So, we’re a few weeks into training for Broad Street. Any aches and pains so far? To date, I’ve logged more than 30 miles and there’s only been a day or two where my knees have felt a little stiff and I’ve had a twinge of pain in my right hip once or twice while running indoors. Although the tiny twinges I have felt haven’t kept me from logging my miles, they were enough to make me reach out to one of Team Philly’s physical therapists to find out what all of us can do to keep these little annoyances from becoming major problems down the road. “Injuries can sideline the most experienced runner, but beginners are even more susceptible to developing problems,” says Brandi Feinberg, a physical therapist and clinic manager at Excel Physical Therapy and Fitness in Society Hill. “Recognizing and treating aches and pains quickly can keep them from becoming major setbacks, and allow you to continue running.”
Check out Feinberg’s tips for solving three of the most common beginner running injuries below so you can look forward to your runs — and race day — pain-free.
The problem: A dull ache in the front of the shin while running that may improve once warmed up or after a run is completed.
What it is: Shinsplints, also known as “medial tibial stress syndrome.”
The cause: “Causes of shinsplints include muscle imbalances, specifically calf tightness, and weakness or overuse of the muscle in the front of the shin,” says Feinberg. “Other contributing factors may include footwear with inadequate arch support, improper running technique, or training errors such as excessive mileage. More severe, sharp pain, or pain that does not improve with stretching or time may be indicative of a more significant condition known as a stress fracture, and should be addressed by a medical professional.”
Fix it: Stretch the calf and the front of the shin three times for 30 seconds both pre- and post-run (to stretch the front of the shin, face a wall, extend one leg behind you and press the top of the extended leg’s foot into the floor; lower body until you feel a stretch at the front of the foot), and ice the shins for 10 minutes after each run. To strengthen the calf muscle, do two sets of 10 calf raises every other day. “You can just go up and down on your toes, but it works even better when you do it off the edge of a stair,” says Feinberg.
The problem: Pain in the front of the knee, commonly associated with “grinding” or “clicking” of the kneecap, pain when climbing stairs, squatting, or with prolonged sitting.
What it is: Patellofemoral syndrome
The cause: “This condition is caused by improper tracking of the kneecap,” says Feinberg. “As you bend and straighten the knee, the kneecap slides in a groove in the thighbone. The kneecap can become misaligned due to muscle imbalances, and can be irritated by the repetitive bending of the knee associated with running.”
Fix it: “Strengthening the muscles that surround the knee, and specifically the quadriceps, maintaining good hip and core strength, and stretching the quads and hip flexors may improve patellofemoral tracking and decrease pain,” says Feinberg, who recommends doing two sets of 10 straight leg raises (lay on your back, tighten your quad, and lift leg 45 degrees; lower to starting position) and side leg raises (lay on your side, tighten your quad, and lift leg 45 degrees) every other day. “Cross training on your off days will also help you strengthen the outer hip muscles,” notes Feignberg.
The problem: A sharp pain in the back of the thigh, pain with stretching the hamstrings
What it is: A hamstring strain or muscle pull.
The cause: “The hamstring muscles function to bend the knee, and are often an area of muscular tightness. Tight hamstrings, elongated stride, or inadequate warmup can cause a strain, or muscle pull, in the hamstrings,” says Feinberg.
Fix it fast: “The tearing of muscle fibers associated with a strain can often lead to the development of scar tissue in the muscle,” says Feinberg. “Because of this, hamstring strains can become chronic if left untreated, and should be addressed initially with ice and gentle stretching.” Ice the painful area first for 10 minutes, and then do three hamstring stretches for 30 seconds each. “Stop the stretch before you feel pain,” says Feinberg. “You don’t want to cause further injury.”
NOTE: As a general rule, Feinberg says pain should improve within two to three weeks. If pain persists, make an appointment with a physical therapist or your doctor.
Want to learn more? Join Team Philly at Philadelphia Runner in University City at 7pm this Wednesday, March 24th, for a Q&A on common running injuries with Dr. Michael Ross with the Rothman Institute. Just make sure to RSVP, as Team Philly is supplying pizza. RSVP HERE.