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Learn the Lingo: Common Runner’s Injuries Defined

Just like any hobby or interest, there’s a certain jargon to accompany and running is no exception. We speak in a foreign language at times. Runners will talk of BQs and PRs. We’ll discuss pronation, tempo pace, or Gu. Perhaps one of the oddest topics to dissect is when runners speak of their injuries. They may refer to their IT band or their need to go home and R.I.C.E.

We runners all can share a war story of an injury as the sport can demand a lot from the body. Next time you catch a runner slip into an obsolete vernacular about running injuries, here’s a heads up as to what they’re probably taking about.

Below is a list of some of the most common runner’s injuries. There seems to be an overarching theme behind the cause of most runner’s injuries: over-use, improper footwear, or lack of stretching.

1. Shin Splints
Shin splints are typically felt as a pain on the inside of the shin. Most splints are caused by a biomechanical flaw in one’s running gait, however many times a proper fitted shoe can correct those flaws. Other major culprits in the cause of shin splints is over training or overuse and tight calf muscles in need of stretching

2. Plantar Fasciitis
Often runners will refer to the annoying pain in their foot as PF. PF is a pain in the middle of the foot arch. Again, tight calf muscles are partly to blame. Other causes are an abnormal motion of the foot called excessive pronation. In long distance running the foot should strike the ground on the heel and roll forward to the toes and finally inward to the arch. If the arch dips too low excessive pronation is taking place and easily going to stress that tendon causing PF.

3.  Iliotibial Band Syndrome, a.k.a. ITBS
No one ever knows about this part of their body until they become a distance runner. This syndrome is responsible for nearly 80% of all overuse aches on marathon race day. The pain is noted as a sharp or burning knee or even hip pain. The IT Band is a ligament that runs the length of the leg from hip to knee. It runs outside the thigh and serves as a stabilizer during running. However, due to overuse and over training, the ligament can thicken and become inflamed as it rubs over the bone. Again, excessive distance and particular bio-mechanical abnormalities can be to blame. One unique culprit of this injury is when a runner ramps ups their mileage too quickly instead of progressively.

4. Runner’s Knee
Technically this injury is called Patellafemoral pain syndrome. This injury can happen to people other than runners, yet it’s most common in pavement pounders. Specifically, this ailment is a result of the wearing away of the backside of the kneecap, causing pretty intense pain in the knee. The theme runs true, though. Runner’s knee can be caused by improper shoes however, it’s often a result of weak quadricep muscles. Strength training can help treat runner’s knee and prevent it in the future.

5. Muscle Pulls
These pesky little injuries are almost exclusively a result of not stretching. Not being flexible and overexerting a muscle can result in a small muscle tear which can be very painful. The irony in these injuries is in the treatment, which is the same as the preventative: stretching. More stretching will aid in the pain from a muscle pull.

6. Tendonitis
Runners often experience the pains of tendonitis in their knees, hips, feet, or the Achilles tendon. Tendonitits is an inflammation of a tendon. In runners it is caused by overuse. For certain tendonitits diagnoses, especially Achilles’ tendonitits, it is recommended that an orthodic is placed in the shoe to correct the biomechanical error that may have caused the inflammation in the first place. In all cases, stretching is highly recommended.

7. Stress Fractures
The dooms day diagnosis for any runner is a stress fracture. It’s often caused by, you guessed it, over training and overuse. Low calcium levels and biomechanics can play a role as well. Runners typically experience stress fractures in the tibia, the femur, the sacrum, and in the metatarsal bones of the foot. Stress fractures are described as being like a cracked hard boiled egg; if impact isn’t stopped, the next diagnosis will be a full-fledged bone fracture. The other common injuries a runner faces can be remedied rather quickly in comparison to a stress fracture. Runner’s are given one direction after a stress fracture diagnosis: stop running until it heals. It take many weeks for a stress fracture to heal.

These injuries are somewhat a right of passage to many runners. Once you’ve made the mistake of not stretching, over training, or not getting fitted for a proper shoe, you never make that mistake twice. Runners love to run and being sidelined watching your friends run is awful. It’s only good for talking shop about running, and that’s not really that fun at all.

Be good, runners. Follow the rules and stay healthy.

March 6th, 2012

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