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Shin splints are a common injury for distance runners. They can be caused by many things such as tight calf muscles, over-pronation, worn-out shoes, or running on hard surfaces such as asphalt or concrete. The tight muscles begin to pull on the shin bone or tibia. This results in tiny fragments of bone being pulled away from the tibia. Shin splints result in pain and discomfort anywhere on the outside or inside of the shin after or during activity. Common treatments for this condition include rest, over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain medication such as ibuprofen, getting new running shoes, or icing the muscle around the area of pain. We suggest using ice massage with homemade ice cups. These can be made by taking small Styrofoam or paper cups filled with water, and freezing them. Once frozen, they can be applied to the shin and surrounding muscle. One should make small, slow circles with the ice, adding pressure, and removing strips of the cup as the ice melts.
Stress fractures are another condition commonly seen in distance runners. They are an overuse injury that occurs over time. While stress fractures can result simply by running long distances over long periods of time, there are several aggravating factors such as worn-out shoes, untreated shin splints, running on hard surfaces such as asphalt or concrete, or improper running mechanics such as over-pronation. Stress fractures in runners are more commonly seen in the shin and foot. Pain during activity is the number one symptom of stress fractures. If you cannot bear to press on the place where it hurts, you probably have an injury! To determine whether you have a stress fracture, make an appointment with your physician. This is extremely important: stress fractures can only be diagnosed by your doctor. Stress fractures need rest to heal. Usually pain subsides with rest. A stress fracture will commonly take six to eight weeks to heal completely. Your physician may also put you in a cast or boot to allow for better healing. It is highly important to avoid returning to previous activity until your physician has confirmed that the fracture has healed, and that it is appropriate to return to activity.
This is a common affliction in any active person. Particularly when you are first beginning training, muscles can become inflamed, painful or sore. This is a process of tearing and re-building required by your body to adapt to your new level of activity. When muscles undergo exercise, tiny tears in the muscle will occur. The muscle repairs itself by adding more muscle in that location, making itself even stronger than it was initially. Muscle soreness can be acute or immediate to exercise, or it can be delayed. This is called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. In this condition, muscle soreness takes affect 24 to 48 hours after the initial exercise. It can last for several days. Pain, muscle discomfort, and stiffness can result. The good news is that the more you exercise, the less sore you will get! In the meantime, you can treat muscle soreness by applying ice, very light stretches such as yoga, or mild massage. We also suggest light jogging on days that your muscles are stiff and painful to help loosen the muscles and work out some of the soreness.
Tendonitis is inflammation of a tendon. Tendons are connective tissues that connect muscle to bone. Repetitive motions such as running or jumping can cause friction or irritation to tendons, resulting in inflammation. These are commonly overuse injuries that result over time. The Achilles tendon (which attaches at the heel), and the patellar tendon (which attaches under the knee) are two commonly affected tendons in walkers and runners. Pain, tenderness, and swelling can result in these areas. You should consult your physician to confirm any possible tendonitis, and to rule our more serious injuries. Tendonitis is commonly treated with rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory pain medications. There are also wraps and braces available to help protect the tendon and offload some of the stresses placed upon it. Tendonitis is commonly due to underlying causes such as muscle imbalance or weakness, so physical therapy may be needed to correct these problems.
Pain on the lower outside of the knee is often a result of illiotibial band (IT Band) syndrome. The IT band is a thick connective tissue that is a continuation of the Tensor Fascia Lata and Gluteus Maximus muscles. It assists with hip movement and knee stabilization. During repetitive motions such as walking or running, the IT band can become inflamed and irritated. IT band syndrome is an overuse injury that results from the continual flexion and extension of the knee during running. It can be exacerbated by improper gait mechanics such as over-pronation and supination, running on a slanted surface such as a sloped road, or leg length discrepancies. This condition can result in hip tightness, pain on the upper outside leg, or knee pain. Pain may be noticed during foot strike and will commonly be more intense when moving downhill. RICE is an excellent way to treat this condition (Rest, Ice, Compress, and Elevate), along with stretching. The most common, and often most effective, answer to IT band syndrome is the use of a foam roller. There are also several wraps available that may help compress the IT band. Having the correct running shoes can help prevent this condition from occurring, especially if the individual is an over-pronator or supinator.
Plantar fasciitis is a common problem referring to inflammation of the connective tissue in the bottom of the foot. Pain is usually felt at the heel, on the bottom of the foot toward the arch. This can result from improper shoes, a falling arch, running or walking on hard surfaces, or tightness in the calf. The feeling is often described as a “stabbing” sensation in the heel. The best treatment is to put firm arch supports in your shoes. It is recommended you be evaluated by your physician or visit your local specialty running shop to get inserts for exercise. The arch support should be firm (not gel) and put your foot in a neutral position. You should also ice the area after activity. Plantar fasciitis may take a few days, or up to several months, to subside.