Run better, faster, longer, stronger8th September 2020
Clinic Director & Lead Sports Therapist
Pacing the pavements of Biggleswade, running the highways and byways of Bedfordshire, or further afield in our lovely countryside, do it injury-free and with a smile!
Do you dream of being that runner where every step of every mile is 100% pain free? No aches, no twinges or niggles, no lingering soreness from the previous day’s session. You’re not alone; research shows that as many as 79% of runners get injured at least once a year.
Think about that number for a moment; that’s nearly 8 out of 10 runners you saw at your last race who have been or will be injured this year!
Think of running pains in terms of a spectrum… At one end you have severe full-blown injuries (we will name that the red zone), which includes things like stress fractures that require time off. The other end, where you’re in top form, is the green zone – mild, transient aches that bug you one day and disappear the next sit closer to the green end.
Most runners get stuck in the middle, in the not-quite-injured but not-quite-healthy yellow zone!
Your ability to stay in the green zone depends largely on how you react to that first stab of pain. Often a little rest, or reduction in training mileage and intensity with some treatment, can prevent a lot of time off later.
Developing a proactive long-term injury-prevention strategy which includes strength training, mobility work, regular massage and foam-rolling can help you stay in the ‘green.’ This is Prehab, which can be a lot like homework, but if you don’t do it you’re going to get into trouble at some stage! You can find more information and exercise leaflets for injury prevention at this link.
So, what causes running injuries?
There are a lot of theories as to what causes running injuries, but the answer is simple and annoying – running itself! Research has stated that “running practice is a necessary cause for RRI (Running Related Injury) and, in fact, the only necessary cause.” With running being the key risk factor for running injuries, what other factors influence risk?
Historically a lot of emphasis was placed on intrinsic factors like leg length discrepancy, pronation (flat foot), high arches, genu valgus/varum (knock knee or bow legged), and extrinsic factors like ‘special’ running shoes, and lack of stretching.
However, recent studies have shown there is no one specific risk factor that has a direct cause-effect relationship with injury rate or injury prevention. Whilst warming up, compression garments, acupuncture and massage have some evidence in reducing injury rates it is all a little grey. Leaving you with a multifactorial buffet of probable contributing causes to running injuries.
There is one specific factor that has been proven, and that is training error. Estimates suggest that anywhere from 60 to as much as 80% of running injuries are due to training errors. Runners become injured when they exceed their tissues capacity to tolerate load (a combination of overloading with inadequate recovery time). Structures such as ligaments, tendons and cartilage are particularly at risk because they adapt more slowly than muscles to an increase in mechanical load.
BODY MASS INDEX (BMI) & PREVIOUS INJURY
Factors that affect how much training load a runner can tolerate before injury will also have a role. There are two key factors that appear to play a part in this; Body Mass Index (BMI > 25) and history of previous injury (especially in the last 12 months).
While high BMI and previous injury may reduce the amount of running your body can manage, strength and conditioning is likely to increase it. There is a growing body of evidence supporting the use of strength training to reduce injury risk and improve performance.
Training error and injury risk share a complex relationship – it may not be that total running mileage on its own is key but instead how quickly this increases, combined with hill and speed training. The old saying of “too much, too soon” is probably quite accurate. Injury prevention is really a ‘mirror image’ of the causes of an injury. So, if you understand the primary reasons for getting injured then you are heading in the right direction to staying healthy this year.
You can find out more on injury prevention, with recommended exercise leaflets, and a series of prevention and treatment guides for the 6 most common running injuries with our free downloadable resources.
What are the most common injuries?
Body tissues such as muscles and tendons are continuously stressed and repaired daily, as a result of both ‘normal’ functional activities and sport. An overuse injury often occurs when a specific tissue fails to repair in the time available, and so begins to break down initially at microscopic level and then over time develops into a true injury. So, the first time you feel a soreness, a stiffness or a pain is not necessarily where it all began.
The most common injury is ‘runners knee’ or patellofemoral pain syndrome and accounts for over 40% of running injuries. This is followed closely by plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinopathy and then ITB (iliotibial band syndrome), shin splints and hamstring strain. These injuries generally need complete rest or at least a reduction in training volume and intensity in conjunction with sports therapy to promote tissue healing and mobility. Although these are overuse injuries there is frequently an underlying muscle weakness and/or flexibility issue that needs to be addressed with specific rehabilitation exercises. Follow this link to find more specific information about each of the most common running injuries with specific rehabilitation leaflets for you to use.
Use our prevention and treatment guides for the following running injuries:
- Medial tibial stress syndrome (shin splints)
- Patellofemoral pain (runner’s knee)
- Achilles tendinopathy
- Plantar fasciitis
- Hamstring strains
- Iliotibial band syndrome
While guidance can be given, it is general in nature, whereas individual complaints are likely to need individual attention. If you do pick up an injury (including ‘tightness’, an ‘irritation’ or a ‘niggle’) that you’re worried about then we can help, the sooner it’s treated the better!
We can also help you with fast access to a Sports Therapist via our Quick-Slots, full Sports Therapy sessions, and gait analysis and re-education. We are also only an email or telephone call away, so don’t hesitate to be in touch with us before that little niggle becomes a race-stopper!