Five of the most painful running injuries

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By Oliviah Rix-Taylor

on Tuesday 30 October 2018

female runner with injured leg

Occupational Hazards of Running

Running has been linked with improving mental health, physical health and overall wellbeing. Regularly running can help with depression, obesity, diabetes, anxiety, focus and improve our chances of achieving lifelong goals.

But there are some painful injuries that the running community has reported and it does make you wonder if all that stress on the body is always a good thing. 

The injuries listed below are also some of the most common running injuries and if you are experiencing any of them, then you should know there are some effective treatment methods that can help you recover and get back to running in no time. 

So without further ado, here are some of the most painful running injuries:

Peroneal Tendonitis

The Peroneal tendons run down the side of the lower leg and attach the muscle to the bone at the fifth metatarsal (little toe) and in the arch of the foot.

peroneal tendons

When you run you perform a motion where you ‘evert’ and ‘invert’ your foot – or roll it outward. This redistributes your weight to the outside and inside of your foot as you run. It is this repetitive motion that can put stress on the peroneal tendons and cause them to degrade or become inflamed.

The recommended treatment is rest, with stretching exercises to help strengthen the tendon. In theory, if the tendon is not severely damage, it should heal stronger and able to deal with the running load and motion.

Stress fractures

Stress fractures can appear on the shins, toe bones, foot bones, ankle bones and even the pelvis when you run and can cause sudden (acute) pain.

They can be high risk and low risk, with the former typically healing on their own whilst the latter may need more aggressive treatment.

Warning – a stress fracture will only get worse if you continue to run on it.

The bones can heal and become stronger following stress but you must permit them time to heal, typically longer than muscle and tendons.

The pain will feel localised and will hurt when you weight bear or press on the aggravated area. You might need an x ray to determine the extent of the damage but typically you can get back to running within a few weeks. Make sure to eat a healthy diet to promote strong bones and perhaps look into altering your running technique if you have a high impact loading rate.

Pulled Hamstring

Painful hamstrings may fall down to your anatomy. Some people can have hamstrings that are too long or short, putting extra stress on the muscle when you run. 

You may also believe that your legs are strong and therefore hamstring injury shouldn’t affect you – but overly strong quads in relation to hamstrings can also cause issue. This is because the quads are strong enough to overpower their hamstrings, causing them to work to excessive levels they are not capable of.

Focusing on strengthening your hamstrings as well as your quads is therefore advisable.

Pulling a hamstring is so painful because it is such a large muscle and so integral to your mobility. If the pain is sudden and strong and is accompanied by bruising then you have had a true pull and need to rest for a good few months before you can hit the tarmac again.

Shin splints

Some people mistakenly think that shin splints are stress fractures or calcified lumps on the shin. In fact, shin splints, or medial tibia stress, are usually due to trauma of the connective muscle tissue to the shin bone.

The fastest way to heal a shin splint is to rest your leg and avoid running on it, using ice packs to help reduce inflammation. They shouldn’t take too long to heal and you can be back running in a few weeks.

If you are training for a marathon and are reluctant to pull out then additional physiotherapy could speed up the recovery process and make you stronger for when you return to running. Improving your core stability can also help with shin splints by decreasing your reliance on your legs to balance your weight whilst you run.

Shin splint infographic