Running Too Much, Too Soon Can Be Risky: Shin Splints, Stress Fractures Are Common
LEXINGTON, Ky. (Jan. 28, 2013) - The following column appeared in the Lexington Herald-Leader on Tuesday, Jan. 22.
By Brian Noehren
With many big races coming up in Lexington, including a half-marathon at the end of March, January is a prime time for runners new and seasoned to start a training regimen.
While most training programs are designed to build your endurance steadily and safely over several weeks or months, runners always face the risk of injury. Below are some of the most common running injuries that occur from overtraining or overtaxing the muscles and bones — in other words, running too much, too soon.
- Shin splints. If you are experiencing pain around your tibia (the bone between the knee and ankle), you might have shin splints. Shin splints are very common, especially in those who are new to running. They can be caused by overtraining on uneven terrain or hard surfaces and/or wearing improper footwear.
- Runner’s knee. Also <?xml:namespace prefix = owc /> known as patellofemoral pain syndrome, it is characterized by pain in the front and center of the kneecap. Runners who overpronate, who have weak thigh muscles or poor control of their hips might be at greater risk for developing this problem.
- Iliotibial band syndrome. This is the second-most common cause of knee pain in runners. The IT band is a long band that starts at the hip and runs down the side of the thigh, connecting at the knee. The repetitive motion of running — the flexion and extension of the knee — can cause this tissue to become inflamed. It often occurs in runners who have weak hip muscles or who suddenly increase their mileage.
- Stress fractures. Runners tend to get these in the shin, heel or foot, and they are more common in women. They can be the result of overtraining and/or landing too hard. While an acute fracture is the result of a specific incident (like a fall), stress fractures occur over time, due to repetitive stress on the bones. Sometimes people might not realize they have a stress fracture and continue to run with the injury, which only worsens the problem.
While running injuries might not be entirely preventable — they come with the territory — there are many steps you can take to reduce your risk. Increasing your mileage gradually, wearing proper footwear and adding a strength training element to your training program will help. A regular schedule of static and active stretching and using a foam roller also will prove beneficial.
Additionally, injured runners might find it helpful to undergo a gait analysis, an assessment of how a person walks or runs. These studies can find abnormalities in the stride and give the runner a clearer idea of how to adjust his or her gait to recover from injury.
Brian Noehren is an assistant professor in the Division of Physical Therapy at the University of Kentucky and is the head of the Running Injury Lab at UK.