Common Injuries for Walkers and Runners

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By: Ann M. Swank

Nothing can destroy your motivation toexercise as much as an injury.

This column addresses six common injuriesassociated with running and walking, as wellas prevention and treatment strategies.

Achilles tendinitis is a swelling of muscleand tendons leading from the heel to thecalf muscle. In severe cases, the tendoncan rupture, requiring corrective surgery.Prevention includes proper stretching,such as the calf stretch, and warming upbefore intense exercise. Using heel pads andlimiting uphill training may also help.

Shin splints. Although the precisemechanism for shin splints is still debated,it is widely believed that most cases are dueto a muscle imbalance between the anteriorand posterior muscle groups of the lowerleg. Prevent shin splints by tapping each footprior to exercise (for the front of the leg) anddoing the calf stretch (for the back of theleg).

Stress fractures are small hairline cracks inthe bone, most often in the tibia (the largestof the lower leg bones). The most commoncause is poor foot support and shoes withinadequate shock absorption. Preventionmay include a professional consultation forselecting the correct shoe, taping the lowerleg or running on a softer surface. Changingthe direction of your walking or runningcourse may also help.

Runner’s or walker’s knee is due to anoverriding of the kneecap on the ball of thethigh bone (femur). This injury is most oftencaused by improper footwear with poor archsupports or insufficient shock absorption.This injury can also be caused by inadequatestretching, running on hard or irregularsurfaces and muscle imbalances in the legs.Prevention includeswearing shoes offeringbetter shock absorption,running on softersurfaces and changingdirections on occasion.

Ligament sprains arecaused by excessiverotation possibly dueto an unbalanced footstrike associated withrunning on unevenor slippery surfaces.Affected joints areusually the ankle andknee. Ligaments (connective tissue thatconnect bone to bone) can be pulled awayfrom the bone or even torn completely.Depending on the degree of tear, treatmentcan include cutting back on distance ordoing another activity such as swimminguntil the ligament is healed.

Corns, calluses and blisters are caused byfriction, most often due to wearing shoesthat don’t fit properly. Prevention includesbeing properly fitted for appropriate shoes,breaking in new shoes slowly and wearingthe right socks for the shoes and the activity.For a person with diabetes, any of theseproblems requires a consultation with ahealthcare provider. Avoid any over-thecounterremedies unless you are specificallyadvised to use them by your podiatrist orphysician.


The ‘RICE’ approachto healing after aworkout:

  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Compression
  • Elevation of the injured area

Q: What is the cause of “side stitches” when running?

A: Although this is still debated, most researchers say the stitch develops fromstretching the ligaments associated with the internal organs, especially the liver, which iscaused by the jarring of running. Usually when you stop running and put pressure on thearea, the pain goes away.

Q: What are some indications of overtraining?

A: Overtraining can be recognized by many symptoms, such as leg and muscle sorenessthat lasts longer than usual; an unusually apathetic attitude toward your workouts; anddecreased resistance, resulting in headaches, colds and poor coordination and performance.Treatment includes recognizing the symptoms and decreasing training levels for a time.It’s important to schedule rest days following particularly hard workouts. You should feelrefreshed following exercise, not miserable.

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