A blog by runners. For runners.

Can’t run? How to work out with common running injuries

How to work out with common running injuries

There are few things worse than being sidelined from running due to an injury. Thankfully, there are usually other ways you can stay active while you’re waiting for the injury to heal.

Of course, all injuries vary in severity and healing times differ, so always follow your doctor’s or physical therapist’s orders.

  • Runner’s knee (patellofemoral pain syndrome):Runner’s knee is irritation of the cartilage on the underside of the kneecap (patella). This painful condition is caused by overpronation (inward foot rolling) or by having weak glutes, hips, or quads. Some runners can run through runner’s knee, but it’s key to reduce your mileage, take extra rest days, and avoid running down hills – some runners say running uphill is actually more comfortable than running on a flat surface. Biking, swimming, and using an elliptical trainer are also good ways to stay active.
  • IT (iliotibial) band syndrome:Your IT band runs down the outer side of your leg, extending from your hip flexor to your knee. IT bands can become tight and painful from track work, downhill running, overpronation, or weak hip or glute muscles. If you catch IT band syndrome early enough, you may only need to take a few days off from running. In more severe cases, you’ll need few weeks or months off. Most people who suffer from IT band issues are able to swim, pool run, or use the elliptical without pain. 
  • Shinsplints (medial tibial stress syndrome): Shinsplints, the most common injury in newbie runners, occurs when small tears happen in the muscles around your shin bone, or tibia. They’re a sign that you’ve increased your mileage or intensity too quickly. Taking a few days or weeks off from running is a must. Pool running, swimming, and cycling are great ways to get a cardiovascular workout while you’re waiting for your shins to heal.
  • Plantar fasciitis:Plantar fasciitis, the most common foot injury in runners, is caused by swelling or tearing of the tendons and ligaments that run from your heel to your toes. It’s the result of extreme pronation or upping mileage too quickly. Plantar fasciitis is serious, and requires many runners to hang up their shoes for several months to a year. Pool running and swimming won’t aggravate the foot at all, so they’re ideal ways to stay active. Biking and the elliptical trainer are sometimes OK, too, but only when they don’t cause any pain.
  • Achilles tendon issues:The Achilles tendon runs from the calf muscles to the heel. When it becomes irritated, it causes severe pain. Achilles tendinitis is an injury you don’t want to mess around with – it’s imperative that you stop running at once to keep it from getting worse. Pool running, swimming, and using the elliptical are great alternatives. But avoid biking because that can aggravate the Achilles tendon, too.
  • Piriformis syndrome: Weak glutes, hip flexors, quadriceps, and hamstrings can bring on piriformis syndrome in runners. Piriformis is not only a common running injury, but it often plagues cyclists and rowers as well. So, it’s a good idea to steer clear of those sports while you’re dealing with the injury. It’s best to rest and stick with upper body strength training work when you’re dealing with severe piriformis syndrome. Or, if your case isn’t so painful, try walking, swimming, or using an elliptical trainer. Just avoid hills or inclines and keep the resistance low.

Has an injury ever stopped you from running? How did you stay in shape?

Written by Jen Matz.

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