running and sports are more than just a hobby to many people–they’re a major part of your lifestyle and are usually a source of happiness and fulfillment.

Unfortunately, there is no set answer to how long you’ll need to wait after an injury to begin running again. Several factors will impact your timeline. The first is how severe your injury is and how extensive your treatment plan will be. Conditions such as bone breaks or fractures require a much longer recovery time than injuries like shin splints.

The most crucial thing to remember is never to begin running or playing until you receive medical clearance. If you start your regimen again too quickly, you risk further injuring yourself, which may keep you on the sidelines longer than if you complete your recovery plan.

You may be able to start running again within a few days following a minor injury, while more severe damage may require that you take a few months off. At ChiroCare of Florida, our primary goal is to help you get back in the game as quickly as possible.

How to Prevent Running Injuries

While many running injuries are purely accidental, meaning you may not be able to prevent them, there are steps you can take to minimize your risk of incurring a condition related to overuse. The first is using orthotic shoes or insoles to reduce the impact of your feet on the ground. This can help protect not just your feet but also your knees. Next, always replace your running shoes as soon as they begin to show wear and tear. Choose shoes with proper arch support designed for running or athletics specifically.

Other ways to prevent injuries include stretching before and after running. Stay hydrated, don’t suddenly increase the level or intensity of your activity, and be aware of potential hazards in your surroundings. Watch for uneven sidewalks, other people in the field, and things like fallen branches that may obstruct your path.

Knowing your limits and not pushing yourself too hard is also helpful. This can help minimize the chances of developing an injury related to overuse. Gradually increase your activity over weeks or months to avoid sudden straight on your bones, tendons, and ligaments. Remember, progress takes time.

How a Chiropractor Can Help with Running Injuries

Whether you have a self-diagnosed injury or a medical professional evaluated the source of your pain, seeing a chiropractor can help your path to recovery. Here at ChiroCare of Florida, we offer various treatment options to help treat common injuries for runners.

Massage and physical therapy are among the most common treatments for those running with an injury. Both of these treatments are available at our offices, and we’ll teach you gentle stretches and exercises to complete at home between visits to maintain your progress. Additionally, we use instrument-assisted treatments such as ultrasound therapy to treat soft tissue injuries.

Schedule an Appointment Today

If you’re suffering from one of the most common injuries for runners, contact us to schedule an appointment today. We’ll evaluate your injury and work with you to develop a customized treatment plan. Don’t wait to start your path to recovery–get back to your running routine as quickly as possible with the proper treatment.

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