4 lower leg injuries and how to fix them

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It’s no surprise that lower leg pain is a common complaint among runners, given the key role these muscles, tendons and bones play in running. The calf and Achilles tendon work together to generate the force that pushes you off the ground with each step, while the shin bone helps to absorb and dissipate the impact of every footfall. When these areas are weak, tight or overworked, they become vulnerable to injury. Here’s what to watch for and how you can keep your legs in top shape.

1/ Calf strain

Where does it hurt? Discomfort in your calf – anything from a twinge to a blast of sharp pain.

What’s going on? This occurs when tight or weak gastrocnemius or soleus muscles aren’t ready for the explosive effort required to push your body off the ground.

Treat it:

  • Don’t run
  • Ice the area for 15 minutes five times a day
  • Wear a compression sleeve for the first 48 hours post-injury
  • Elevate your lower leg above your hip during the first 48 hours
  • Anti-inflammatory medicine could help
  • If symptoms don’t improve, go to your doctor

 

Prevent it:


 

2/ Shin splints

Where does it hurt? Tenderness along your shin.

What’s going on? Different types of shin pain all fall under this catch-all term. Most shin splints occur when there is more stress on the tibia than it can handle.

Treat it:

  • Reduce mileage and cross-train
  • Apply ice for 15 minutes five times a day
  • Consider arch supports
  • If rest doesn’t work, stop running and see a doctor to rule out a stress fracture (see 4)

 

Prevent it:

  • Increase mileage gradually.
  • Work on your glutes and core to reduce the load on your shins.
  • Shorten your stride.
  • Get enough calcium and vitamin D

 

3/ Achilles tendinitis

Where does it hurt? Mild-to-severe soreness along the Achilles tendon.

What’s going on? Overuse injury from ramping up mileage or intensity too quickly. Weak or tight calves increase the risk.

Treat it:

  • Don’t run. Swim, cycle or try pool running
  • Ice the area for 15 minutes five times a day
  • Foam-roll and strength-train your calves
  • See a doctor if there’s a lump in the tendon (this is a sign of a calf tear)

 

Prevent it:


 

4/ Stress fracture

Where does it hurt? Tenderness along your shin.

What’s going on? Develops when the demand on the bone exceeds its ability to withstand the force.

Treat it:

  • Get medical care
  • Rest and stay off the leg as much as you can
  • Get enough calcium and vitamin D

 

Prevent it:

  • Increase mileage gradually
  • Make sure you are wearing the right running shoes
  • Strength-train, targeting your glutes and core
  • Shorten your stride and increase your cadence to put less stress on your shins