I have had three of the most common running injuries: plantar fasciitis, IT band problems and a stress fracture. I'm not a doctor, so I'll just tell you what each felt like I how I treated it. And also some really important stuff about your fascia.
Public Domain Image via PixabayPlantar Faciitis
Plantar fasciitis usually manifests as heel pain, but I felt it in my arches. I have flat feet, so maybe that is why the pain farther forward on my feet than usual.
I figured out my foot pain was plantar fasciitis because it hurt most when I first woke up. Like, I'd take a step out of bed and fall on the ground, which makes you feel totally young.
I treated my issue by rolling a golf ball on the bottom of my foot (excruciating painful, but effective) for a HALF-HOUR every night, foam-rolling my legs like nobody's business and icing my feet nightly for about twenty minutes.
I've also seen advice to roll a frozen water bottle, but I found the golf ball to be more effective for getting into the meat of my foot. You know it's working when you can actually feel (and sometimes hear, which is creepy) crackling and popping as the pain-causing crunchies get rolled out. The relief for me was immediate, though rolling hurt like hell.
Speaking of fascia (which is like a coating between your skin and everything else and where the crunchies manifest), I'm convinced it's the source of most of my back pain, as well. You should read the entire article I just linked. Go ahead. I'll wait.
I KNOW, RIGHT? The thought that all this water I've been drinking might not be getting where it needs to go because I've got kinks in my crunchy fascia is horrifying. The realization that the source of my foot pain could be a problem with my lats is mind-blowing, too, although an acupuncturist I saw for back pain ten years ago just shook her head and said, "all connected" every time I asked her anything.
The good news is that fascia problems are more easily fixed than any other problem in my experience. The bad news is that rolling your fascia is just no fun.
I'll be honest: Foam rolling is very uncomfortable, like deep-breathing uncomfortable, if you really need it. It also takes a long time to do it properly. I have to force myself. But ... it works. After I get the crunchies out, my pain just poofs away.Stress Fractures
Things that don't poof away: stress fractures. I got my stress fracture after my first half marathon. It felt like a nagging pain at the base of second toe for months, then I was at a Zumba class and jumped and landed and OW OW OW OW. That night, when I squatted to put away laundry, the pain took my breath away.
Since I'd been feeling that nagging pain for a while, I think I could've avoided the stress fracture if I'd taken more time off when I first noticed it. At the time, I was a month out from my first half and didn't want anything to interfere with me running that race, so I only took a week off. Dumb.
I spent my two weeks of boot time on an exercise bike a few times a week because I didn't want to lose all the fitness I'd gained over my training period. I could bike in the boot, even though I looked like a complete idiot.
I made a great recovery and was back to running (I started out walking and running for a minute, then walking and running for two, etc., on a plan given to me by my doctor) within a month. I very rarely have twinges in this area, but when I do, I take them seriously.
If you have a stress fracture, you can't run through it. You just can't. It's serious.IT Band Pain
My IT band started giving me a little trouble during my latest training period for a winter 10k that I just ran. Since the race distance was shorter, I wanted to work on speed and picked a training plan that had a bunch of sprint intervals in it.
At first, I thought I had a knee injury, but the more I researched, the more I suspected my IT band, which runs along the side of your leg. I pulled out the dreaded foam roller and rolled the side of my thigh and felt pain in my calf. ALL CONNECTED.
So I started doing special stretches for my IT band and foam rolling it every few days and for the most part, I'm okay, though my knee hurts on the outside if I sit for a long time and I need to stretch it daily.
Finally, I started making sure I was doing strengthening exercises for my butt, hips, hamstrings and inner thighs weekly. I do Ballet Beautiful, which is super boring but targets all the areas you need to be strong to support running.
I thought after I'd been running for a year, I'd no longer have any aches and pains because I'd be all super-fit, but it's just not like that. Part of it is probably my age -- I'm 41 -- but mostly I attribute any problems to my fascia and me being lazy with the foam roller and ice. When it comes to running, prevention is super key. Here are some more articles you might want to check out:
- 5 Most Troublesome Running Injuries
- The 7 Big Body Breakdowns
- The 5 Most Common Running Injuries and How to Fix Them
Rita Arens is the author of the young adult novel THE OBVIOUS GAME & the deputy editor of BlogHer.com.
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