The UK’s most googled running injuries (and how to fix them)

Rick Pearson
·5-min read
Photo credit: VioletaStoimenova - Getty Images
Photo credit: VioletaStoimenova - Getty Images

The increase in the number of runners over the past 12 months is reason for celebration. Our sport can make us happier, healthier and brainier– but it can also make us injured. Accompanying the surge in running during lockdown has come a surge in online searches for cures to running injuries. Over the past 12 months, queries such as ‘how to help shin splints’ were up 600 per cent, while ‘sore knee from running’ rose 400 per cent. Physiotherapist Richmond Stace and Olympian Ross Murray joined forces in a bid to discover the most popular injury search terms ­– and provide some answers as to how runners can go about addressing them.

‘Ankle support for running’ (up 250%)

For those wanting to know how you can support weak ankles when running, Murray’s advice is to strengthen them. ‘Using ankle supports only masks the issue,’ he says. ‘Completing 10-to 15-minute foot and ankle circuits three to four times a week is a great way to build strength, improve performance and prevent injuries.’

Stace agrees. ‘If you have weak ankles, you must find out why and address the reason. Typically, this includes training such as balance exercises, calf raises and static/dynamic postures. In addition to strengthening the muscles, balance work is essential, especially if you are a trail runner.’

Try these ankle-strengthening exercises.

‘Sore Achilles after running’ (up 250%)

If you’re among the legion of runners who’ve experienced Achilles pain, Stace advises you ask yourself a number of questions:

  • How many miles have I done in my shoes?

  • How sedentary am I before running?

  • Do I have a daily movement and stretching routine?

  • Have I just started running?

  • Have I increased my miles? Or changed terrain?

  • Am I unwell?

‘If you have soreness, your body is telling you to take care,’ he says. ‘Balance activity with rest.’

While there are likely to be specific practices and exercises to help, such as self-massage, regular movement and rest are all useful.

‘Pain is part of the way we protect ourselves. If we have an injury, there will be an inflammatory response. This is normal! Let this process proceed naturally to allow for healing. If the pain does persist, seek professional advice from a therapist.’

Murray adds: “[A sore Achilles] usually means you’re overloading the area; this is done by running too much or too hard. Consider cutting back the intensity of your training by 15 per cent until your Achilles doesn’t hurt. Then you can look to increase the intensity on a bi-weekly basis by 5-10 per cent.”

Murray also suggests icing the Achilles. ‘What you need is a bucket that you can fit your foot in… I’d recommend keeping it in there for around 12 minutes.’

‘How to help shin splints’ (up 600%)

‘There are many reasons why shin splints occur,’ says Stance. ‘Much emphasis is put on biomechanics, but this is just one of many potential factors. Only addressing footwear and foot position is like trying to make a cake with just an egg and a bowl.

‘Take a look at your training routine – is it too intense? Or is there a lack of recovery time? Shin splints can also be caused by the wrong running shoes, a sedentary work life, stress, ill health or even poor sleep.

‘The best place to start is with – you guessed it – rest! Consider seeking professional advice to discuss your training, health, lifestyle and other relevant factors. Then the best course of action can be determined as a route back to sustained running and performance.’

‘Lower-back pain after running’ (up 200%}

Stance says there are two common reasons for back pain after running: the way you run as a result of how your body moves, and having a pre-existing back problem.

The way your body moves is mainly impacted by lifestyle. If you spend time sitting for work, tightening up from stress, and then take that body into running, there is a greater chance of pain or injury. The question to ask yourself is: what body am I taking on this run?

‘Our bodies need regular, daily movement routines that bridge between the sitting time and the running time,’ he says. ‘As we age, the need becomes greater.

‘We also need to pay attention to recovery, including cool downs, stretching and rest time.’

Immediately after running, a handful of simple movements such as lumbar rolls, knees to chest and roll downs can be helpful. Breathing practices also help the recovery process by activating your parasympathetic nervous system – your body’s recovery state.

Try these back stretches.

‘Sore knee from running’ (up 400%)

Stace describes runner’s knee as ‘the pain in the knee associated with running. This can be during or after exercise. If the sensitivity builds, you can find the pain is increasingly noticeable during other activities such as walking, going up to down stairs and sitting.

If you’re suffering from a sore knee after running, a good recovery programme should include stretching, range-of-movement exercises such as knee circles, and strength training to build up the muscles that support the knee joint.’

Once your knee has started feeling better, you can look at a graded return to running. Again, consistency is vital here, as well as reviewing other lifestyle factors including sleep and stress.

The main takeaway for any running injury is to focus on recovery, stretching and a training intensity that suits your body. Make sure too that you’re taking adequate time to relax, unwind and get the right amount of sleep and nutrition. If the pain persists, always seek out professional, personalised advice.

For this research, Richmond Stace and Ross Murray collaborated with WholyMe, which creates organic, natural products designed to soothe everyday aches, pains and stresses: wholyme.com

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