The Runner's Guide to Muscle and Joint Pain


Many runners often deal with muscle and joint pain that can negatively impact their performance. In severe cases, they may keep you from running altogether.

Fortunately, you can reduce your risk of suffering a serious injury by identifying a muscle or joint issue from the beginning. There are seven injuries, in particular, that runners need to be concerned about.

muscle and joint pain

Runner's Knee

Cause of pain: Runner's knee (chondromalacia) is the irritation of the cartilage located on the underside of your kneecap (the patella). This cartilage can become damaged when your knee is overused.

Recommended treatment: Rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE). Consider physical therapy, stretching, and strengthening exercises.

Achilles Tendon Pain

Cause of pain: Inflammation or a rupture of the tendon at the back of your heel. Heel stiffness, tenderness, and swelling are common. Achilles tendon pain can be caused by the overuse or the overextension of the tendon.

Recommended treatment: Rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE). Take pain relievers if necessary and consult your primary care physician for medical advice.

Hamstring Strains

Cause of pain: Hamstring strains occur when one of the three muscles running along the back of your thigh become overloaded. This can happen when you don't warm up before exercising or the muscles at the front of your thigh are tight. You may experience tenderness, bruising, and pain in the back of the thigh or lower buttock.

Recommended treatment: Rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE). Take pain relievers to reduce inflammation. If recommended by your physical therapist or doctor, practice stretching and strengthening exercises.

Plantar Fasciitis

Cause of pain: Your plantar fascia, the ligaments that connect your heel to the front of your foot, act as shock absorbers. When you put too much pressure on your feet, you can cause damage to these ligaments. You may experience a stabbing pain near your heel.

Recommended treatment: Rest and ice applications can help to reduce inflammation. Stretching exercises can also reduce pain. Talk to your doctor if you continue to experience pain.

Shin Splints

Cause of pain: Microtears in the bone and muscle tissue of the shin. These microtears are caused by overuse. You may experience lower leg pain after running.

Recommended treatment: Rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE). Strength training is also recommended. Physical therapy may be necessary.

Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS)

Cause of pain: ITBS is caused by the thigh tissue rubbing against the thigh bone due to muscle tightness. You may experience hip and knee pain when running.

Recommended treatment: Rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE). Physical therapy and corticosteroid injections are recommended. In severe cases, surgery may be needed.

Stress Fracture

Cause of pain: Stress fractures are tiny fractures in the bone that are caused by repetitive force and overuse such as repeatedly jumping up and down.

Recommended treatment: You may need a walking boot, crutches, or brace to reduce the pressure placed on the affected bone.

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