Common Running Injuries Explained
A couple years ago my wife was training for a marathon. During one of her training runs, she started experiencing some pain on the outside of her foot. She brushed it off as “typical” running aches and pains. Being the stubborn runner that she is, she continued to run on it despite the pain.
Eventually, it was too much and it was no longer an ache or a pain. It was a full blown injury and her training was at a standstill. This mysterious injury seemed to come out of nowhere. She did nothing wrong. She didn’t trip, fall or step awkwardly. So, what happened?
What Causes Running Pain?
Running is a taxing sport. Whether training for a 5k or a marathon, running puts repetitive stress on the joints, muscles and ligaments. The physical stress that running puts on our bodies can lead to injuries called “repetitive stress injuries” or “overuse injuries” (e.g., runner’s knee, plantar fasciitis, achilles tendonitis).
These injuries can vary in their presentation and severity. They are a result of the repetitive propulsive steps that running demands, accompanied by the body’s inability to properly absorb the force and properly distribute it from your shoe and/or feet into the joints, ligaments and muscles throughout the body.
Everyone tolerates these repetitive movements differently. Once the threshold for your body is reached, your body begins an inflammation cascade, resulting in scar tissue and fibrous adhesions within the soft tissues (muscle, tendons, ligaments and fascia). This is your body adapting.
How Your Body Adapts to Injury
The purpose of this process is to support the area of injury by adding a stronger, less flexible tissue (scar tissue). This is your body’s natural bracing mechanism. While there are some initial benefits to this process (e.g., you can continue training for your race), this fibrous tissue is less mobile, adding further biomechanical dysfunction within the soft tissue.
To make matters worse, this dysfunction can lead to overcompensation injuries in other areas of the body. This can be detrimental to the long-term function of the affected tissues. When left untreated, this scar tissue can lead to weakness, restricted range of motion and pain. Treatment of this fibrous tissue is essential to restoring proper function and preventing further injury.
Commonly, the answer to treating these injuries has been rest and ice. While these are valid methods of treatment, they are no longer the only options available. They are also not the most effective.
Stay tuned! My next post will focus on some state-of-the-art treatment options being utilized by some of the world’s most elite athletes, and fortunately, are now readily accessible to the general public without breaking the bank.