Running is a form of exercise that carries many benefits. Unfortunately, many athletes experience running-related musculoskeletal injuries. The vast majority of such injuries are caused by overuse and have a high recurrence rate. A recent systematic review determined that the knee and ankle are the most commonly injured sites. The running-related injuries that occur most frequently include Achilles tendinopathy, medial tibial stress syndrome (shin splints), patellofemoral pain syndrome, plantar fasciitis, and ankle sprains.
Managing Achilles tendinopathy can be challenging. Most patients see improvements after 3 to 12 months. In some cases, however, long-term symptoms can persist for years. Physical therapy can be effective for Achilles tendinopathy, especially if it includes a program with a heavy emphasis on exercise. The authors of a recent meta-analysis study recommend starting with an exercise program, such as physical therapy, since it is low-cost, accessible, and non-invasive.
Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome
Medial tibial stress syndrome, or shin splints, comes from inflammation of the tissue surrounding the tibia. This overuse injury often occurs from downhill running, running on hard surfaces, or including frequent starts and stops. Other factors include flat feet and obesity. In addition, female runners are more likely to develop shin splints than males. Treatment includes rest, ice, stretching, and orthotics.
Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome
Patellofemoral pain syndrome, or runner’s knee, causes stiffness and pain around the kneecap. It can cause difficulty with daily activities such as kneeling, squatting, and climbing stairs. Runner’s knee is often associated with repetitive stress on the patellofemoral joint (in the front of your knee). Likewise, misalignment of the femur and patella can aggravate the joint. PTs can instruct patients on specific exercises to improve range of motion and strength and help reduce pain.
The plantar fascia is a tissue in the bottom of your foot. Collagen breakdown and micro tears of the plantar fascia can cause pain in the heel and bottom of the foot. Typically, cases resolve with physical therapy including manual therapy, stretching, taping, and orthotics.
FAQ: How can physical therapy treat running-related musculoskeletal injuries?
Physical therapists start with an injury assessment and create an individualized treatment plan. Physical therapy usually includes stretches, exercises, and manual therapy. PTs can also apply ice, heat, and other modalities as needed. Of course, prevention is the best medicine. PTs can help runners build strength and improve running form to avoid re-injury.
COR Running Program
Many running-related musculoskeletal injuries come from small loads over repetitive cycles. A personalized running analysis can guide runners on proper form to recover and avoid injuries in the future. The COR Running Program provides one-on-one assessment and support for runners. Call our office to make an appointment at 201-833-1333.