As a chiropractor in Kelowna, there is a tendency to see certain ailments or injuries more at a given time of year. For me personally, since I tend to treat a lot of runners and triathletes as part of my practice, I notice a bump in the rate of running related injuries at this time of year. Runners are abnormally prone to injury, in fact somewhere between 65-80% of runners will experience a significant injury during the course of a year. Many people at this time of year increase their running distances either just for exercise or because they are training for some of the many races in the Okanagan. Believe it or not, marathon and ½ marathon programs for the Okanagan Marathon are starting even though that race is not until October.
Two of the most common injuries that I treat for runners are “shin splints” (properly termed MTSS) and disorders of the Achilles tendon and calf area. These are both injuries which may start with relatively mild symptoms but can quickly progress to a point where an athlete has to take time away from running in order to recover. Convincing a runner to take time off can be difficult as they are a stubborn bunch.
Shin splints is a common disorder and is really a misnomer. In the vast majority of cases it is actually a soft tissue injury affecting the front muscles of the lower leg. It often feels like a bony injury however, only in rare cases does it progress to something like a stress fracture. Most often, the symptoms are felt hours or the day after activity. If they progress, symptoms can become more intense and actually affect running. Initial treatment for this should include dedicated icing and strengthening of the calf muscles. Manual therapy such as Active Release Technique® can be very helpful in breaking up adhesions in the muscles. One newer self help technique that has become popular recently is the use of compression socks. Many athletes are now using these before, during and after running to help reduce symptoms. In my practice, I have sent several patients to local running stores and they have found a noticeable decrease in pain levels. The compression socks that are available are surprisingly stylish as well! If symptoms get to the point where they are affecting the actual activity, some time away and a consultation with a professional is required.
Achilles tendonitis and calf injuries are also quite common for runners. This is often the result of hard running or rolling terrain. Achilles injuries can be quite debilitating and, if not taken care of early, these injuries can progress into permanent tissue damage. Strengthening exercises for the feet, stretching of the calf muscles and increasing ankle mobility is recommended. With these injuries it is important to match your running style with proper shoes. More expensive shoes are not necessarily the solution. In fact, one study has shown that people with pricier footwear tend to get injured more!
Both of these injuries are manageable and with the right course of action, can be quickly resolved to keep you moving.
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Dr. Nimchuk is a chiropractor practicing at KLO Chiropractic Centre in Kelowna. He is also a full body Active Release Techniques® provider and fitness consultant. When not in practice he can be found running, biking, swimming and spending time with his family. He can be reached at www.klochiropractic.ca