Learn about the top 6 running injuries women tend to experience and how to prevent them.
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Most runners will get injured at some point during their athletic training. While women and men get injured at about equal rates, some injuries are more common in women than men. Today we’ll look at the top 6 women-specific running injuries and how to prevent them.
Breakdown of Women-Specific Running Injuries
According to a 2019 study in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, women running injuries were predominantly knee-related. Generally speaking, knee injuries in women are more common than men. While 40% of women runner injuries were knee-related, only 31% of men reported knee injuries.
On the other hand, men seemed to show more ankle-related injuries than women at 26% (compared to women at 19%). This may mean that men are more likely to get ankle injuries, while women are slightly more prone to knee injuries.
Common Women-Specific Running Injuries
Runner’s Knee (Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome)
The most common runner injury for women is runner’s knee. Runner’s knee occurs when tissues or tendons become inflamed in or around the kneecap.
This typically arises because of overuse, improper form, knee dislocation, arthritis, bad foot support or weak thigh/hip muscles.
There is some evidence that this injury is more common in women because of greater hip rotation, but the theory has yet to be confirmed.
Often runner’s knee can be prevented in a few ways. First, by stretching before your workout to ensure that your muscles are warmed up for intensive exercise. In addition, you should be sure to wear good running shoes that keep your gravity balanced.
You should also use good form, with your knees bent and leaning forwards. If you’re not sure about your form, it’s also a good idea to get a personal trainer to correct any misalignments in your form.
Achilles Tendon Injury
Another common injury is in the Achilles tendon. Your Achilles tendon runs from your heel up your calf.
This tendon can tear and cause pain, especially near your ankle. Your tendon can snap for several reasons, but the most common ones are overuse, too intensive exercise, uneven surfaces and poor footwear.
To prevent Achilles tendon injuries, you should stretch your calf muscles often, especially before running.
You should also vary running with other exercises so that your ankle gets a break from high-impact sports. Finally, be sure you’re not doing “too much, too soon.”
Your workouts should build slowly in intensity, so that your body has time to strengthen and adjust. Don’t overdo it.
Shin Splints (Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome)
Shin splints are another common injury for women. Shin splints refer to pain felt along the shin bone (the front lower leg).
Generally, this includes swelling, tenderness and pain. Similar to Achilles tendon injuries, this pain occurs because of intensive exercise, uneven surfaces, weak calf muscles or flat feet.
To prevent shin splints, it’s important to avoid overexercising or doing too much, too soon. Otherwise, your shins can’t keep up with the level of exercise you’re doing.
At the same time, check your footwear. You may need insoles or arch support for maximum comfort.
Finally, you may consider doing strengthening exercises in order to better stabilize your legs and ankles for pain-free running.
Plantar Fasciitis is pain that results from inflamed tissues that run from your heel along the bottom of your foot.
You’ll feel stabbing pain when you take steps, especially in the morning. This condition can arise because of poor footwear, flat feet, tight Achilles tendons or improper form.
To prevent plantar fasciitis, first make sure your footwear isn’t contributing to the problem. Avoid high heels and wear runner’s shoes with good arch support. Avoid going barefoot as well.
You may also need new shoes.
If yours are worn out, get new ones. You should also stretch your feet muscles, Achilles tendon and calf muscles regularly, as well as cross-train with low-impact exercise (such as swimming).
ITBS (Iliotibial Band Syndrome)
ITBS (Iliotibial Band Syndrome) is the inflammation of the IT band, which runs along the outer thigh, from the hip to the shin.
Pain is most often felt in the knees. ITBS occurs because of overuse, especially in long-distance runners. It can also result from poor form, which causes imbalances or misalignments in the body.
To prevent ITBS, it’s key to stretch the surrounding muscles. You should build up your strength in your hips, knees, legs and lower back in order to create a support system for your IT band.
Make sure you’re using good form as well, and that your running gait is well-aligned to avoid imbalances.
A stress fracture is a general term for a crack in your bone. This happens when muscles can’t support you, so they transfer the stress to your bone, often in your lower leg and foot. This is especially common in repetitive motion sports like running.
The underlying cause is usually intensive exercise, uneven surfaces, poor footwear or overuse stress.
To prevent stress fractures, you should strengthen the surrounding muscles so that your bones don’t receive excess stress. You should also check your footwear in case imbalances are adding stress to your foot.
Finally, your diet can play a huge role in stress fractures. Low bone density and poor nutrition can cause your ankle to be weak.
Follow a nutrient-rich diet so that your muscles are better supported.
At the end of the day, you can’t always prevent injuries. However, by following these tips for the most common injuries, your body will be in top shape and less likely to become injury-prone.
You can also try out some leg-building exercises here that are good for preventing all these injuries.
If you continue to struggle with runner’s injuries, you may also consider seeing an expert chiropractor.
A chiropractor can look more closely at the injured area and prepare customized exercises to heal and strengthen the area.
We hope with these tips, you’ll run injury-free!
About Dr. Brent Wells
Dr. Brent Wells, D.C. is the founder of Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab and has been a chiropractor for over 20 years. His practice offers top-rated chiropractic care, physical rehab therapy, and massage therapy for the residents of Anchorage and Juneau.
Dr. Wells is also the author of over 700 online health articles that have been featured on sites such as Dr. Axe and Lifehack. He is a proud member of the American Chiropractic Association and the American Academy of Spine Physicians. And he continues his education to remain active and updated in all studies related to neurology, physical rehab, biomechanics, spine conditions, brain injury trauma, and more.