I’m currently dealing with a hamstring strain. So much for trying to do more strength training! Tuesday’s HIIT session ended prematurely as I felt my right hamstring tighten up and then give off a disturbing series of cracks and pops as I tried to stretch it out.
Ice it? Heat it? Stretch it? Rest it? Roll it? What is the best approach to healing and rehab that will ensure you’re only out a few days or a few weeks and not a few months? It’s a common question to any injury.
Here are the best ways to treat and prevent 5 common runner injuries. Don’t neglect those aches and pains and definitely do no try to run through any nagging niggles or tweaks. Listen to your body. Heal it up and then get back to running or exercising at full strength.
Nasty pain in the bottom of the foot, especially when running.
The sooner you catch plantar fasciitis, the better. Take a break. Don’t try to run through it, you will only prolong the rest and recovery. You need to stop running. While resting (best case 1-2 weeks if caught early on), try to gently stretch the tissue on the bottom of the foot. You could also try ibuprofen for the inflammation. When you do start running again, only when you’re pain-free, ease back into the mileage.
Stretching to stay flexible, rolling a lacrosse ball or golf ball under your foot or try arch supports for your running shoes for additional support.
Discomfort, tightness or pain when you try to use your hamstring.
First, just stop. Don’t push through it. You will only make things worse. Once you stop, get ice on the area for 10-15 minutes at a time, 4 times a day, for the first 2 days. After the first few days, start to gently stretch the glutes and hamstring.
The best way to prevent hamstring, knee and other lower body injuries is to have a great butt. A strong, flexible, balanced set of gluetes, quads and core will go a long way toward extending your pain-free athletic life. Hamstring and glute foam rolling, plus planks, squats and lunges should all be critical parts of your exercise plan.
Pain in the bony part of the shin especially during exercise.
Unlike the first two on the list, this is typically a bone injury, not muscle and is usually caused by funky mechanics or by increasing your workload too quickly. Unfortunately, the best way to treat bone irritation injuries is to use dynamic rest. You don’t have to be completely sedentary, but try to find activities that don’t put lots of stress or pressure on the legs, such as swimming or biking.
Focusing more effort on strengthening the hips and core can help straighten out imbalances or incorrect body mechanics that might be putting stress on the shins. Also, shortening your stride, i.e., increasing your cadence, can also lessen the stress on the legs. Also, when starting a training cycle, don’t forget the 10% rule – never up your mileage by more than 10% each week.
Pain behind the kneecap, especially at then end of a run or a workout.
First rest, then get to work on strengthening your core, gluten and quads. Knee pain is often an indicator of a weakness or imbalance elsewhere that is throwing off your running dynamics and causing the ligaments around your knee to move unnaturally.
Working on your strength and flexibility should help improve your form and ward off future bouts of runner’s knee. Foam rolling the quads and IT bands, along with a variety of squats and lunges should be incorporated into your regular strength work.
Pain, stiffness and sometimes swelling in the knee joint that limits activities.
You’ll want to rest until the pain and welling subsides and then find ways to continue with your fitness that reduces the high-impact mileage on the knees. Swimming and biking are good alternatives. If you continue to run try to find softer surfaces like trails or local tracks. You can also use aspirin and supplements like glucosamine to
Arthritis gets worse over time, but going completely sedentary is not the best medicine. To continue with your running and keep your arthritis in check, you’ll need strong leg strength to support the knee and reduce the amount of bone on bone grinding that is arthritis.Foam rolling the quads and IT bands, along with a variety of squats and lunges should be incorporated into your regular strength work.
Hip or knee pain on the outside of the knee especially during running
IT band pain is caused by a tight IT band rubbing against the bursa sac in the hip and causing irritation and pain. The best way to treat IT band pain is to stretch and loosen the IT band over time.
Two key IT band stretches to try are the figure-4 stretch and using a foam roller (which will probably hurt the first few times but stick with it). Like a lot of the items on this list, weak hips and glutes are a big contributor to IT pain. Strengthening those muscles through squats and lunges will also help.
Running is great and brings a tremendous number of benefits, but it can also put the body through stress that can break it down and lead to injury. There are ways to arm yourself against injury. The two biggest are listening to your body (don’t push through it) and strengthening your body against imbalances. By paying attention and avoiding overuse with cross-training and keeping the body supple through stretching and dynamic strength moves, you improve your odds of being a lifetime runner and avoiding these 5 common runner injuries. Good luck!