Research shows that two out of three runners will experience injury each year, and a large percentage of these will be beginning runners. Knowing about common injuries can help you catch yours early, rehab it and return to the road.

Here are some of the most common injuries:

1. Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (“Runner’s Knee”)

Patellofemoral pain syndrome (otherwise known as “runner’s knee”) is pain behind the kneecap. 

The Causes
Runner’s knee commonly occurs with overuse. The kneecap is attached to the quadriceps, and it glides through a groove in the end of the thigh bone. With repeated bending and straightening of the knee, he inside surface of the kneecap can become irritated if it does not move correctly in this groove. Pain can occur because of the way the hips, knees, ankles or feet are aligned and/or how they move. 

The Symptoms
The main symptom of runner’s knee is pain behind the kneecap. Pain may occur when walking, running or sitting for a long period of time. The pain is generally worse when running downhill or going down stairs. The knee may swell at times. Runners may feel or hear snapping, popping or grinding in the knee.

The Treatment
Initial treatment of runner’s knee focuses on rest and ice to decrease pain. If pain does not improve or gets worse with time, contact a primary care provider or call the Bellin Run Injury Hotline at (920) 430-4595. 

2. Iliotibial Band Syndrome

The Iliotibial band is a layer of connective tissue that starts as part of a muscle in the hip and travels down to the outer side of the knee, attaching to the upper shin bone. IT band syndrome occurs when it becomes inflamed and painful.

The Causes
IT band syndrome occurs with improper movement at the knee causing stress and inflammation at the outer side of the knee. This condition can result from tight muscles in the hip, pelvis or leg, and/or weakness of the hip muscles affecting knee position during running.

The Symptoms
The main symptom of IT band syndrome is pain on the outer side of the knee.

The Treatment
Initial treatment of IT band syndrome focuses on rest and ice to decrease pain. 

3. Plantar Fasciitis

The plantar fascia is a tendon-like tissue located on the bottom of the foot that supports the arch of the foot. Plantar fasciitis is painful inflammation of the bottom of the foot between the ball of the foot and the heel.

The Causes
Plantar fasciitis occurs in response to an over-stretching or stressing of the tissue. This can be due to increased mileage, increased weight, foot structure, faulty running mechanics and/or changes in workout routine.

The Symptoms
The main symptom of plantar fasciitis is heel or arch pain during walking or running. It is typical for the first couple steps one takes in the morning to be very painful with this condition.

The Treatment
Initial treatment of plantar fasciitis focuses on rest and ice to decrease pain. 

4. Shin Pain (Shin Splints)

Shin pain is pain on the front of the lower leg below the knee and above the ankle. The pain can be directly over the shinbone (tibia) or over the muscles that are on the inner or outer side of the shin. Shin pain is often called shin splints.

The Causes
Shin pain generally occurs from overuse. This injury is common in runners who increase their mileage or the intensity of their running too quickly, or who change the surface on which they are running. 

Shin pain can also occur in runners when the foot flattens more than normal when hitting the ground, referred to as over-pronation.

The Symptoms
Pain over the front part of the lower leg is the main symptom. Pain may occur during exercise, at rest or both. Stress fractures of the tibia (see below) will result in pain directly over the shin bone, which can be painful to the touch. Shin splints can also present as pain on the inside part of the shin bone and muscles (medial tibial stress syndrome) or as compartment syndrome, which involves swollen muscles in the lower leg during and after exercise.

The Treatment
Initial treatment of shin pain focuses on rest and ice to decrease pain. 

If symptoms do not resolve within seven days, consult with our running experts to discuss the possible need for a change in training, consult with a sports medicine physician or referral for physical therapy.

5. Tibial Stress Fracture

A tibial stress fracture is an overuse injury causing increased stress to a bone. This increase in stress can cause a tiny crack to form in the bone that can lead to a full break if not treated.

The Causes
Stress fractures occur most often as a result of increasing training (miles, duration, frequency) or increasing training intensity too quickly. Poor mechanics, improper footwear, changes in running surface and bone conditions such as osteopenia/osteoporosis can contribute to the cause of a stress fracture.

