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Knee pain and other running injuries 

Running injuries can affect anyone, from experienced runners who push themselves hard, to beginners whose muscles are not used to running.

Below are five of the most common running injuries.

1. Knee pain

Knee pain, also called runner’s knee, can have many causes, such as swelling under the kneecap. During your run, you may develop pain at the front of the knee, around the knee or behind the kneecap. The pain may be dull or it could be sharp and severe.

To help knee pain at home, apply ice to the knee and stretching. Hold ice (try a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a damp tea towel) on the painful area for around 20 minutes a few times a day. Never put ice directly on your skin.

To stretch the area, try lying on your side with your bad leg on top. Bend your top leg so that your foot goes back towards your bottom, then hold it there with your hand and keep both knees touching. Hold the stretch for at least 45 seconds, breathing deeply and feeling the stretch in the thigh. Repeat this around six times a day.

If the pain is severe or the knee is swollen, see your GP straight away. If your knee pain is not severe, stop running and get it checked by a GP or physiotherapist if the pain doesn’t go away after a week. They can also recommend stretches or exercises to help you recover.

2. Achilles pain

The Achilles tendon is the tough, rubbery cord at the back of the ankle that links the muscle to the bone. Regular running can cause wear and tear to the tendon over time.

You may have pain and swelling at the back of the ankle or heel. The pain may be minor but continuous, or it could be sudden and sharp. It may be worse first thing in the morning.

To treat Achilles pain at home, Andy recommends applying ice to the area if you can feel a lump there (never put ice directly on your skin). You can also gently massage the area with your fingers.

You could also try using heel wedges in your shoes. Get advice about this from a sports or running shop.

See your GP or a physiotherapist if you have Achilles pain that doesn’t disappear after three to four weeks. If you have a sudden, sharp pain, your Achilles tendon may have torn. See your GP straight away if this is the case.

3. Shin pain

Shin pain occurs on the front of the leg, below the knee. It’s often referred to as shin splints.

Runners are often aware of a dull pain in the shin but carry on running. However, this can cause increasing damage to the area, which can lead to a sudden sharp pain that stops you running altogether.

Pain can be relieved by applying ice to the area regularly for the first few days (never put ice directly on your skin). See your GP or a physiotherapist if the area is swollen, the pain is severe or it does not improve in two to three weeks.

4. Heel pain

Pain or swelling in the heel or bottom of the foot can occur if you suddenly start doing a lot more running, if you run uphill or if your shoes aren’t supportive enough or are worn out. The medical name for heel pain is plantar fasciitis.

Heel pain is often sharp and occurs when you put weight on the heel. It can feel like someone is sticking something sharp in your heel, or as if you’re walking on sharp stones.

Apply ice to the area. The best way to do this is to freeze a small bottle of water, then place it on the floor and roll it back and forth under your foot for about 20 minutes. Never place ice directly on your skin.

5. Muscle strains

The most common strains due to running are in the hamstring muscles (which run down the back of the thigh) or calf muscles. Strains often affect new runners, whose muscles are not used to running.

The pain of a muscle strain is often sudden and feels as if someone has kicked you in the area of your calf or hamstring.

Most strains can be treated at home. Stop running immediately and apply ice to the painful area for around 20 minutes a few times a day (don’t put ice directly on your skin). Keeping your leg elevated and supported with a pillow will help reduce swelling.