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How to Treat Common Running Injuries

Five of the most common running injuries are shinsplints, chondromalacia (runner’s knee), Achilles tendinitis, plantar fasciitis, and iliotibial band (ITB) syndrome. Stress fractures, which usually occur in small bones in the foot, leg or shin, also show up in runners who overtrain. Runners must constantly guard against blisters, strains, and other problems that can hinder their efforts.

Rapid increases in mileage — or intensity of workouts — can place a runner in the danger zone. That’s why sports medicine professionals refer to the vast majority of running injuries as “overuse injuries.” The good news is that most running injuries affect the soft tissue, meaning that the injuries are strains, as opposed to broken bones, and heal rapidly with simple treatment and rest.

The treatment methods listed below are commonly used on most of the injuries that you may encounter. Among the running set, RICE is the key word for dealing with injury. Here’s what that acronym stands for:

  • R is for Rest: Take time off! No dedicated runner likes downtime, but attempting to grit your teeth and train through a slight injury can, at best, hinder the natural healing process. At worst, the slight injury can become more serious and knock you out of running for weeks or even months.

  • I is for Ice: At the first twinge or hint of an injury, slap an ice pack on the hot spot. Just 15 or 20 minutes of the cold treatment will reduce inflammation. (Don’t keep the ice on much longer than 20 minutes in one spot because you can cause freezer burn to your skin.)

  • C is for Compression: For best results, wrap the ice pack right to your leg if it’s a hamstring or quadriceps muscle. Compression helps reduce swelling.

  • E is for Elevate: If possible, raise the injured area above your heart. Flop on the couch, an ice pack wrapped to the injured muscle, and prop the leg up on a couple of pillows.

If you don’t have an ice pack, try freezing some water in a small paper cup with a Popsicle-type stick. After it’s frozen solid, remove the ice from the cup and, using the pop stick as a handle, give your wounded area an ice massage for 15 to 20 minutes. A bag of frozen peas, wrapped tightly around a sore muscle, also works.

RICE is a good first counterattack choice for runners. It’s easy and cheap. But if after 48 to 72 hours of RICE (don’t cheat on the Rest part!) the injury isn’t responding (or seems worse), then seek professional medical advice.

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