Running is a popular sport with numerous health benefits. It reduces your risk of heart disease, helps maintain a healthy weight, and because it’s a weight-bearing exercise, it can also strengthen your muscles and joints.

Running injuries and the symptoms

While the health benefits of running are wonderful, unfortunately this exercise comes with a risk of injury. The following are some of the most common running injuries.  

By far the most common type of running injury is an overuse injury. These injuries can occur in individuals who have never run before or those who may have returned to the sport after taking a break from running.  But even seasoned runners can experience overuse injuries as well, typically due to increases in distances or frequency of workouts.  

Other common injuries that runners experience include strains and sprains, shin splints, inflammation of the Achilles tendon, and plantar fasciitis. For the most part these conditions can cause pain, stiffness, tingling, or numbness in the affected area.

Another injury that is common among runners is a stress fracture. This is a small fracture in a bone, typically in the shin and feet for runners. The pain from a stress fracture will improve with rest but will worsen with activity. Continued stress on the bone might lead to more serious injury or a delay in your recovery, so be sure to see a doctor and follow orders for rest and treatment.

How to treat running injuries

The mainstay of treatment for overuse injuries is activity modification. I typically recommend a period of rest and de-escalation of frequency and length of runs.  

In most cases, minor runners’ injuries can be treated at home.

  • Rest with a gradual return to activity.
  • Apply ice to the injured area 15 to 20 minutes at a time, several times a day.
  • Over-the-counter pain medication like aspirin or ibuprofen can help to reduce pain.
  • For swelling, compression can help. Elevating it can help as well.
  • Determine the cause of your injury and address it. For example, if your injury is a result of improper footwear, get new ones.
  • See a physical therapist or sports medicine expert to treat your injury and learn how to prevent injuries in the future.

For any pain that continues beyond 10 days or so, or if the pain returns once you resume running, it’s important to contact a doctor for medical advice.

How to prevent running injuries

We all know accidents happen. But there are ways to reduce your risk of being injured while running.

  1. Stretching - Stretching should be part of every runner’s routine. Stretch either after a 10-minute warm-up or after a cool-down. Remember, stretching should be comfortable and should not cause pain.
  2. Footwear - Having the right footwear is essential and can make all the difference. Older running shoes can lose support and integrity and put you at increased risk of injury. Your local running shop can help you find the best shoe and size for your running style and foot shape.
  3. Listen to your body - Most running injuries do not come out of nowhere. If you have persistent soreness, aches and pains, take a few days to rest and recover.

Running is a great exercise, but not without its risks. If you are experiencing pain from running or other activities, we can help. Visit the Lifespan Orthopedics Institute website for more information.

Ross Budacki, MD

Dr. Ross Budacki is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon with the Lifespan Orthopedics Institute. He specializes in sports medicine.