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Running Injuries: A Running Tough Primer

By: Jerry Hopkins

When it comes to running injuries, ignorance is not necessarily bliss. Itís important to know about the common types of running injuries for two reasons: 1.) to help you to avoid or prevent them 2.) to help you to recognize them if they occur and to seek the proper treatment.

While I canít promise you that your running career will be injury-free, by following my program, you can definitely decrease your risk of injury. The first step to understanding the logic behind my advice is to gain an understanding of typical running injuries.

Certainly, the most common running injury is what doctors call chrondromalacia patella, known to the rest of us as runnerís knee. Runnerís knee occurs when the cartilage on the underside of the kneecap, the patella, softens and then erodes or breaks down. This usually occurs when the kneecap is not tracking properly. Ideally, the patella glides up and down the leg smoothly, helping the thigh muscles gain leverage as you run or walk. But, a variety of problems, such as overpronation (when your foot rolls to the inside more than it should after your heel strikes the ground), stress, and weak quadriceps muscles, cause pain, inflammation and the eventually the softening and erosion of cartilage that lead to this injury. If you have runnerís knee, you may experience pain under or around the kneecap, a clicking or grinding sound when you walk or run, and pain or inability to walk up stairs. If the pain is debilitating or constant, you should see a doctor before continuing to run.

To help avoid this runnerís injury, one that many runners think is inevitable if you run long enough, I have found two exercises to be helpful, Hindu squats and lunges. Both are outlined in my booklet, ďHow to Run Like a Deer Forever.Ē These two exercises will help you to strengthen both the tendons and muscles around the knee area and the quadriceps muscles, reducing your risk for this common, but certainly not inevitable injury.

Another knee injury that runners are susceptible to is iliotibial band syndrome. The iliotibial band is a long cord-like band that runs from your hip down the outside of your upper leg and attaches just below the kneecap. Iliotibial band syndrome can be caused by both overpronation and underpronation (when you foot rolls too far to the outside and thus, absorbs very little shock) as well as a lack of flexibility in the hip area including lack of flexibility in the iliotibial band itself. Signs of this typical injury are pain on the outside of the knee or hip, usually after youíve been running for a while. Most doctors will tell runners with this type of problem to incorporate a thorough stretching routine into their running program. Following my program of stretches and calisthenics exercises ensures that you are properly and completely stretching and toning the muscles and tendons that are important to running and will also help you to avoid this problem.

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Many runners complain of problems with their Achilles tendons. The Achilles tendon connects your two large calf muscles to the back of your heel bone. As you run, both your calf muscles and your Achilles tendon tighten up. As your Achilles tendon becomes less flexible, (and for most people, itís not too flexible to begin with), it easily becomes overworked, stressed and inflamed. Youíll know if your Achilles tendons are causing you problems, as youíll experience sharp, stabbing pain at the back of your heel. This is also one problem youíll want to avoid because a torn Achilles tendon can mean months off from running. And, once again proper stretching before and in between runs, can help you steer clear of this problem. And, yes, in my course, I show you how to do several types of calf raises and other exercises which will stretch and strengthen the calf muscles as well as the Achilles tendons.

Another common injury involving the heels and calf muscles is plantar fasciitis or arch pain. Between your heel and your arch is a broad band of tissue known as the plantar fascia. When the plantar fascia is stressed past its range of motion, it can pull and tear and become inflamed. This can happen if your feet are rigid and high-arched, making them unable to absorb as much shock as they should. It can also happen if you donít control excessive overpronation with proper shoes. Weak calf muscles can also contribute to this condition. Pain on the underside of your foot, especially if that pain occurs first thing in the morning or develops if youíve been sitting too long, can be an indication of plantar fasciitis. Some of the same exercises that help to avoid Achilles tendon problems will also help you to avoid plantar fasciitis. In my course, Iíve also included some unique exercises such as toe curls to help strengthen and stretch the plantar fascia.

There are many other type of injuries, and these are the most common. If you can prevent these, then you will be off to a fun and rewarding running program.

I have designed an exercise program for runners that helps to prevent injuries. And, if you are thinking about or have given up running because of pain or fear of injuries, give my course a try. You can order here:

Remember, if you are experiencing pain, see a doctor as soon as possible.

Copyright 2004



This article is for educational purposes only. Always consult your own personal doctor for medical advice and follow it even it contradicts what is said in this article.

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Copyright © 2004 Bob Cairns. All rights reserved.