This article is going to discuss some of the most common injuries the running community faces, plantar fasciitis and shin splints. I have had my fair share of dealing with both of these issues, and believe me they are far from pleasant.
Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common causes of heel pain. It is the inflammation, irritation or tearing of the plantar fascia tendon. The plantar fascia tendon is a thick band of connective tissue that runs the length of the foot to connect the calcaneus and the proximal phalanges. This band is responsible for supporting muscles of the foot and the arch. It continually contracts and lengthens as the foot moves and helps the foot absorb forces. The main symptom to watch out for is stabbing pain in the bottom of the foot near the heal. The pain is typically the most intense with the first few steps after rising. The acute pain can be triggered by extended periods of standing. The cause of plantar fasciitis is repetitive stretching and tearing of the tendon. Under normal circumstances, the plantar fascia acts as a bowstring, supporting the arch and absorbing shock. When overused it can become inflamed, irritated and even slightly torn.
There are risk factors for plantars fasciitis. Long distance running, ballet dancing and aerobic dancing are very common contributors. Being flat-footed, high-arched or having abnormal walking patterns can affect weight distribution resulting in increased stress on the plantar fascia. To diagnose plantar fasciitis doctors will examine the foot to pin-point the source of the pain. Typically there is no need for further testing, but in some cases the doctor may order an X-Ray or magnetic resonance imaging. The most common treatment is rest and over the counter pain medications such as ibuprofen or naproxen, which also reduce inflammation, along with icing. I’m very flat footed, so my plantar fascia is easily inflamed, and typically results in painful charley horses. I really recommend rolling the ball of your foot with a lacrosse ball or a foam roller. Of course having supportive shoes are a must. I love wearing either Chacos or Brooks running shoes to make sure I am getting the support I need.
Shin splints is an umbrella term used to describe all leg pain below the knee, and can be confused with other conditions. Shin splints are very common in athletes, runners and dancers. They usually occur when you change your regimen such as adding extra mileage, speed training or changing training surfaces. The concept is simply too much too fast. If not taken care of shin splints can develop into stress fractures over time, which will put you out of commision for a while. To treat shin splint you are going to need to rest, and allow your body to recover. I recommend icing them, and trying to steer clear of any high impact exercise. Instead of running try biking or hopping on the elliptical for a lower impact cardio workout.
The main point is listen to your body! If you’re hurting badly then stop! I cannot stress the importance of not pushing through high intensity pain. You will eventually have an injury that could likely have been prevented.
Here are some links if you want to read more about either of these conditions.