Keep on running

Stuart Osborne

Whether it's the legacy of the Olympics or the prospect of the Brighton Marathon, running has never been so popular – you've only to step outside your door to see someone pounding the streets in fluorescent lycra. Physiotherapist, Stuart Osborne, from Spring Orthopaedics has some advice to help runners of all levels to keep on running.

It doesn't matter if you jog around the park or take part in marathons every weekend – there's no doubt that running is good for you. It helps cardiovascular fitness, controls weight and boosts self confidence. However, running can take its toll on your body and an injury is inevitable at some point in your running career. Minor ones such as strains and pulls usually get better by themselves – providing you rest properly – but more complex injuries need specialist advice. Here are some of the most common ones:

Shin splints describe painful inflammation in the shins usually caused through poor foot posture which leads to over activity of the muscles around the shin bone. It is best treated with rest, stretches and soft tissue massage, although you may also be referred to a podiatrist for a biomechanical assessment of your foot posture. If there is a fault, then orthotics – devices that fit in your shoes – can be used to correct it.

Runner’s knee or Iliotibial band (ITB) syndrome is a sharp ache in your knee which often gets worse when you run downhill. It’s caused by irritation of the ITB, the thick fibrous tissue which supports the outside of the knee and provides shock absorbing and force transference in the leg. It is commonly caused by over training, particularly on hills and hard surfaces, but it can be caused by a biomechanical fault too. Applying ice to the knee, resting and soft tissue massage are all effective, but you may also require a biomechanical assessment to find out if the way you move and bend your knees is the root of the problem.

Achilles tendinopathy is irritation of the Achilles tendon which presents as a very sharp pain in the back of your lower leg that will make you immediately stop running. The Achilles tendon is responsible for creating the push off in walking and running and can become inflamed easily by over activity or excessive training. It is best treated with rest, soft tissue massage and biomechanical alterations. In long standing cases surgical intervention is necessary to break down the inflammatory process and allow healing to occur.

Plantar fasciitis is a condition where the band of tissue that stretches from your heel to the bones in the middle of your foot becomes inflamed, making both running and walking painful. It is thought to be caused by repeated minor injuries which never get a chance to heal as a result of poor foot posture and inadequate footwear. It is very painful and needs rest and correct arch supports.

After running it is important to cool down and rest your legs to allow a successful healing response. Good post-running activities include ice baths, swimming and gentle cycling to help flush lactic acid from overworked muscles and encourage blood flow and fresh nutrients into the legs. Static stretching is very good for releasing any tight muscles. Probably the best form of recovery is a slice of cake while you relax back and think about the fun you had running and calories you’ve just burned off......