If you are a runner I am sure at one time or another you suffered from some sort of ache or pain. In a perfect world we would never suffer from soreness, a minor ache in the hamstring or a weird twinge in our knee. Most of these nagging pains do not warrant a big time out or time off from running but they may require some attention to help keep yourself going!
Running aches and pains can be thought of on a scale of 1-10. 1 is the green light zone where you are in tip top shape and are good to go! 10 is the red light zone due to a severe injury that keeps you out of your running shoes for an extended period of time. Runner aches are normally somewhere in the middle. They can bug you one day and be gone the next.
This is where listening to your body comes into play. If you need to rest for a few days due to your knee bugging you, take some time off. Also, I know we think we are invincible but it is important to properly warm up and maybe even throw in a few days where you do some resistance training to gain strength to support the joints!
- Runners Knee aka Patellofemoral Syndrome– irritation of the cartilage under your knee cap. This typically flares up during long distance runs. It can be due to the lack of cartilage under the knee (we can be born this way-or over the years the constant rub of the patella has caused this to wear away) and the improper tracking of the knee cap. Our lateral quad muscles tend to be a bit stronger than the medial ones and can pull our knee cap in a more lateral direction causing pain.
- Achilles Tendonitis– this tendon can become tight and irritated due to overuse. It attaches to the heel bone and the calf muscle. If your calves are too tight or too weak it can cause the achilles tendon to become irritated.
- Hamstring Issues– This muscle runs down that back of your leg. Its origin is the bone you feel in your butt when you sit down and crosses the knee joint where it attaches. It bends our knee. Many people tend to have weaker hamstrings and stronger quads. This imbalance can cause hamstring issues on its own. The hamstrings kick in full gear when you are propelling yourself up a hill or digging into that last bit of power to cross the finish line. If this group of muscle is too tight or too weak, you will notice it! Even though it may seem counterintuitive, but those who are extremely flexible are prone to injuring the hamstring. Many times we overstep our reach and cause our hamstring to stretch a bit further than it can and we suffer from a strain or they are too weak. Eventually they become sore due to overuse.
- Plantar Fasciitis– Our feet absorb the shock from the ground when we run. Plantar fasciitis are small tears or inflammation within the muscle that stretches from your heel to your toes on the bottom of your foot. The pain is usually worse in the morning and turns to a dull ache in your arch or near your heel. This can be due to flat feet and improper shoe wear (the wrong sneakers or wearing heels).
- Shinsplints-those who are flat footed, bow legged, and wear improper sneakers for their foot type, have tight calves, or are a new runner are susceptible to shin splints.
- Illiotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS)– The IT band lies on the outside of your thigh stretching from your hip to your knee. When you are running, your knee flexes and extends. This causes the IT band to rub over the lateral epicondyle of your femur which in turn can cause pain. Those who suffer from IT band syndrome may over pronate their feet, have a leg length discrepancy and/or have weak hip abductor muscles.
- Stress Fractures– Unlike an acute fracture that can happen during a fall, this is due to overuse and women are more prone to a stress fracture than men. The most common sites for a stress fracture are the shins, feet, or heels.
All these injuries you can push through when they occur. The only thing is if you keep pushing through them and not treating them, they could become serious. Rest, ice, compression and elevation (RICE) will help reduce inflammation and swelling, but strengthening and stretching the appropriate muscles will also help reduce excessive loads on the muscles/tendons/ligaments and joints which will reduce your pain and your likeliness of suffering from an injury.