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Aches, Pains and Strains...Oh My!

Welcome to our first Blog post! Summer is in full swing, and we Minnesotans are taking advantage of every nice day...and sometimes suffering the consequences of being so active.

This posting is dedicated to common injuries runners suffer as they train for the many events that take place in the summer and fall. ( don't have to be an athlete to suffer from these conditions.) So read on to learn more about Plantar Fasciitis, Iliotibial Band Syndrome, Achilles Tendinitis, and Shin Splints.

1. Plantar Fasciitis

The plantar fascia is the fibrous connective tissue that runs from the heel to the toes of the foot and supports the arch. When injured, often through repetitive use, the fascia becomes weak, swollen and inflamed, sometimes leading to incredible pain and dysfunction. Causes include walking, standing or running for long periods of time, feet being aligned inward or outward, very high or flat arches, abnormal gait, wearing shoes that are ill-fitting or worn out, tight Achilles tendons or calf muscles, and other conditions, such as being overweight, having diabetes, arthritis, etc.

Prevention is key! Always wear proper fitting shoes (make sure to shop at a store with well-trained staff), and avoid walking barefoot. Corrections can be made to feet turning inward or outward by utilizing orthotics - both over the counter and custom-made ones are available. Have your chiropractor check out the alignment of your pelvis, which affects gait. Alleviate tightness by stretching your feet and calves often (foam and stick rollers are great for this!), and roll your arches over a golf ball or frozen water bottle.

If you already have this condition, we can help. Our chiropractors, massage therapist, and acupuncturists have lots of tools to treat this condition, including providing adjusting, myofascial work, educating on self care, stretching and strengthening exercises, Graston (using stainless steel tools to perform soft tissue work) and release techniques, and providing pain management.

2. Iliotibial Band (ITB) Syndrome

Once again, we are dealing with a band of connective tissue at the heart of a painful condition, However, this band runs from the hip to the knee on the outside of the leg. Symptoms are caused by the irritation and inflammation developed due to the repeated rubbing of the band as the knee and hip are repeatedly flexed. Hence, this is an overuse injury as well, with pain most often felt at the lateral knee (and sometimes near the hip too).

Pain with this condition is often exacerbated by physical activity, especially running or cycling. Increased pain is often noted with running hills, or walking up or down stairs. Causes include tightness in the ITB, abnormal gait, weakness of certain muscles (often gluteus medium), bowleggedness, and increased inward turning of the feet.

Once again, myofascial work is key - lots of stretching, foam and stick rolling, Graston treatments, release techniques, etc. Make sure to wear proper fitting shoes, and utilize orthotics to correct any foot issues. Gait analysis with a professional can be beneficial. Exercises should be performed to address strength and endurance of the hip and knee musculature, as well as the back and abdominals (core), with special emphasis on the hip abductors (side-lying leg raises, clamshells, etc.).

3. Achilles Tendinitis

The Achilles tendon is the band of tissue that connects the calf muscles at the back of the lower leg to your heel bone. This is another overuse injury that can begin with just a mild ache (in this case, felt at the back of the leg or above the heel), but develop into a serious complaint, with severe pain felt after prolonged running, stair climbing or sprinting.

This condition is more commonly found when there are flat arches in the feet and abnormal gait, a person is overweight, when ill-fitting, worn out, or high-heeled shoes are worn for long periods of time, if there are sudden and rapid increases in training, training on hilly terrain, or there is too much tightness within the calf muscles.

Break out the foam rollers again for this condition, because you are going to need it! Myofascial work and stretching through the calf and Achilles is incredibly important, as well as proper fitting shoes, correcting foot and gait issues, and strengthening your lower legs. Be mindful of how you increase your training - don't do too much, or go too hard, too fast. Your chiropractor can really help this condition as well by applying adjustments, therapies to reduce inflammation, and performing myofascial techniques to the area.

4. Shin Splints

This dreaded condition has probably struck most athletes at some point, whether new to an activity or a seasoned vet. "Shin Splints" is a catch-all term that can encompass several conditions that produce pain in the shin area, but it most often applies to tender, inflamed and/or swollen muscles in the anterior lower leg area. This is known as Tibial Stress Syndrome, and its very common in new athletes, or runners who amp up their training volume and intensity.

Theories on cause include: small tears in the muscle, an inflammation of the periosteum (a thin sheath of tissue that wrap around bone), an inflammation of the muscle, or a combination of some of the above. Flat feet, high arches or abnormal gait can be causes, as well as weakness in the muscles that stabilize the hip, inadequate stretching and ill-fitting shoes. Sometimes running cambered roads, always running in the same direction on a track, or running on uneven terrain can be a factor.

Foam and stick rolling, stretching and myofascial work are needed for both prevention and treatment (are you picking up on the trend here?!). Ice massage, compression sleeves, orthotics, and proper fitting shoes are very helpful as well. It's also important to cross-train in a sport or activity that places far less impact on your shins, such as swimming or cycling.

Whether you are a high level athlete, running for fun, or exercising for improved health and wellness, injury prevention and treatment is key to keeping us moving and enjoying these all-too-brief summers in Minnesota! Questions? Don't hesitate to call us or email us.

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