Running is a great way to stay in shape, manage stress, and increase your overall wellbeing. However, it's not without its drawbacks. While being a low-risk activity, there are a few injuries that commonly affect runners. As running is a repetitive impact activity, most running injuries develop slowly and can be challenging to get on top of. Here are three of the most common conditions faced by runners, all of which can be helped by your physiotherapist.
1. Runner's Knee:
Runner's knee (patellofemoral pain syndrome) is a persistent pain at the front or inside of the knee caused by the dysfunctional movement of the kneecap during movement. The kneecap sits in a small groove at the centre of the knee and glides smoothly up and down as the knee bends and straightens. If something causes the kneecap to move abnormally, such as muscle imbalance or poor footwear, the surface underneath can become damaged, irritated, and painful. The pain might be mild to start with, but left untreated, runner's knee can make running too painful to continue.
2. Shin Splints:
Shin splints (also known as medial tibial stress syndrome) is a common condition characterised by a recurring pain on the inside of the shin. While the cause of this condition is not always clear, it is usually due to repeated stress where the calf muscles attach to the tibia (shin bone). Why this becomes painful is likely due to a combination of factors that can be identified by your physiotherapist to help you get back on track as soon as possible.
3. Achilles Tendonitis/Tendinopathy:
The Achilles tendon is the thick tendon at the back of the ankle that attaches the calf muscles to the heel bone. The amount of force that this tendon can absorb is impressive. It is vital in providing the forward propulsive force needed for running. If the stresses placed on the tendon exceed its strength, the tissues begin to breakdown and become painful. Treatment is focused on helping the healthy tendon tissues to strengthen and adapt to new forces while allowing the damaged tissue to heal and regenerate.
Better health isn't just about looking better. It can also help you to feel stronger, more flexible, reduce aches and pains and feel happier overall. If you're an inactive person, it can be challenging to change your lifestyle. Here are a few tips that might make it a bit easier.
Sign up for a race or event:
Fear is a powerful motivator, and having a challenge looming can create a sense of urgency to improve your fitness. You don't need to sign up for a marathon straight away, but something that lies just outside your current fitness level is a great place to start.
Join a team:
You may not feel committed to your exercise routine, but being part of a team can get you out of the house when you'd much rather be a couch potato. Joining a team can have added social benefits by increasing your sense of community and expanding your social circle.
Make it a habit:
Upgrade your daily exercise to be a non-negotiable part of your routine, increase the priority level and refuse to reschedule. In the long run, you'll be grateful that you have created a habit that's difficult to break. If you can also keep track of your attendance, set yourself the added challenge of not missing a day to put the habit in place.
Be honest about what you enjoy and what you don't:
We all have different preferences when it comes to activity, and taking the time to identify which sport or type of exercise is right for you can be the secret to long term success. If you're a thrill-seeker, you might find mountain biking infinitely more rewarding than an hour at the gym. For others, the peacefulness of a yoga session can be just what they need after a stressful workday. There are many options other than a gym membership, and many come with added benefits of improved self-esteem as you learn a new skill and being a way to make new friends.
Many of us respond better to positive reinforcement than punishment, or at least it's a nicer experience. For example, rather than restricting calories when you miss a day of exercise, reward yourself with a massage when you have reached a small goal. Choosing a reward that is also beneficial for your health can help avoid a boom/bust attitude towards your health.
One of the most challenging aspects of living with an injury or chronic pain is how it can impact your exercise routine. If you have been working towards a fitness or weight goal, this can be extremely demoralizing. Here are a few tips that can help to keep you on track while you recover. Staying as active as possible during this time can mean you’re in the best position to reach your goals again once your injury has healed.
1. Try a new activity.
When injury strikes, it can be tempting to stop exercising altogether and just rest while you recover. An injury can be frustrating, but it can also be an opportunity to try out a different sport. If you’re a runner with an ankle injury, you can keep up your fitness by swimming instead. Cycling can be an excellent option for people for dealing with knee pain, and if you’re a swimmer with shoulder pain, maybe switch to running for a while. Check with your physiotherapist for some ideas to keep you moving.
2. Exercise within your limits.
If you’re getting pain at 5km, this doesn’t always mean you should give up running altogether. Your physiotherapist can help you monitor your symptoms carefully and plan an exercise routine that keeps your fitness up while reducing symptom flare-ups. Staying as active as possible throughout your recovery can also mean that you a better placed to get back to your best performance once symptoms subside.
3. Take the opportunity to improve your footwear and equipment.
Injury and pain can be a great prompt to look at your equipment and technique. For example, with hip and knee pain, the type of shoes you wear can have a significant difference. Often pain has more than one cause, with technique and equipment often having a substantial impact on the stress placed on your body. Your physiotherapist is an excellent source of advice in this area, don’t hesitate to ask for an assessment.
4. Take to the water
Hydrotherapy has long been used to help patients with joint pain or muscle weakness exercise. The water helps reduce joint stress and provide extra sensory input that can reduce pain. Exercising in water can be especially helpful for sufferers of chronic pain or those who have pain with weight-bearing. Speak to your physio for a hydrotherapy program if you’re not sure how to approach exercise in water.
Our physiotherapists are happy to discuss your condition with you and share their tips to help you stay pain-free.
What is it?
Our knees are complex hinge joints, designed to provide stability from side to side and smooth movement forwards and back as you walk, kick and run. The patella, or kneecap, is a small bone embedded in the tendon of the quadriceps muscle that protects the knee and also provides extra leverage to the quadriceps, amplifying their strength. The patella moves up and down in a groove at the front of the knee as the knee bends and straightens. Usually this movement is smooth, with little friction, however, if something causes the patella to move in a dysfunctional way, the soft tissue between the kneecap and the knee can become irritated, causing pain in a typical pattern. This condition is often referred to as ‘runner’s knee’, PFJ syndrome or patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS).
