Avoiding Those Common Running Injuries

Running is a great way to get in shape. But it can also lead to injuries. Knowing about common injuries and how to prevent them can keep you on track toward achieving your fitness goals.

Running right

Dr. Bonfiglio recommends the following strategies to prevent injuries.

  • Identify your running goals. You may choose to begin running to improve your physique, lose weight, increase cardiovascular fitness or socialize with friends. Whatever the reason, it's a good idea to identify this goal when creating your exercise program. "Your regimen will vary based upon your goal," Dr. Bonfiglio says. "If you want to improve cardiovascular fitness, you should run at a quick pace to maximize your heart rate. If you're running to lose weight or reduce body fat, it's better to run at a slower rate for a longer period of time. Depending on your goal, your physician or personal trainer may determine that a modest walking or jogging program is appropriate. Setting goals helps you follow a safe pace and keeps you from overexertion, which can result in injury."

  • Have a physical evaluation. Certain health problems may hamper your running performance and increase your risk of injury. Specifically, osteoporosis, arthritis and other degenerative joint diseases can increase injury risk and should be addressed before you start to run.

  • Warm up before your run and stretch after you run. Doing so can prevent some of the most common injuries. "It's most important to stretch muscles that move joints," Dr. Bonfiglio says. "These include the calf muscle, which moves the knee and ankle, and the hamstring which moves the knee and hip." Begin each run at the pace of a brisk walk or gentle jog; cool down at the same pace at the end of your run.

  • Wear the correct shoes. Buying shoes at an athletic store, where a salesclerk can help you choose a shoe that fits your foot type, can help prevent injuries.

Common injuries

The following injuries are common among runners. Dr. Bonfiglio recommends ways to avoid and treat them.

  • Achilles' tendinitis. This injury is characterized by dull or sharp pain along the back of the tendon, calf tightness and early morning stiffness. "Stretching can help prevent this injury," Dr. Bonfiglio says. To treat it, rest until the pain is gone.

  • Plantar fasciitis. This injury is an inflammation of the plantar fascia -- a thick, fibrous band of tissue in the bottom of the foot. Proper stretching can help prevent such an injury. Anti-inflammatory medication and ice compresses help relieve pain.

  • Shinsplints. (medial tibial stress syndrome). This syndrome is caused by overuse or poor conditioning and worsened by running on hard surfaces. This injury causes pain on the inside of the shinbone. Shinsplints is treated by complete rest until the pain is gone, followed by changes in the distance and speed of running. Pain relief is aided by stretching, ice and anti-inflammatories. Sometimes shinsplints cannot be relieved by these procedures in which case a surgical procedure, fasciotomy, may provide relief.

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