From the January 2013 issue of Runner’s World
Tuning in to the whispers of your body’s early warning signs means you can head off injuries at the earliest stage
By Jonathan Thompson
The whisper: “A bruise-like pain underneath your kneecap, particularly when going downstairs or crouching low to pick something up,” says physiotherapist Paul Hobrough.
What it’s telling you: PATELLOFEMORAL PAIN SYNDROME (PFPS)
‘Runners’ knee’ in the less medical parlance: irritation on the undersurface of your kneecap. Ignored, it can lead to tendinopathy, and eventually the operating theatre. Long term, warns physiotherapist Simon Lack, it’s a recipe for arthritis. Obviously not a tasty treat in anyone’s book.
Stop it becoming a scream: Nike Master trainer Sonja Moses says the very first thing you should do here is start taking daily Glucosamine supplements – ideally 2000mg – which will repair and strengthen the cartilage within your knee. For more immediate effect, once you’ve had your gait re-analysed and the support in your running shoes checked (a classic cause of knee problems), Lack recommends doing single leg bridges. These will strengthen the ilotibial band (ITB), which holds your knee (and all its connected cartilage) in place. “From the bridge position, raise your bad leg up as far as you can, while keeping it straight,” he says. “Now, still as straight as possible, lower to the ground and repeat for 20 reps.”
The whisper: When you step out of your post-run shower, watch for a “niggly, puffy pain inside the front of your shin”, says Hoborough. “Your body will have had enough time to cool down and stop producing endorphins, so that’s when it will realise there’s something wrong – particularly with the action of stepping out of a shower or bath.”
What it’s telling you: MEDIAL TIBIAL STRESS SYNDROME
More commonly known as shin splints, this is a painful condition that can result in stress fractures if not properly treated.
Stop it becoming a scream: The worst thing you can do is rest this one. “Shin splints occur when the muscle is weak, so you need to strengthen it,” says Hobrough. “Toe raises are perfect. Standing with your back flat against a wall, step roughly a foot away from it, keeping both of your legs straight and together. Now, with your heels on the floor, raise both sets of toes up and down simultaneously.” Start with three sets of 20 reps, always last thing at night to give your muscles maximum recovery time afterwards (and to mischievously disrupt your other half’s bedtime reading).
The whisper: “You find it painful to put your heel down, and feel like you want to walk on tiptoes,” says Hobrough. “You might also hear a slight creaking sound.”
What it’s telling you: ACHILLES TENDINOPATHY
A swelling, stiffness and weakness in your all-important achilles tendon. This injury deteriorates very quickly and can result in a tear.
Stop it becoming a scream: Sadly, neither high heels nor WD40 are the answer here. Instead, Hobrough recommends the preventative power of baked beans: “Slow, heavy, eccentric calf raises are the answer – but the key is applying more than your bodyweight while you do them,” he says. “Put three or four cans of baked beans in a backpack, put it on your back, then stand on your toes on the edge of a step. With your good foot off the ground, take six to 10 seconds to lower the heel of your bad foot down as far as you can.” After three sets of 15 reps, wash the baked beans down with an energy drink. Legendary British running coach Bud Baldaro believes achilles injuries are often the result of long-term muscle dehydration, particularly a lack of magnesium and potassium.
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