Dealing With Lower Leg Injuries and Working Through Them
Dealing with injuries is as big a part of exercising as, well---exercising! The ideal solution is to prevent injuries. While that's not always possible, this article will help you recognize some of the warning signs (and treatments) of lower leg exercise injuries.
Treatment of any soft tissue injury during the first 24-72 hours is important to offset any further injury and inflammation. The general rule of thumb is to use the R.I.C.E.R. principle (REST, ICE, COMPRESSION, ELEVATION, REFERRAL FOR MEDICAL ASSISTANCE).
Have you ever had achilles tendinitis? If not, then be grateful because you don't want this pain! Achilles tendinitis is a leading injury among exercisers. And, this injury can last for months or years if not treated.
Achilles tendinitis is an inflammation of the achilles tendon (the largest tendon in the body). The pain is felt just above the heel. The achilles tendon connects the two major calf muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus) to the heel bone (calcaneus) and it stabilizes your heel. Check out the anatomy of the heel area:
Common causes of achilles tendinitis are over-training (or a sudden huge increase in training load), cheap footwear, weak or tight calf muscles, a weak achilles tendon or an unstable ankle joint. Try to prevent this injury by increasing flexibility/strength in your calf muscles and stabilizing your ankle joint. A good flexibility exercise is the leaning calf stretch. And, there are several calf strengthening exercises such as calf raises and step-ups. Stabilize your ankle with one-legged exercises such as standing/stabilizing/hopping on one leg or step ups with stabilization.
Plantar Fasciitis is a common, painful injury that can go on for months. Plantar Fasciitis happens when the long, flat ligament on the bottom of your foot (Plantar Fascia) stretches too much, small tears develop and the ligament inflames (ouch!!)! Folks, this is serious pain!
Plantar Fasciitis usually develops over time. Many times, people continue to exercise when the condition first occurs. So, the condition worsens causing you to see you local doctor. As with all injuries, prevention is the best solution. WHENEVER YOU FEEL PAIN, IT IS A SIGN THAT SOMETHING IS WRONG! DON'T IGNORE IT!
Take these steps to avoid Plantar Fasciitis:
1) Keep your foot and ankle area flexible (including the Achilles tendon). Also, don't wear cheap or worn out shoes when you workout.
2) Vary your running workouts to avoid repetitive type injuries.
3) A sudden increase in the intensity or length of your workouts can cause injury.
4) Bad running mechanics (foot strike on the ground) can cause injury.
5) Repetitive running or walking on steep inclines or hills can bring on injury.
If you develop Plantar Fasciitis, try these steps and try to avoid the doctor's office:
1) Stop exercising or cut down your activity. Stretch and massage the calf area.
2) A better pair of shoes (with heel and arch support) could be the answer. A heel cup might also help.
3) Ice the inflamed area.
No pain, no gain is a myth! Pain during exercise is a signal that something is wrong!
Anterior Cruciate Ligament
A knee anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury is the most common injury affecting the knee joint. About 70% of all serious knee injuries involve damage to the ACL. And, about 80% of these injuries occur without any contact (i.e., jumping, landing, etc.). There are some training techniques you can use to lessen the risk of this injury. The knee ACL is located within the capsule of the knee and connects the thigh bone (femur) to the shin bone (tibia). Pictured below is a torn knee ACL:
Most ACL injuries occur when you decelerate, come to a sudden stop or land with improper technique while placing too much stress on the knees. You should dominate the hamstrings, hips and glutes during movement. The hips are often under-used when running. Another common mechanical breakdown is when the knees protrude far in front of the feet when decelerating, landing or squatting. This puts undue stress on the knees and often causes injury. Also, when the quadriceps are much stronger than the hamstrings, this can cause an ACL injury. Research has shown that the hamstrings play an important role in stabilizing the knee and protecting the ACL during deceleration.
Females injure their ACLs at six times the rate of males. Females demonstrate a lower hamstring to quadricep ratio. This means they typically have weaker hamstrings compared to males. They also demonstrate different muscle activation patterns compared to males. Females are typically quadricep dominant which means they use their strong quadriceps muscles and do not use their weak hamstrings enough.Strength training for females should be adjusted to adequately strengthen the hamstrings.
Lateral lunges and other lateral exercises teaches you how to move correctly while dominating movement with the hips.
You should also learn proper landing techniques using exercises such as vertical jumps, broad jumps and depth jumps.
Surgery will be necessary for a tear of the ACL. Usually, the tear is repaired by using a part of another healthy ligament to replace the damaged ACL. Rehabiliation for a torn ACL takes about 3-4 months and it takes 8 months or more before you can return to normal exercise activities.
Shin splints are much more than shin soreness. Shin soreness happens through overuse of your shins during training. Soreness can be treated with the R.I.C.E.R. principle (REST, ICE, COMPRESSION, ELEVATION, REFERRAL FOR MEDICAL ASSISTANCE). Shin splints refer to a medical condition called Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS).
Problems with your tibia (shin bone), fibula and the many muscles that attach to them cause shin splints. There are two main causes of shin splints:
1. Overloading - Exercising on hard or uneven surfaces bring on shin splints. Other common causes of shin splints are exercising with cheap shoes, exercising after a long layoff, a sudden increase in exercise intensity/duration and excessive uphill or downhill running.
2. Biomechanical Problems - The most common biomechanical problem is running with flat feet which lead to over-pronation (foot and ankle roll excessively inward). Poor running mechanics can also lead to shin splints. And, finally tight lower leg muscles contribute to shin splints.
Prevention of shin splints includes the following:
1. Quality footwear is a must. You may need the recommendation of a podiatrist and/or expert footwear saleman.
2. Proper warmup of your lower leg muscles and tendons before your activity.
3. Proper running mechanics will help prevent shin splints.
Treatment of shin splints include:
1. R.I.C.E.R. application during the first 24-72 hours of injury.
2. After 72 hours of ice treatment, use heat and deep tissue massage. You can also massage the shin area before and after exercise activity.
Prevention of shin splints is the best policy!
Mark Dilworth, BA, PES, CPT is a Certified Personal Trainer and former NCAA Division I athlete. Mark’s Fat Blaster Athletic Training System has been proven to give his clients the fit, sculpted and athletic-type bodies they want. Visit Mark’s sites:
Muscle Prodigy Products
- Basic Information
- Related Articles
- Most Read
- Just Published