More Severe Injuries
Plantar fasciitis is heel pain caused by inflammation or a tear in the tissue on the bottom of the foot. You get plantar fasciitis from over-pronating (rolling your foot too far inward), from overly tight muscles and tendons in the feet and from overly tight calves (the muscles on the back of the lower legs). A sure sign of plantar fasciitis is extreme pain in the arch when you first step out of bed. Treatment includes RICE plus daily massage of the bottom of the foot either by hand or by rolling the foot over a golf ball (no tee required!) or a sturdy metal can (shaving cream is nice). Stretch your calves frequently and thoroughly. Stretch your feet by pulling back on your toes. Click here to see a drawing.
The Achilles tendon is the thick cord just behind the heel and ankle. When you run, it undergoes a lot of stress and can become irritated and painful. If your Achilles hurts when squeezed, take action pronto. Throw RICE at it immediately, and begin an exercise program to stretch and to strengthen the calves. Be sure to treat your Achilles tendonitis quickly and properly. A torn heel cord will lay you up for months.
If you notice a tenderness or pain on the front or inside edge of the shinbone-"tibia" to you folks acquainted with anatomy-you've got shin splints. This nagging condition often strikes when you begin a running program or change your regimen by adding more running. The cause is usually over-pronation due to poor biomechanics, fatigue or improper footwear. Treatment includes RICE, stretching of the calves and strengthening of the shin muscles.
Want an exercise to relieve shin splints? Lie on your bed, stomach down. Let your toes hang off the foot of the bed (that's the end toward the TV set!). Gently pull your toes toward your knees, squishing the mattress between your toes and the front of your shin. The mattress will provide just the right amount of resistance to strengthen the shin muscles.
If you experience inflammation and pain on the front of the knee, you may have developed runner's knee. It's caused by an imbalance of strength in your various leg muscles. As a result your kneecap goes wild and crazy and fails to track correctly when the knee is flexed and extended. Instead of gliding in its groove, it sways to one side (usually the outside) and rubs against the bone. Yikes! Treatment includes RICE and an exercise program aimed at strengthening the thigh muscles. Click here to see a drawing.
IT Band Syndrome
Another common knee injury occurs on the outside of the knee. It's called iliotibial (yes, that really is a word!) band syndrome-or IT band syndrome. The IT band extends from the hip to the outside of the knee and provides major lateral support for the leg. Because it runs across, and can rub against, the outside of the knee, it can become irritated during running. IT Band Syndrome is caused by running on slanted roads, wearing worn-out shoes, under-pronation or bowed legs. Treatment involves RICE and exercise which promotes stretching of the IT band. Click here to see a drawing.
Pain which shoots from the lower back and passes through the buttocks, down the back of the thigh and possibly to the foot. Causes include the load placed on the back by running, strength imbalances between the abdominal and back muscles along with inflexibility of the hamstring. Rest is an obvious treatment for sciatica, but you should also seek professional assistance. An ART (Active Release Therapy) specialist is the best bet.
Ball of Foot Pain or Numbness
If your toes hurt or feel numb, you may be suffering with Morton's Neuroma. Named for podiatrist T. G. Morton of Philadelphia, one of the first to develop a treatment for the condition, Morton's Neuroma is an inflammation of the common digital nerve between adjacent toes on the bottom of the foot. If you have Morton's Neuroma, you essentially have a pinched nerve between the toes resulting in an enlarged nerve. It is not a tumor or cancer as the name might suggest.
Morton's Neuroma flares up when the nerves are "caught" by the strong metatarsal ligament that holds the nerves together in a compartment. The area between the third and fourth toes is particularly susceptible to Morton's Neuroma because it's where two nerves in the foot meet. When the two nerves combine, they are typically larger in diameter than those going to the other toes. Above them is a metatarsal ligament that presses downward, which compresses the larger nerves, resulting in a pinched nerve. Again, rest is an obvious choice for treatment but you should also seek professional assistance. Your best choice is to find a podiatrist who specializes in running.
If you do get hurt, here's how to find a good running injury specialist:
Like all runners, you have a variety of medical care needs, from normal health maintenance and treatment to specialty care for serious running injuries. The medical professionals who treat you must understand your mind-set. This includes your motivations and compulsions. They must also know the mechanics of running. As you look for medical assistance, you know one thing for sure: When you ask for advice, the one answer you don't want to hear is "stop running." A growing resource for finding a sports medicine professional as well as information about your injury is the Internet. Investing some time in learning more about your particular running injury and professionals available in your area can ensure that you get the most out of your office visit.