Common running injuries – treatment and prevention


Whether you’re running every day, or you’ve just started, it’s likely you’ll have experienced a running injury. Here, we look at some of the most common running injuries to the foot, ankle, and legs. We’ll also highlight how to treat running injuries at home and when you need to see a physiotherapist. We’ll also cover how sports massage can help prevent injury and speed up recovery.

Did you know that around half of runners take part in long-distance competitive running events like charity runs and marathons? The high impact nature of running means that runners are particularly susceptible to injury. In fact, it is thought that 82% of runners will experience an injury in their running lifetime.

If you’ve had a sports injury or require physiotherapy in East London, please call our clinics on 0207 132 1440 (Canary Wharf) or 01689 490 111 (Orpington) to book an appointment with us.

What causes running injuries?

Raj Selvarajah, Clinical Lead Physiotherapist at LycaHealth Physiotherapy, explains, “Running is a high impact activity, and when performed incorrectly can cause injury to joints and muscles. It also requires vigorous movement, which can lead to trips or falls, in turn leading to strains, sprains or even breaks. Therefore, it’s important to ensure your running technique is correct to reduce the chance of injury.

“However, if an injury does occur and you are worried that it will impede your performance, it is important to book an appointment with a physiotherapist to receive the correct diagnosis, treatment and advice to get you back to your normal schedule in a timely fashion.”

What are common running injuries?

Running injuries to the foot, ankle, and knee are very common due to the high impact nature of the sport. We have listed below some of the most common running injuries:

Pulled hamstring

Your hamstring is a large muscle located at the back of your thigh which allows you to bend your knees and extend your hip joint. Injury to this muscle is most likely to occur in sprinters where sudden acceleration is a regular action. This can cause a tear in the muscle fibres of the hamstring, which results in varying levels of pain, from mild discomfort to severe pain.

Usually, mild hamstring strains can be treated at home with rest and a cold compress. However, without proper treatment, a hamstring injury could recur and regularly leave you out of action. If you are worried about your injury, it is best to book a screening as soon as possible before it gets any worse. Your physiotherapist will be able to treat the injury, advise a recovery programme and improve strength in the muscle to help prevent further injury.

Achilles tendonitis

Your Achilles tendon is a large tendon at the back of the ankle which connects your calf muscles to your heel. Achilles tendonitis occurs when this tendon becomes inflamed, often due to overuse through excessive repetitive movement. This may cause sudden pain, swelling, redness or stiffness and these symptoms should not be confused with the more chronic tendinosis.

Treatment for Achilles tendonitis involves restricting the movement of the ankle as soon as possible to reduce further injury, pain or inflammation. A cold compress may be used to reduce inflammation, as well as anti-inflammatory drugs. Physical therapy such as sports massage and manipulation of the area can be utilised to encourage faster recovery.

Plantar fasciitis (runner’s heel)

Known medically as plantar fasciitis, runner’s heel occurs when the ligament which runs from the heel along the sole of the foot (the plantar fascia) develops micro-tears due to overuse. This can occur if you wear the wrong shoes or worn out shoes whilst running, have flat feet or very high foot arches, regularly run on hard surfaces or uphill, or are overweight.

Runner’s heel can be treated with an initial period of rest, followed by physiotherapy consisting of stretches and sports massage. Your LycaHealth Physiotherapist may provide an exercise plan which should help you optimise your recovery and prevent further injury.

Sprained ankle

A sprained ankle is a common injury and occurs when your ankle twists beyond its normal range of movement. This causes one or more of the ligaments around your ankle to stretch or tear, resulting in a painful injury that can put you out of action for weeks – even months.

If you are a regular runner and you are worried about an ankle sprain affecting your performance, it is advisable to seek treatment. Your physiotherapist will help reduce stiffness in your ankle, encourage smoother movements of the joint, and improve muscle around the area so that you can return to your routine and even enhance your performance.

Knee pain (runner’s knee)

Knee pain at the front of the knee, around the knee or behind the kneecap can be caused by many different things, and it’s important that this is diagnosed correctly in order to receive the correct treatment. Initially, at home, you can put an ice pack onto the knee for 20 minutes a few times a day to help reduce swelling.

If the knee swells or is very painful, you should see your GP or a physiotherapist specialising in sports injury treatment. They will diagnose the knee pain, carry out treatment and put together a rehabilitation plan to get you back to 100% as quickly as possible.

Can running injuries be avoided? How to prevent running injuries

“Prehab is always better than rehab,” explains Raj. “Runners can benefit from seeing a physiotherapist when they start running to look at their biomechanics, footwear, and having regular sports massages in order to prevent injury. A lot of running injuries we see are chronic – they have built up over time and could have been prevented with early intervention. It’s important to listen to your body.”

Whether you are a novice runner or marathon runner, there are some key actions you can take to help prevent running injuries:

  1. Stretch before and after your run to improve and maintain your flexibility.
  2. See a physiotherapist who can look at your biomechanics, running technique and footwear.
  3. Have a regular sports massage to improve blood flow and muscle condition.
  4. Incorporate strength training to improve your overall strength and fitness.
  5. If you feel the beginnings of an injury, rest and don’t keep running on it. See a physiotherapist who can advise of the best treatment to prevent it getting worse. After all – it’s better to be out of action for two weeks rather than two months.
  6. Wear good quality running shoes.

Benefits of sports massage for running

Curious how sports massage benefits runners? Sports massage is incredibly useful for preventing running injuries; It works deeper into the muscle than traditional massage, and is designed to elongate muscles, improve blood flow, the flow of nutrients to the muscle and eliminates toxins. Will sports massage help running injuries? The answer is yes – as well as helping to prevent injury, sports massage promotes faster recovery.

Find out more about the services at LycaHealth Physiotherapy, which includes osteopathy, chiropractic care, podiatry, physiotherapy, sports massage and diagnostic imaging. Please call our one of our clinics on 0207 132 1440 (Canary Wharf) or 01689 490 111 (Orpington), or visit LycaHealth Physiotherapy.

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