Osteopathy and the prevention and care of running injuries

Nicola Sturzaker of Streatham Village Osteopaths on osteopathy, running and bitter personal experience.

I’m just recovering from a running injury myself. I’m a terrible patient, so take it from me, prevention is better than cure, and taking care with rehabilitation after a sports injury will reap benefits in the long run.

You can split running injuries into two kinds: ‘trauma’ injuries that result from a trip or a fall in a training run (which is what I got), and ‘overuse’ injuries, which come from relentlessly overburdening yourself – each time you run, you are testing your body, and over time this can lead to, for example muscular tendon injuries (tendonitis). These overuse injuries can occur because the runner has innate issues, such as hyper-mobility (too much flexibility) or hypo-mobility (too little), or more prosaic-sounding issues such as differences in leg length, fallen arches or flat feet.

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(and no, those aren’t my legs)

The injuries that come from over-use are more preventable. they can come from over-training (or inadequate rest), unsuitable, or worn-out running shoes, running on unsuitable surfaces (too hard, too sloping, perhaps) or coming back from injury quickly. And yes, I have put myself through pretty much all those. The desire/need for fitness, especially if you’re running competitively, can lead to some poor decisions about training.

So if you do start to feel niggles or ‘small’ injuries, then stop. Small injuries can become big ones pretty quickly. Give yourself a rest and if it eases naturally, then get back to your training – but do so cautiously. If the injury doesn’t go away, or re-occurs when you start running again, then visit an osteopath or a sports injury specialist. We can help diagnose the problem – if it’s an innate problem, we can work on the structural issues that can help deal with it. If it’s acquired, we can help there too, and offer advice (from bitter experience!) on rehabilitation. And we can empathise with your frustration.

And finally, if you’re a runner, then you ought to know the basic rules, but you may tend to forget or ignore them. But remember:

– Warm-up. Especially in cold weather. Getting the muscles warmed up can reduce your risk of muscle injury and tendonitis. And keep warm – in cold weather, wear layers – you can alwys take a layer off if you get hot.

– Keep hydrated. The hydration issue can be over-stated if you’re not running (we don’t need to plough through litres of water if we’re sat at a desk), but if you’re training, especially in hot weather, keep drinking water to reduce your chance of injury from heat exhaustion or dehydration.

– Replaces your running trainers after around 500 miles, but break the new ones in gently. Don’t take them out of a box and run a marathon (especially if it’s a new brand). Get used to your trainers to prevent blisters and changes to your running gait which can cause problems.

– Vary your terrain – run on- and off-road  to vary the strains on your body

– If you’re going for distance running, gradually build up that distance – and give yourself rest days. If your legs are always tired, you’re over-doing it.

– And if you run at night, make sure you’re highly visible. The worst running injuries of all can be caused by a car.