Are you an injured runner? Early Signs of Running and Sports Injury

Runners are prone to injury, especially when they start running again after a long period of rest or suddenly increase the frequency, intensity or duration of their training. Sometimes injuries can be traumatic and sudden, while others gradually occur and worsen over time. It is very tempting to ignore those minor pains and odd symptoms that you are feeling, but here are some warning signs that you should not neglect.

Most runners will tell you, “No pain, no gain” and to a certain extent I agree. When we push our bodies during training it is likely that we will feel some soreness in the muscles after the event. If you push yourself hard you may experience DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) 48 hours after the session. It has been shown that stretching and massage after such sessions can help with reducing the soreness. However, if you feel sudden localised pain that is either mild, moderate or severe in nature this might be a sign of a strained muscle (aka pulled muscle). It is very important after straining a muscle that you do not continue to run or play your sport and that you DO NOT try to stretch it out. Muscle strains are tears in the individual muscle fibres a bit like a cut in your skin. If you continue to over load that area or aggressively stretch it the tear will become worse. A physio will be able to advise you on how much relative rest you need to allow it to heal and provide you with a gradual rehabilitation programme to get you fit again. It has been shown that strength training helps prevent muscle injuries in runners (see strength exercises for runners below).

When you sustain a traumatic injury to a joint it invariably will swell. If you have ever twisted your ankle you will know what I am talking about. However, sometimes the swelling is not easy to observe. This is because it is within the joint. Swelling within a joint will likely result in pain, stiffness and a feeling of tightness. Swelling inside a joint could be a result of damage to the articulating surfaces and will often come with clicking or grinding. It is vital that a qualified physiotherapist assesses the body part in question to get an accurate diagnosis and advise on the best form of treatment.

Numbness or Pins and Needles
Numbness or pins and needles are likely due to compression of a nerve. This could be occurring at the spine or lower down in the limb along the nerve’s pathway. This is often very easy to resolve but can become serious if not assessed and treated effectively by a physiotherapist.

Tenderness to Touch
If a specific area of the body such as bone, muscle or tendon is very tender when pressed this could be a sign that there is a problem. In runners it is common to develop an issue called medial tibial stress syndrome, the symptom of which is pain on the inside of the shin bone. It is often excruciating to touch this area. This syndrome develops due to muscle weakness in the legs, biomechanical imbalances and often over training. It is vital to have your running style analysed as well as a full biomechanical assessment, as this issue could develop into stress fractures if left unchecked.

Running Analysis
If you are a runner experiencing any of the symptoms above it is vital that you come in for an assessment. However, prevention is the best form of medicine. At Intouch our Senior Physiotherapist Paul is conducting running gait analysis, using cutting edge video applications to observe how you run and advise where you can improve your style to reduce load on the joints and improve running efficiency.

Below are two strength exercises all runners should be doing to help prevent injury form occurring.

Single Leg Heel Raises
It is vital that your calf muscles are conditioned to taking load. Stand on one leg, facing a wall or work surface and put your hands on for balance. Raise-up on to tip-toes and lower in a steady controlled manner, keeping your pelvis level throughout. Aim for 3×15 repetitions. For progression, hold on to a weight in the opposite hand to the foot that is being worked.

Single Leg Heel Raises

Split Squat
Stand with one leg forward and the other behind you in a split leg stance. Preferably put the back foot on a small step or bench. Keeping the knee in line with your second toe and the torso straight, bend the front leg until the knee is flexed to 90 degrees. Return to the start position and repeat. If done correctly, you should feel this fatigue the front of the thigh and the buttock muscles on the front leg. For a progression, hold on to a weight in the opposite hand to the leg that is being worked.

Split Squat

Paul Richards
Chartered Physiotherapist BSc (Hons), MCSP, MHCPC
First Physio

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed are those of First Physio only and do not constitute medical advice.