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Many people enjoy running during the fall and winter months in Texas: it’s not as hot as it was a few months ago, but you still get to work up a nice, rewarding sweat. But, no matter the type of weather you run or jog in, there’s always a risk of injury. So, before you lace up your running shoes, hydrate, and apply sunblock, take a few minutes to read up on some of the most common jogging and running injuries, how they occur, and what you can do to treat them.

Plantar Fasciitis

If you’re a runner, you’ve probably experienced plantar fasciitis. If you’re a beginner, there’s a good chance you will–and it is painful. Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common injuries sustained by runners. It occurs when the thick band of tissue that runs across the bottom of each foot and connects the heel bone to the toes (plantar fascia) becomes inflamed. The discomfort may occur at the start of a run or subside during the run and then recur later.

How It Can Happen: There are quite a few ways runners can develop plantar fasciitis. Some of the leading causes of inflammation include:

Other factors that increase your chance of plantar fasciitis are age, obesity, certain types of exercise, and occupations requiring standing for long periods.

Symptoms: The main symptom of plantar fasciitis is stabbing pain in the bottom of the foot, near the heel, and into the arch. It’s especially painful when you get up in the morning and after you’ve been sitting for an extended period.

Treatment: The best way to avoid plantar fasciitis is stretching the tissue by grabbing your toes, pulling your foot upward, and holding for 10 to 15 seconds. If you still experience pain, try minimizing running for a short period of time (you can replace it with lower-impact exercises like swimming or cycling). Finding the right running shoe is critical as well–if you’re serious about running, go to a store that specializes in the sport or find an expert who can recommend the right shoe for your foot mechanics. You should also replace your running shoes after about 500 miles. Other treatments include:

Physical therapy can also be quite beneficial for plantar fasciitis pain. Plenty of exercises stretch the plantar fascia and strengthen lower leg muscles, which will also help build muscle to support the tendons and ligaments. The use of therapeutic bands can isolate muscle groups and balance exercises to strengthen the muscles in the foot, ankles, and calf. Applying athletic tape to support the bottom of your foot is also helpful. At Physical Therapy NOW in Irving, for example, we would conduct a thorough evaluation and work with you to create the right treatment plan just for you.

Achilles Tendonitis

The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the human body, and it connects the calf muscles at the back of your lower leg to your heel bone. Whether walking, running, jumping, or climbing stairs, every step stresses the Achilles tendon. Just about every move you make with your foot uses the Achilles tendon, and that’s why Achilles tendonitis is such a common injury, especially among runners and athletes. Achilles tendonitis is generally not considered a significant injury, but it could become one if left untreated.

How It Can Happen: Achilles tendonitis shares many of the exact causes of plantar fasciitis, such as:

Symptoms: The injury generally begins as a mild ache in the back of the leg or above the heel after running or other strenuous activity. But that pain can become severe if the activity is prolonged. Tenderness and stiffness are also common, but that tends to fade away for some people.

Treatment: Mild cases of Achilles tendonitis can usually be treated at home with rest, ice, over-the-counter pain medication, and especially stretches. It’s best to see a doctor before trying any exercise or stretching on your own, as further stress on an already-injured Achilles tendon can lead to a tear (or rupture), which can cause excruciating pain and result in surgery. Calf stretches and exercise to strengthen the calf muscles can help prevent further injury to the Achilles tendon, as can warming up and stretching before activity. Also, be sure to wear the right running shoes, which can relieve some of the pressure on the heel and tendon. Physical therapy is also an excellent way to treat Achilles tendonitis. Though treatment will vary from patient to patient, PT for Achilles tendonitis often involves:

Shin Splints

Shin splint pain is essentially pain in the tibia (or shin, the front of your lower leg) that surfaces while running. The pain starts after running, then progresses to a persistent pain. Shin splints are quite common in runners and others and often occur in athletes who have recently changed or intensified their training routines.

How It Can Happen: Repetitive stress on the shinbone, as well as the connective tissues, is the primary cause of shin splints, but several factors elevate your risk, including running, increasing the intensity or frequency of your exercise, having high arches or flat feet, and running on uneven or hard terrain.

Symptoms: Most people with shin splints experience tenderness, pain, or soreness along the inner side of the shinbone and mild swelling in the lower part of the leg. At first, the pain might stop when you stop exercising. In some cases, shin splints pain may progress to a stress reaction or stress fracture.

Treatment: The treatment for shin splints is similar to the first two running injuries we discussed. It can include decreasing your running and substituting with lower-impact exercise, ensuring you have the proper running shoes and replacing them after about 500 miles, applying ice and taking anti-inflammatories, resting, and stretching. Physical therapy can also help relieve shin splint pain by strengthening surrounding muscles and installing a proper stretching program to help prevent further injury.

Up next: More common running and jogging injuries.  Read on to learn about runner’s knee and ITB Syndrome.



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