Now that spring is in the air, the temptation to lace up your sneakers and go for a run is almost irresistible. And why not? There are a lot of great benefits of running: improved cardiovascular fitness, decreased risk of stroke, improved mood and mental functioning.
However, with any physical activity, there is a possibility for injury. By knowing early symptoms, this can bring prompt treatment and quicker recovery. An evaluation of the whole musculoskeletal system can reveal problems that are distant from the site of pain, but contributing to it.
Some running problems to be aware of are:
1. Strains to the neck and shoulders are a result of poor postural alignment. For example, the head is thrust forward and shoulders are rounded. The solution is education on the efficient position for your neck and shoulders, and an appropriate stretching and strengthening program, so muscles can do their job of keeping your upper body balanced as you run.
2. Hip pain can occur in the groin (muscle strain or labrum tear); along the outer side of the thigh, the well-known iliotibial band friction syndrome; or deep in the buttock, often a result of piriformis muscle spasm. Groin pain often responds to massage, ice or heat applications, and an exercise program designed to strengthen hip muscles and improve flexibility. “ITB” and piriformis pain also respond to massage and ice or heat, and also to stretching the involved tissues.
3. Patellofemoral pain, or pain around the kneecap can be a result of hip weakness and tightness. Strengthening, especially for the hip abductors and rotators, will often take strain off the knee joint and reduce pain; and stretching any overly tight structures will let the kneecap glide in its groove properly.
4. Muscle strains can occur in the quadriceps, hamstrings and calf musculature. Often a change in the intensity of training precedes the symptoms. Ice, massage (including self-massage with a foam roller or tennis ball) and a temporary decrease in exercise intensity can allow healing and resumption of activity.
5. Finally, the bottom of the foot (plantar fasciitis) and back of the heel (Achilles tendonitis) can become inflamed, making running painful or even impossible. Proper running footwear, calf flexibility, and sometimes taping or orthotics can correct mechanics and allow healing and a return to pain free running.