The Symptoms
Pain at the shin bone, or feelings of worsening “shin splints,” is the most common symptom of a tibial stress fracture. This pain is noted during activities and typically improves with rest. The shin bone can become sore to the touch at the site of the stress fracture.

The Treatment
Immediately stop the activity causing the pain. The most common treatment is rest from activity; if the stress fracture has progressed too far, the area may be immobilized by wearing a boot. Crutches may be used for a period of time. 

6. Knee Meniscal Injuries

The meniscus is a piece of cartilage in the middle of the knee that acts as a shock absorber during weight bearing and guides the movements of the knee. The meniscus is a tough, rubbery tissue. A meniscus tear is a fraying or tearing of this tissue.

The Causes
A meniscus tear commonly occurs when the knee is forcefully twisted during a weight bearing activity.

The Symptoms
Common symptoms include pain in the knee joint, immediate swelling, not being able to fully bend or straighten the knee, or the knee locking or getting stuck in one position.

The Treatment
Initial treatment focuses on rest and applying ice to the affected area. 

7. Achilles Tendonitis

The Achilles tendon is a band of tissue that connects the calf muscle to the heel. Injury to this tendon may cause it to become inflamed (Achilles tendonitis) or torn.

The Causes
Achilles tendonitis can be caused by tight calf muscles, lots of uphill running, weakness of the calf muscles, increased intensity of training, over pronating and/or poor running mechanics.

The Symptoms
The main symptom of Achilles tendonitis is pain at the back of the heel or just above the heel.

The Treatment
Initial treatment of Achilles tendonitis focuses on rest and ice to decrease pain. 

If symptoms do not resolve within seven days, consult with our running experts to discuss the possible need for a consult with a sports medicine physician, referral for physical therapy or discussion to make changes to training.

8. Calf Strain

A calf strain is an injury of the muscle fibers or tendon of the calf muscle on the back of the lower leg below the knee. These tissues either become stretched or torn. 

The Causes
A calf strain commonly occurs during a forceful push off of the toes. This commonly occurs during running and jumping activities.

The Symptoms
A calf strain would cause immediate pain in the back of the lower leg. Runners may even feel or pop or a snap. It is also common for the calf muscle to be tender to the touch.

The Treatment
Initial treatment of a calf strain focuses on rest and ice to decrease pain. 

If symptoms do not resolve within seven days, consult with our running experts to discuss the possible need for changes in training, a consult with a sports medicine physician or a referral for physical therapy.

9. Hamstring Strain

A hamstring strain is a stretch or tear of a muscle or tendon of the hamstring. People commonly refer to this as a “pulled” muscle. The hamstring muscle group is in the back of the thigh and allows the knee to bend.

The Causes
A hamstring strain usually occurs when the hamstring muscles are contracted forcefully during activities such as running or jumping.

The Symptoms
A hamstring strain often presents as a burning feeling or a popping when the injury occurs. Pain can be present when walking or when bending or straightening the leg. A few days after the injury, bruising may occur where the injury is located.

The Treatment
Initial treatment for a hamstring strain may include icing the affected area, elevation, wrapping of the leg in elastic bandaging for compression, or use of crutches if unable to walk properly.

If symptoms do not resolve within seven days, consult with our running experts to discuss the possible need for changes to training, a consult with a sports medicine physician or a referral for physical therapy.

10. Low Back Pain

Low back pain is any pain and/or stiffness in the low back.

The Causes
Low back pain is a common complaint with running due to the repetitive impact stresses that running puts on the body — especially if running form or muscular strength is not sufficient. Running can place three times one’s body weight in force through the legs to the lower back with each landing.

The Symptoms
Common low back pain symptoms include pain and/or stiffness in the low back region or legs. The pain may be constant or occur only with certain activities or movements. The pain may occur only in one area or it may spread to other areas. In more involved cases, pain may move into the legs.

The Treatment
Traditional treatment of acute low back pain has focused on rest, medication and ice.  Research now shows that best practice to treat acute low back pain is beginning a program of physical therapy focused on manual therapy and exercise as early as possible.

If low back pain persists for more than seven days without improvement, or if symptoms radiate down the legs, consider contacting a primary care physician and suggest starting physical therapy.

Our running experts can answer your questions and help determine treatment options. Call the Bellin Run injury hotline at (920) 430-4595.