You've probably heard it said that exercise is the best medicine. Well, it's not just a saying; it's the truth. There's buckets of scientific evidence that proves regular exercise (150 minutes per week, which is about 30 minutes five times per week) -- and running in particular -- has health benefits that extend well beyond any pill a doctor could prescribe. That being said, what happens when you take running a little too far? Some estimate that nearly 80 percent of runners are injured each year. Most injuries are caused by overuse—applying repeated force over a prolonged period of time. Sudden changes in training volume, whether a newbie or a vet, can also do some damage.
Here are a few of the most common ailments that plague those who hit the pavement, along with a few ways to stop the pain:
Experiencing a tender pain around or behind the kneecap is usually a sure sign of patellofemoral pain syndrome, a fancy term for runner’s knee. This injury is so common for runners that it’s been named after them. The repetitive force of pounding on the pavement, downhill running, muscle imbalances, and weak hips can put extra stress on the kneecap, so stick to flat or uphill terrain, and opt for softer running surfaces whenever possible.
To treat the pain, experts suggest taping your knee or using a knee brace, taking anti-inflammatory medications, and cutting back on mileage
The swelling of the Achilles, the tissues that connect your heel to your lower-leg muscles, can be caused by many factors: rapid mileage increase, improper footwear, tight calf muscles, or even having a naturally flat foot .
To help avoid pesky pain, make sure to always stretch the calf muscles post-workout and wear supportive shoes. Also, try to avoid inclines, which put extra stress on tendons. Anti-inflammatories, stretching, and the ol’ R.I.C.E strategy (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) are the best ways to get back on the path to recovery.
This pain is due to inflammation, irritation, or tearing of the plantar fascia—the tissue on the bottom of the foot . Excess pounding on the road or strapping on unsupportive footwear (flip-flops) can be the culprits here. This leads to extreme stiffness or a stabbing pain in the arch of the foot .
To soothe your sole, wear shoes with extra cushion, stretch your heels (rolling a tennis ball works great), and get ample rest to help dull the pain. If the problem persists, doctors recommend wearing custom-made orthotics, a night splint, or in some cases, getting a steroid shot into the heel to speed up recovery and keep on running.
If you’re a runner who’s never experienced that aching, stabbing sensation in your shins, please share your secret because this is the most common injury. Among the most nagging of injuries, shin splints occur when the muscles and tendons covering the shinbone become inflamed.
To stop the stabbing, try icing the shins for 15-20 minutes and keeping them elevated at night to reduce swelling. Prevention is a little trickier, but researchers have found shock-absorbing insoles that support the arch do help . Also make sure those sneakers are the right fit for the foot, and stick to running on softer grounds whenever possible. Avoid hills too, which put extra force on the shin’s tibialis muscle.
More annoying than a younger brother, blisters can pop up when we least expect it. As the heel rubs against the shoe, the top layer of skin can tear, leaving a bubble between the layers of skin.
The best way to beat ‘em is prevention: Make sure the shoe (literally) fits and wear a good pair of synthetic socks . If a blister still appears, cover it up with special Band-Aids, moleskins, or gels.
*Running can be a great stress reliever and way to lose weight but please be sure not to overdo it. Don't increase mileage by more than 10 percent each week. Upping those miles unexpectedly is a major reason overuse injuries occur!