The Ultimate Guide to Running Injury Prevention

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It may sound funny, but running pain can be a good thing, at least when it forewarns us of potential damage. Experiencing moderate pain while running is how the body tells us that something isn’t moving correctly. Whether or not we remain in pain is, oftentimes, up to us.

There are two ways to deal with exercise-induced pain. One is the widely accepted (but not recommended by us) use of painkillers to mask it. Painkillers help get rid of the symptom but almost never address the cause.

An alternative way to deal with running pain is to listen carefully to your body to decipher what you could be doing that is causing pain to occur and work with a physical therapist to identify the  exact source of the pain to prevent injury. 

Common Causes of Running Pain: 

  • Lack of movement – An area that is stiff, tense or does not move enough can cause running pain. Gentle movement and increasing your range of motion carefully is important.
  • Improper movement – This includes reaching too far forward with your stride, pushing off with your feet at the end of your stride, or asking certain parts of the body to do more work than they are designed to do.  
  • Overuse – Overuse is not only caused by too much repetitive movement. Lack of movement and improper movement are often the cause of overuse in other parts of the body. For example, if your hips are too stiff, your legs have to overwork.

A running assessment from a Physical Therapist can help resolve all of the above issues.

Injury Prevention Tips:

  • Gradual increases in running time / miles (10% rule)

  • Be careful of excessive downhill running

  • Reasonable amount of fast paced running

  • Adequate rest between workouts

  • Fewer hard surface runs

  • Proper eating/sleeping

  • Avoidance of complete fatigue

  • Develop stronger tissues – strength training

  • 80% of running injuries are caused by too much of an increase in mileage

  • Joggers/runners should increase their total weekly running amount by no more than 10%

  • Get a good pair of running sneakers and change them every 300-400 miles

  • Stretch regularly

The Warm Up

Any cardio exercise should begin easy and gradually increase intensity and last 3-5 minutes. Example: If you normally run a 10-minute/mile pace, warm-up running 12-13 minute/mile pace or begin with walking briskly

Cool Down & Stretching

At the end of the run, walk for around 3-5 minutes to prevent blood from pooling in your legs and to allow your heart rate to decrease. 

Stretching should be done at the conclusion of the run. Stretch to the point of tension and hold for 20-30 seconds, at least 1x per muscle group. Try not to bounce when stretching. 

If you have a particular tight spot, stretch more frequently (after the initial warm up or ice the area: 15-20 minutes several times per day (frozen peas work well) and elevate injured part while icing.

Look Out for These Warning Signs

  • Pain that is keeping you awake at night

  • Pain that is evident at beginning of run/walk then becomes worse as run/walk

    continues

  • Pain that changes your stride

  • Difficulty performing typical workouts for more than a week

  • Excessive fatigue

  • Sorer muscles

  • Increased perspiration

  • Decreased desire to train

These guidelines should not take the place of medical advice if attempting to return to sports following an injury. If an athlete requires assistance in the progression of a return to sport program they should consult with their primary care physician, surgeon, or physical therapist.

For a complete and complimentary running assessment, contact Dr. Jessica Wiley of iAM Physical Therapy.