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5 Most Common Running Injuries When Prepping for a Marathon and How to Detect Them

The Boston Marathon is April 16, and most of the registered runners are tapering their routines after months of training. Seasoned marathoners and first-timers alike should be aware of the injuries that can occur during the odyssey that is preparing for a 26.2.

“We see a lot of injuries as mileage increases,” said Wendy Winn, a physical therapist and director of Custom Performance, a New York-based facility offering physical therapy, performance and recovery services for runners. “Our goal is to try and get [runners] to their marathon if that’s their main goal.”

Here, Winn has compiled a list of the five most common long-distance running injuries and how to treat them.

Iliotibial band syndrome is commonly experienced as pain along the outside of the knee joint. Often caused by weakness in the supporting gluteal muscles or overpronation at the foot, this condition occurs when the knee is allowed to fall in toward the midline of the body. Common remedies include using a foam roller to work on the tissue itself, strengthening the gluteus medius muscle and checking your running shoes and gait.

Achilles tendonitis/tendonosis is chronic or acute (or a combination of both) pain at the Achilles tendon, the heel cord. This pain can come on gradually or suddenly and is often associated with calf tightness. Muscle tightness during marathon training is very common, and a good training program should incorporate stretching. Suggested exercises include stretching the calves and heel drops (like heel raises) off the edge of a stair.

Plantar fascitis is widespread among long-distance runners because they are constantly pounding on their feet. The first signs are pain in the heel, especially first thing in the morning. The most common causes are tight calves and improper or worn-out shoes. One can work the tissue with a lacrosse ball, along with stretching calves, ice and a night splint.

Hip pain, either in the front or side of the hip, is also very common. Hips are the driving force in a running gait and can become tight. Hips also become tight with sitting. So if you are a runner with a desk job, you will need to stretch all of your hip muscles, including your hip flexors and rotators. Glute strengthening is usually prescribed to prevent hip injuries and strengthening running form.

Low-back pain can result from the impact of running many miles. The spine sometimes absorbs the brunt of shock instead of the core and glute muscles. The hip muscles may also be tight, holding the pelvis in a certain position that can exacerbate this condition. Core and glute strengthening, as well as hip mobility and hands-on care, can be helpful for runners with low-back pain.

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