5 common running injuries - how to avoid and treat them!


Many of our patients are surprised to learn that osteopaths can help with running injuries. However, as experts in muscle and joint injuries we can help speed up recovery from most running injuries and give advice on prevention of future problems.

With the London Marathon almost upon us and an increasing number of our patients taking up running we thought this would be a good time to give you our top tips on avoiding and treating running injuries.

1.     Runners Knee

What is it?

This is a common injury with pain felt in and around the knee cap (patella bone). It is caused by irritation in the cartilage underneath the knee cap or in the tendons around it or both. As with most running injuries there are a number of factors that can cause the problem. These include muscle imbalance in the legs leading to the knee cap being pulled out of alignment. It can also be affected my poor muscle tone in the hips and core stability. A sudden increase in the amount of running can also overload the knee joint.

What can you do?

Firstly increase your rest days and reduce your mileage. Don’t run through the pain. Avoid downhill running and use an incline on a treadmill as uphill running helps strengthen the gluteal muscles. Cycling, cross training and swimming all help maintain fitness without stressing the knees. Ice the knee cap after running. Strengthening the quads and stretching the IT Band (the band of connective tissue that runs along the outside of your thigh) can help if there is a problem with how the knee cap tracks. Lateral sidestep exercises and squats will also help.

2.    Plantar Fasciitis

What is it?

This is a common running injury affecting the sole of the foot and heel. The plantar fascia is a band of connective tissue that runs along the arch of your foot between the heel and toes. Plantar fasciitis occurs when this connective tissue becomes inflamed. Patients feel a dull ache in the sole or heel of the foot aggravated by standing and often worse in the morning. It can be caused by problems with foot mechanics such as high or low arches or over-pronation (foot rolling in). It can also be caused by muscle imbalance in the back and legs, poor footwear and increased levels of running.

What can I do?

This can develop into a chronic problem that can be difficult to shift. In extreme cases it can lead to the growth of bony spurs in the heel bone that may need surgery. Full recovery can take 3 to 6 months and sometimes a complete break from running is necessary. Rolling your foot over a rolling pin or frozen water bottle helps break down the tension in the tissues and reduce inflammation. Cross one leg over the other and pull your toes up to stretch the fascia. Stretch out calf muscles if tight and improve your core stability. Choose running shoes with the right amount of support for you arches.

3.    Achilles Tendonitis

What is it?

The Achilles tendon is a large tendon that connects your calf muscles to the back of your heel. When strained it becomes inflamed causing acute pain when running or even walking. It may also cause a feeling of tightness or stiffness in the calf and ankle.

What can I do?

If you have any pain during running then stop – don’t try and run it off. Take a break from running for a few weeks until the pain has gone. In the early stages use ice 3 to 5 times a day for 5 to 10 minutes each time. Gently stretch the calf muscles. When the pain starts to ease build up strength in the calf muscles by standing on a step with your heels just over the edge. Go up on tip toes before lowering your heels down just below the step. Do 10 to 20 reps at least once a day. Swim, cross train or cycle to maintain mobility and fitness levels.

4.    IT Band Syndrome

What is it?

The Ilio-tibial band (IT Band) is a thick band of connective tissue much like a tendon that runs along the outside border of your thigh. It connects your hip muscles to your knee. When you run your knee joint straightens and bends causing the IT band to rub against your thigh bone (femur) causing friction. Too much of this can lead to inflammation and pain. It is commonly caused by a big increase in running but will also be affected by muscle tightness or weakness in the thighs, hips and back. Other factors include differences in leg length and a long running stride.

What can I do?

Take a few days complete rest from running then reduce your mileage for a week or two. The IT Band is difficult to stretch but using a foam roller to break down tension can help. Stretching the gluteus muscles can also be beneficial. Trying to shorten your running stride by 5 or 10% may help by reducing the impact on the IT band and knee.

5.    Shin Splints

What is it?

This is pain in the front of your shin and is known medically as Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome. The muscles in the shin become overworked and tight causing them to tear or pull on the outer surface of the shin bone (tibia) causing inflammation and pain. They are normally the result of doing too much running too quickly.

What can I do?

Rest is again the first step. Take a week off running then return with a reduced mileage. Ice can also help reduce the inflammation. Make sure you have good running shoes with appropriate cushioning and support. For more chronic cases a prolonged break from running is recommended


There are of course many other injuries that runners pick up from muscle strains to stress fractures. Almost all of them will respond to the right combination of rest and rehabilitation. In general be guided by pain when running or working on rehab – if it hurts - ease up or stop. If your injuries don’t respond or get worse it may be helpful to get an osteopathic assessment. In addition to being experienced in diagnosis and treatment of running injuries we can also assess other factors that could be contributing e.g. posture, problems with the spine and pelvic mechanics.

For more specific information or advice or to find out how osteopathy can help you please check out our website.