One of the easiest sports to pick up, running is a fantastic way to stay in shape. It can also be done virtually anywhere and at any time of the day, individually or in a group. However, some care should be taken to avoid running injuries, such as knee pain and shin splints, especially when training for one of the many marathons taking place in Singapore.

“The key is to prepare your body, thereby reducing your risk of getting running injuries,” advises Ms Suelyn Chan, Principal Physiotherapist, Department of Physiotherapy, Singapore General Hospital (SGH), a member of the SingHealth group.

If you plan to participate in your first marathon, it’s best to take a treadmill stress test. “Upon getting clearance, you should start training with a distance that is within your tolerance, for example 1-2 km if you are a beginner runner, then gradually increase the distance by 500 m or 1 km daily until you achieve the targeted distance,” says Ms Chan.

It’s also useful for runners to learn about the symptoms and basic treatment of common running injuries. These include:

Knee pain

1. Runner’s knee (chondromalacia)

This form of knee pain occurs around the kneecap area. It is often caused by the kneecap being misaligned as a result of muscular imbalances in the thigh and hip area. This affects the gliding of the kneecap and may wear down the cartilage.

Basic treatment:

  • Ice the affected knee for 15 min after a run.
  • Taking gelatine supplements may help reduce the knee pai​n.
  • Stretching:
    • Iliotibial band - Stand with your right leg crossed behind your left and lean to the left, keeping your right foot pressed to the floor. You should feel a stretch along the outside of your right leg from the hip to the knee. (Repeat with the left leg.)
    • Quadriceps - Stand on one leg and raise the affected leg behind you, bending the knee. Pull the foot/heel to as close to your buttocks as possible.
    • Piriformis - Lie flat on your back, cross your right leg over the left forming a figure of 4. Bend the left leg at the knee bringing it as close to your chest as possible. Hold all these stretches for 10 to 15 sec and repeat 3-5 times. (Repeat with the left leg.)
  • Strengthening exercises:
    • Inner thigh - Lie on your right side, cross your left leg over your right so that you don't obstruct movement of your right leg. Lift your right leg off the supporting surface (ie. ground) as high as you can. (Repeat with the other leg.)
    • Hip muscles - Lie on your left side and lift your right leg above the level of your right hip and bring it behind you to a 30-45 degree angle. Hold each movement for 5-10 sec and repeat 15-30 times. (Repeat with the left leg.)

2. Jumper’s knee (patellar tendinopathy)

Although more likely to affect those that participate in jumping sports, jumper’s knee has also been known to affect runners. This type of knee pain is caused by repeated stress placed on the patellar (knee cap) or quadriceps tendon.

Basic treatment:

  • Ice the affected knee for 15 min after a run.
  • Stretch your quadriceps muscle.
    • Stand on one leg and raise the affected leg behind you, bending the knee. Pull the foot/heel to as close to your buttocks as possible and hold for 10 to 15 sec and repeat 3-5 times.
    • Strengthen your quadriceps muscle. Do knee extension exercises, lunges and wall squats.
    • For the first two exercises, do 8 to 15 reps for 3 to 5 sets.
    • For wall squats, do either reps or holds. For example, for 10 sec holding time, do 10 reps. For 20 sec holding time, reduce to 5 reps. And for 30 sec holding time, lower to 3 reps.

Shin pain / shin splints

1. Shin splints (tibial stress syndrome)

Shin splints, which is pain along the shin bone, are due to a muscle, tendon or bone-surface injury.

Basic treatment:

  • For immediate relief of shin splints, kneel with your heels together, toes flat on the ground. Sit back on your feet to create a soothing stretch in your shins.
  • Rest and allow several weeks of healing.

Read on to find out how to treat thigh and heel pain from running, and how to prevent running injuries.

Ref: S13