Running puts a lot of stress on your ankles, feet, and lower legs with every step you take. Nagging aches and pains are often commonplace and usually not serious. However, trying to push through them can sometimes lead to a full-blown injury. Many times, it’s best to take a little time off right away, than to have to take a lot of time off later. This doesn’t always mean complete rest—in some cases it’s just a matter of cutting back on mileage and intensity for a while. Here are some common running injuries and the steps you can take to treat, and better yet, avoid them:

Stress Fractures

Doing too much too soon is often the reason behind this injury that typically affects your shin or foot. Over time, excessive stress causes a small crack to form in the bone. Full rest is essential to avoid the crack becoming an all-out break. Once pain subsides, prevent reoccurrence by warming up and easing into activities, gradually building up distance or intensity. Weight training can improve bone density, as can eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet. Lower impact activities are recommended as well.

Shin Splints

Signified by pain and tenderness along the front or inside of the shin bone, this common running injury occurs as a result of tiny tears in the muscles surrounding the bone, mostly due to a sudden change in your training, such as increased mileage, higher intensity, or different terrain. Those with flat feet or high arches are often more prone to the problem. Rest and ice, a reduction of miles, lower impact activities, and a gradual return to your normal routine is usually what is needed to ease your discomfort. Stretching exercises and making sure you have quality footwear are key to prevention.

Achilles Tendinitis

An inflammation of the tendon that attaches your calf muscle to the back of your heel, this injury causes pain and stiffness, especially first thing in the morning or after activity. Repetitive stress and tight calf muscles are typically the culprits. Icing, stretching, and rest are needed to avoid a rupture of the tendon. This is not an injury that you can run through!

Muscle Pulls

Also known as a strain, this occurs when your muscle tears due to overstretching it. Often it affects your hamstrings, quadriceps, calf, or groin. Take a break and follow the RICE treatment method—Rest, Ice, Compress, and Elevate.

Ankle Sprains

An injury resulting in overstretching or tearing of the ligaments that surround your ankle joint, typically due to twisting or rolling your ankle. RICE is again recommended.

Plantar Fasciitis

This is an inflammation of the band of tissue that spans the bottom of your foot from toes to heel. Tight calf muscles, high or low arches, and poor biomechanics can all make you susceptible. Pain is often at its worse after activity, or extended periods of rest, especially in the morning. Lower impact activities, icing the area, and stretches will help to relieve symptoms.

Runner’s Knee

This common overuse injury refers to the irritation of cartilage beneath the knee cap. Pain is typically felt during and after long runs, going up or down hills or stairs, and after sitting with your knees bent for extended periods of time. Cut back on your workout and try incorporating activities like swimming that are easier on your knees. Stretching exercises and ice and heat therapy are beneficial in easing pain and preventing further injury.

IT Band Syndrome

The iliotibial (IT) band runs from your outer hip to the outside of your knee. When you run, flexing and extending your knee, the band can rub against the bone and cause irritation, especially if you increase your mileage too quickly or are doing a lot of hill or track work. It is best to cut back or take some time off. Massage, heat and ice, as well as physical therapy will help to speed up your recovery.

For more information on common running injuries, contact Advanced Foot & Ankle Specialists of Arizona.