According to sports medicine specialists, as many as 70% of all joggers sustain overuse injuries at some point during their lives. Because spring is the time most runners hit the jogging tracks, it is the most common time of the year for injuries to occur. Not because joggers are doing anything wrong, but because they are excited that warm weather has finally arrived and they can get out there and start running. Because of this they forget to take the necessary precautions to prevent injuries.
Knee injuries can occur to runners of any age. The most common injuries to knee joints are patello-femoral sprains, which is also known as "runner's knee," and iliotibial band (ITB) syndrome. Runner's knee happens when the patella (the kneecap) grates against the bottom of the thighbone. This motion can result in irritation and eventual erosion of the cartilage around the kneecap. ITB syndrome happens when the band of tissue running alongside the outer edge of the thigh bone is irritated by being repeatedly rubbed over the outside the knee.
Although these injuries are fairly common, they can be easily prevented or the effects lessened. Just because you are a jogger doesn't necessarily mean that you will eventually have runner's knee or ITB. Problems such as these are usually the result of overuse, or are caused by misalignment of the joint, and this is exacerbated by using improper jogging habits - all of which can be avoided. Here are a few tips for preventing knee injuries:
Buy the Right Shoes
You can't judge a shoe simply by name brand or cost or what some reviewer has to say about it. Cushioning and strength of design are important, but even more important is a shoe that fits your foot correctly. A doctor or podiatrist can help you find the best shoe for your foot, if you want expert advice. Some people have wide or narrow feet that require special sizes. Unfortunately, a lot of shoes today that claim to be "running shoes" do not offer enough support. Most of them have inserts that are supposed to provide support and cushioning, but your best bet is to remove the standard insoles and buy new ones that are more suitable for you.
Before any type of running, whether a jog around the block or a marathon, it is essential to warm your body for the intensive exercise you are going to subject your body to. It is also advisable to stretch before. Stretching is not only the best way to get your blood flowing and limber up before putting your muscles through a workout, but it can also help prevent shin splints, hip injuries, and foot cramps. Stretching is especially important in cool weather, when muscles are slower to limber up.
Mix it up
Many joggers tend to focus solely on one type of exercise - running. However, doing this makes it difficult to keep your body in balance. Runners who only run tend to develop very strong hamstrings (the muscles running along the back of the thigh) while not developing their quadriceps (the muscles that run along the front of the thighs). Adding workouts that strengthen the body's core will help develop both the front and back of the thighs, in addition to the muscles of the buttocks and hips.
Joggers need to pay attention to their nutrient intake in order to maintain joint health. For instance, experts recommend that adults take at least 1,000mg of calcium every day, either by supplement or by eating dark green vegetables and dairy products. Many runners also take glucosamine and chondroitin supplements. Although research has shown mixed results about these compounds, although they do provide relief to some people who have pain from osteoarthritis.
Don't Get Run Down
Joggers tend to want to start out running long distances once spring arrives. But being overconfident and excited can result in a too large workout load too soon. Because runners tend to be less active during the winter, it pays to start out slowly and build your way up to jogging the long stretches you were doing last summer and fall.
Jogging is a great way to get outdoors, get some fresh air, get your blood pumping, and get yourself in shape, and it doesn't cost a penny. But it can cost you irreparable joint damage if you don't take the time to prepare your body and mind, research the best shoes and exercises, and maintain a healthy diet and sleep routine.