Nowadays runners are more informed about proper training and injury prevention than ever before, but some are still unable to recognize the signs of potentially serious injuries.
Hamstrings strains are common in athletes. They often happen while decelerating, but can occur during any part of your running stride. You risk strains when you warm-up or train improperly. Hamstring pain affects the back of the thigh and is felt when bending or straightening your knee. It can be sudden and severe, or more like a twinge, and may be combined with bruising, swelling, weakness, numbness or tingling. Recovery time depends on injury severity and treatment approach that may include rest with ice, compression and elevation (RICE).
If you have kneecap (patella) pain, with or without swelling, that gradually develops while you’re doing dynamic activities such as running, squatting and staircase usage, you may have runner’s knee. It is commonly caused by overuse and abnormal kneecap movement during activity. Other factors include lower body muscle imbalance or lack of strength. Runner’s knee typically responds to short-term activity change and physical therapy. Chronic pain might indicate internal knee damage that may require further treatment, including surgery.
“Shin Splints” refer to inflammation of the inner shinbone from an activity routine your body is not ready to handle. Many cases develop from running and dancing. Pain and swelling typically clear after a few weeks of rest from activities. Once you’re pain-free, you can gradually increase your activity levels. If symptoms return, see your doctor.
The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the body. If you increase your training too quickly, have tight calves or wear high-heel shoes, you can put too much stress on your Achilles tendon and cause it to become inflamed. Pain and swelling are hallmarks and it can take months to recover. Treatment may include anti-inflammatory medication, activity modification, heel lifts, shoe inserts (orthotics) and physical therapy. For similar ailments involving tendon damage, treatment regimens can vary.
A stress fracture develops when repetitive running overwhelms the bone, resulting in a weak point that eventually cracks. A classic sign is pain while running. Stress fractures commonly develop in the legs and too often go ignored. This can lead to disability. Thus, activity that leads to bone or joint pain should be immediately addressed with your physician. Treatment entails guided activity changes and often a modification in weight-bearing.
-- Dr. Westly Bailey