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Running injuries

Common Running Injuries

Running injuries and how we can treat them

About running injuries

Runners can be prone to various kinds of injury because of the biomechanics and repetitive nature of the sport. In particular, people new to running are more likely to pick up injuries. Common running injuries include knee problems (such as iliotibial band friction syndrome, and patellofemoral pain), lower leg problems (such exertional pain, a.k.a. ‘shin splints’), groin and hip pain, and stress fractures.

Need to know

  • Running Injury Symptoms icon plus

    Running injuries can present with a variety of symptoms. Runners may experience pain and stiffness first thing in the morning and after training, in conditions affecting tendons (e.g. Achilles and patella tendinopathy).

    Iliotibial band friction syndrome is a problem affecting the side of the knees, and runners may experience feeling a well-localised pain that increases in intensity the further they run. Going up and down stairs may be painful after running.

    Exertional lower leg pain (a.k.a. ‘shin splints’) may give the runner an uncomfortable shin and calf pain, that feels as though the muscles are very ‘pumped-up’.

    Stress fractures, which can occur in pelvis, legs or feet, can present in a confusing way with pain and that comes and goes in an area. It’s often felt more on hopping and is sometimes noticeable at night time.

  • Screening and diagnosis icon plus

    Your consultant will assess you in detail, and you'll be asked about your symptoms, your current training and past injuries, and you'll be examined carefully. This may include examining how you walk or run, and an assessment of your biomechanics and sometimes strength and balance.

    You may be required to undergo an investigation such as MRI scanning (e.g. to detect stress fractures or identify the cause of hip or groin pain). Sometimes the diagnostic testing may include ultrasound scanning (e.g. when assessing Achilles or patella tendon problems).

  • Potential treatment options icon plus

    The treatment of the injury will depend on the particular condition.  Stress fractures may require a period of time to be ‘off-loaded’, using crutches or sometimes a boot to restrict movement. This would be followed by a period of rehabilitation with a physiotherapist or osteopath. 

    Tendon over-use injuries typically need a specific loading programme as part of their rehabilitation, and a course of shockwave therapy may be advised.  Iliotibial band friction syndrome may be treated with a corticosteroid injection, followed by rehabilitation.

    Exertional lower leg pain (a.k.a. ‘shin splints’) will frequently be treated with physiotherapy or osteopathy.  You may be advised to undergo gait analysis with a sports podiatrist, to assess whether you may need changes made to your footwear, such as different trainers, or orthotics to help movement and force distribution.

    Many running injuries occur as a result of strength deficits, poor running style and training errors, and you may be given advice on how to optimise these.  Your clinician may also recommend a referral to a sports dietitian or nutritionist, or a sports psychologist.

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This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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