How physiotherapy can help prevent the most common running injuries
As a runner, you know how to push through. From bad weather to blisters to stitches on your side, you’ve trained to let the little things slide in order to cross that finish line—even when that comes to pain.
Though the joy of running is unlike anything else, the repeated movements involved can be hard on the body. We’ve all heard the stories or maybe even experienced some of them firsthand—the full-blown injuries that keep a runner’s shoes in the closet for weeks or months.
Whether you’re running for pleasure or training for a race, you’re bound to have aches and twinges along the way. Injury prevention isn’t about the absence of pain; it’s about having the right reaction when that pain comes along. A timely response will help you avoid acute injuries that could pull you from the pavement for an indeterminate hiatus.
A physiotherapy appointment is a great way to get answers to the questions you have about your running pain:
- Is it safe to run through the pain?
- What are the signs it’s getting more serious?
- How can I treat the pain at home?
- What exercises will help me keep running?
Your physiotherapist can help you with information, advice, and treatment
to keep you running, injury-free.
Here are the 7 Most Common Running Injuries and When to Book a Physio Appointment.
1. Runner’s knee
While it can affect other athletes, runners are the most commonly afflicted with this pain or tenderness in and/or around the kneecap. According to a University of Calgary study, this type of pain accounts for 57% of all knee problems in Canadian runners— if you’re having pain in this area, it’s most likely runner’s knee.
Book a physio appointment when: You’re having twinges on the outside or inside of the knee when you begin your run, but then seem fine throughout, only to flare up afterward or during prolonged sitting—this is a sign that things could get worse without physio treatment.
2. Achilles tendinitis
Up to 20% of runners are affected by this injury, which appears when the Achilles tendon (connecting the two major calf muscles to the back of the heel) comes under too much stress. The tendon tightens and gets irritated, leading to the pain in the back of the foot.
Book a physio appointment when: You’ve got a dull pain in your heel during and after a run, but at home remedies like ice usually take care of it—book a physio appointment before this pain shows up even when you’re not running
3. Hamstring issues
Your hamstrings make up the majority of the muscles in the back of the thighs, propelling you forward during your run; injuries involving this group can be an issue of flexibility or strength. Hamstring strains are common and take a lot of time to heal—re-injuries often occur without the proper physiotherapy and if the re-introduction of training is rushed.
Book a physio appointment when: You have a constant ache or tightness in the back of your legs when you run, which you try to ease with a slower pace or a shorter stride—you’ll want to get physio before there’s a pop, snap or bruise.
4. Plantar fasciitis
Foot pain accounts for 15% of all running injuries, with plantar fasciitis mat the top of that list. This injury involves small tears and inflammation of the tendons and ligaments of the foot, resulting in pain that might feel like a dull ache or bruise along your arch or heel.
Book a physio appointment when: You’re having foot pain when you first get out of bed, walking around after sitting or the first few strides of a run. It may disappear after that, but you’ll want to avoid having that constant pain by consulting with a physiotherapist as soon as possible
5. Shin splints
Also known as medial tibial stress syndrome, this achy pain down your shins makes up about 15% of all running injuries. It may seem small, but these are actually tears happening around your shinbone and can develop into something more serious.
Book a physio appointment when: You can walk and even jump without pain, but there’s a tightness and ache around your shin when you run. Before it becomes too tender to touch (or walk), see a physiotherapist for simple ways to correct the issue.
6. Iliotibial (IT) band syndrome
When the band that runs along the outside of your thigh—connecting hip to knee and shin—gets irritated, runners experience a pain down the outer area of the knee joint. At 12% of all running injuries, it’s often mistaken for a knee injury.
Book a physio appointment when: Two to three kilometres into your run, you start experiencing pain and tightness on the outside of your knee. If you walk it out, the pain disappears, but this means it’s time for physio—before you hear the clicking or popping sensation of the IT band snapping against the joint.
7. Stress fracture
For runners, the constant impact of activity can cause too much strain on the shins, feet or heel bones and lead to a stress fracture—the most serious of all running injuries. Different than an acute fracture that happens in one brief moment, stress fractures happen gradually, which means they can be prevented.
Book a physio appointment when: You’ve got pain when you run, but also sometimes when you’re on your feet for too long. Like any progressive injury, it’s key to listen to your pain and respond early—a physiotherapist can help make sure you’re on track to prevent or recover from stress fractures caused by running.