What causes it?
The patella usually sits in a balanced position in the shallow groove at the front of the knee and moves easily without friction. The patella is attached to the quadriceps muscle at the top and connected to the lower leg via the patella tendon at the bottom. When the quadriceps contracts, this pulls on the patella and acts to straighten the knee. If one side of the quadriceps is stronger or tighter than the other, it can cause the kneecap to pull to one side and over time become irritated.
There can be many factors that cause a muscle imbalance or weakness on one side of the quadriceps. In most people, the outer aspect of the quadriceps tends to be stronger and tighter than the inner muscle.
Certain postures and leg positions require the outer muscles to work harder and the inside muscles to become less active. Lack of arch support in your feet or simply a physical abnormality of the knee can also place stress on the movement of the patella.
What are the symptoms?
This condition is characterized by pain felt on the inside or behind the patella with activities that require repetitive bending of the knee. There may be a sensation of crunching, clicking or grinding and some people report that their knee suddenly gives way. The pain is commonly felt when running, going up and down stairs or when doing squats and is generally relieved with rest. The pain may start as a small niggle and gradually become worse over time.
How can physiotherapy help?
The first step in effective treatment is to exclude any other conditions and have a physiotherapist confirm the diagnosis. Your physiotherapist is able to determine which factors are contributing to this condition, which could include poor posture, a lack of arch support in your feet or poor running technique.
Once these factors have been identified, you will be provided with a specific treatment program to best approach your condition. PFJ syndrome usually responds well to biomechanical analysis and correction of any muscular weakness and imbalance. Having the correct shoes and orthotics can also make a huge difference. There are some short-term treatments, such as patella taping, dry needling, trigger point therapy and ultrasound, which may help alleviate symptoms quickly and keep you active while you address the other factors contributing to your pain.
Stretching has long played an important role in the world of sport and fitness, with many athletes stretching religiously before and after exercise in hopes of preventing injuries.
More recently, this practice has been called into question with many people wondering if stretching really makes a difference to athletic performance. The answer, like most things, is not black and white, as we explore a little in this article.
A brief introduction to stretching
Stretching is a type of movement that increases flexibility by lengthening muscle fibres to the end of their range. Stretching before and after exercise has been thought to reduce the risk of injury, improve athletic performance and reduce muscle soreness after exercise.
The two most common types of stretching are static and dynamic stretching. Static stretching is when you lengthen your muscle and then hold that position for a period of time.
Dynamic stretching uses movement and momentum of the body to stretch muscles to their end range, without holding the stretch at the end.
What does the research say?
Some research has suggested that static stretching before an activity can actually reduce power, strength and performance. However, these reductions were shown to be minimal and not noticed at all if the stretches were held for less than 45 seconds. It has also been found that stretching does improve flexibility but only for a short period of time. A few minutes after stretching, your joints move further, and with less resistance, so you may have improved flexibility immediately after stretching.
Why stretch at all?
One thing that is undeniable is that stretching feels great, with many people feeling more relaxed and reporting a rush of endorphins after a good stretching session. It is also difficult to test the long-term effects of stretching specific muscles showing abnormal tightness. A long-term static stretching routine will improve your overall flexibility, and this is thought to help prevent injuries, although the evidence is inconclusive.
If you’re an athlete, the decision to stretch or not can be a personal one. A warm-up prior to intense exercise that includes some form of dynamic stretching is generally recommended for reducing injury risk, but of course is no guarantee. Strength and balance training may have a far greater impact on reducing injuries in the long term.
Your physiotherapist is able to guide you on the best stretching advice for your individual activity and they may be able to identify some areas where improving your flexibility will help to reduce injuries and improve performance.
Being active is one the most important aspects of a healthy lifestyle and there are many different ways to get your heart rate up. No matter what your choice of activity is, there is always some risk of injury. In this article, we have listed some tips to help you prevent accidents and injuries.
1. Choose the right footwear
The correct footwear can go a long way in protecting your feet and ankles from injury and can even prevent serious accidents such as falls. Every activity places different demands on your body and tailoring your footwear to suit these stressors is a great strategy for preventing injuries. For example, basketball players often wear shoes with support that extends above the ankles to help protect against ankle sprains, while hikers require thick and supportive soles to cushion and protect their feet. Wearing shoes that are too large or have poor grip can lead to slips and falls, particularly when exercising in the outdoors. Your physiotherapist can guide you with the correct choice of footwear for your chosen activity.
2. Pace yourself
When you start to see improvements in your fitness and strength, it can be tempting to push your limits to see just how far you can go. The danger in this is that often your tissues are still adapting to the increased demands of your new exercise regime. Increasing your weights, training time or running distances by too much too soon can lead to major setbacks. Give your body time to adjust and progress in a slow and steady manner.
3. Check your form and posture
Checking your posture in the middle of a workout is probably the last thing on your mind, however poor form is a leading cause of injury in athletes. As an example, lifting weights when your spine is not in its optimal position causes many low back injuries. Taking a second to check your posture before starting a lift is highly recommended.
4. Seek professional advice
Coaches and trainers are able to help you spot vulnerabilities and share their knowledge, helping you get the most out of your chosen activity. Often it is easier to prevent bad habits from forming than it is to break them once they are already in place. Invest in the advice of an expert, they can help you to avoid injuries as well as reach your peak performance.
Your physiotherapist is able to identify weakness in your training technique, biomechanical vulnerabilities, tight and/or weak muscles and can help guide you through your recovery if an injury does occur. However, prevention of injuries is always preferable to treatment, whenever possible.