sports injuries

Common Cycling and Running Injuries: Prevention and Recovery

Contents:

  • Lower Back Pain
  • Achilles Tendonitis
  • Shin Splints
  • Saddle Sores
  • Plantar Fasciitis
  • IT Band Syndrome (ITBS)
  • Road Rash
  • Runner’s Knee

Common Cycling and Running Injuries: How to Prevent and Recover From Them

Cycling and running injuries occur when you push yourself too hard or when unexpected accidents happen; sometimes, it’s just bad luck. They are usually unpredictable, but it’s not impossible to prevent and recover from them by eliminating the risks and improving your knowledge regarding sports injuries.

If you’re a cyclist or a runner aiming to improve your level and performance while eliminating risks, here are some of the most common cycling and running injuries and the best ways to prevent and recover from them.

Lower Back Pain

Probably one of the most common sports injuries, lower back pain affects most, if not all, cyclists. Even individuals sitting hours a day experience lower back pain; what more if you’re riding a bike for hours and hours during training and competitions? According to a study published in the International SportMed Journal, lower back pain (LBP) appears to be a common overuse injury in cycling.

Spending hours of your day in the same sitting position causes lower back pain. It will hurt your muscles, especially the ones in your lower back and your entire spine. “The prolonged flexed posture that a cyclist maintains may lead to increased mechanical strain of the lumbar spine, causing LBP,” mentioned the study from ISMJ.

Prevention

To prevent or reduce lower back pain when cycling, force your body to correct its position and change your usual position from time to time. Push your back straight in the proper position based on the specific frame of your bicycle. Your bike fit affects every aspect of your physical health and performance. Aside from posture, also aim to improve your core muscles and mobility.

Recovery

If you’re experiencing lower back pain from cycling, running, or any other physical activity, take some time to lie down or rest. While at it, stretch your back and hips. You can do this traditionally or by using a foam roller. If the problem persists or worsens, it’s best to see a medical professional.

Achilles Tendonitis

Achilles tendonitis is one of the common running foot injuries athletes experience. The injury refers to the inflammation of the Achilles tendon, the largest tendon in the body that connects the calf muscle to the heel. This injury is often caused by repetitive and intense strain on the tendon—continuous contraction of calf muscles in cycling and intense running or high mileage. Basically, it appears when you overuse your muscles.

Prevention

Achilles tendonitis can be prevented by managing your activity or training level efficiently. Make sure to incorporate strength training into your cycling or running sessions, increase your activity level gradually, build your balance, invest in good footwear, and always warm-up and cool down.

Recovery

Some symptoms of Achilles Tendonitis include a dull pain in your lower leg, swelling of the Achilles tendon, and the feeling of limited motion when flexing your feet. If you have the majority of all of these symptoms, reduce your physical activities for a while and execute gentle stretching exercises. Severe Achilles tendonitis can lead to tendon tears, which may require surgery, so seek professional help if you feel like the pain and swelling are intolerable.

Shin Splints

Shin splints are also common cycling and running injuries, but more runners fall prey to them. It occurs more often in runners. A recently published study in the International Journal of Physiotherapy found that the current prevalence of shin splints among recreational marathons was high—about 69.5%; what more in competitive and large-scale marathons?

Shin splints refer to the pain along your tibia or shinbone in the inner parts of your lower legs. Runners often get this type of injury when they increase their running volume abruptly, especially on hard surfaces.

Prevention

Stretching and strengthening your leg and feet muscles are two of the best ways to prevent shin splints. Wearing the right athletic shoes also helps. But in order to completely prevent it and other leg-related injuries, gradually increase your running activities and intensity and train on soft surfaces when possible.

Recovery

Shin splints can be treated at home. For self-care, decrease your physical activity and reduce swelling through various means. Ice your shins, do some stretching exercises, and take pain medication only when needed. Shin splints are often not serious, but call a doctor when the swelling worsens or when the pain relievers aren’t working anymore after several weeks.

Saddle Sores

Saddle sores are prevalent cycling injuries. Since cycling causes friction, it can irritate your thighs, buttocks, and other intimate areas. Saddle sores vary, covering a range of skin conditions in the pelvic or genital region of cyclists. It can be any sore, inflamed, or bumpy area around these regions. Here are the most common types of saddle sores:

  • Chafing -The most common but the least serious type of saddle sores. When the skin of your thighs rubs against the bike’s seat, it can lead to redness, irritation, or chafing.
  • Ulcerations – Happens when the top layer of your skin, particularly in the thigh area, gets worn off from pressure or chaffing. They can become severe if left untreated with a bacterial infection.
  • Furuncles and folliculitis – These types of saddle sores involve hair follicles. Furuncles are boils around an infected hair follicle, while folliculitis is inflammation or infection in the same area.

Prevention

You can focus your energy on improving your saddle’s form or material to prevent saddle sores. Find a saddle with a good material that fits your weight and height, and choose the right-size cycling shorts made of quality material. Avoid wearing used cycling shorts multiple times.

While riding, change your positions often and strategically distribute your weight. You can stand up while riding to take a break from the saddle and reduce friction from time to time.

Recovery

Saddle sores can bring pain and discomfort, so cyclists shouldn’t force themselves to ride bicycles, train, and compete even if they look like regular bumps. To treat saddle sores at home, keep the infected or inflamed area clean at all times. Apply warm compress daily and try using over-the-counter or standard topical ointments, such as antibiotic cream or a diaper-rash cream. We highly advise seeking help from a medical professional if the inflammation worsens or keeps on coming back.

Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common running foot injuries, affecting both runners and cyclists. This injury occurs when too much pressure on your feet damages the ligament connecting your heel to the front of your foot.

Plantar fasciitis comes with various causes. It can be a sudden increase in running or cycling mileage, exposure of the body to abrupt speed training, and exposure of the feet to worn or brand new running shoes and hard surfaces.

Prevention

Preventing plantar fasciitis can easily be done by avoiding the aforementioned causes. But generally, you can improve your injury-prevention methods by strengthening calf and foot muscles and enhancing flexibility. Well-defined, strong muscles can protect your plantar fascia. Next, always wear proper-fitting running shoes during training or every time you run. Ditch out your worn shoes as they can only increase the risk of injury.

Recovery

Plantar fasciitis usually heals within 6 to 18 months without treatment, but if you’re suffering from this type of injury and still require continuous training, take a good rest and incorporate stretching exercises into your training. Ice the affected area often to reduce pain and swelling and cut back on some physical activities that cause your feet pain.

IT Band Syndrome (ITBS)

IT Band Syndrome or ITBS is a common lateral knee injury among athletes and a prevalent concern of athletes and runners of all levels and disciplines. ITBS refers to overuse injury involving the connective tissues located on the lateral or outer part of thighs and knees. As such, ITBS causes pain, irritation, and discomfort in areas above the knee joint.

ITBS is common in athletes that participate in continuous running or repetitive knee flexion and extension exercises. Long-distance runners always fall prey to ITBS. In fact, research published in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy revealed that ITBS is the second leading cause of pain in runners.

There could be several causes of ITBS, some unknown, but the current theory proposed by scientists and doctors involves the compression of the innervated local adipose tissue of the body.

Prevention

Strength deficiencies in the glutes or the entire lower area of the body are the common culprits of IT band syndrome injuries, especially repeated ones. To prevent this injury, aim to strengthen hip and gluteal muscles, avoid continuous running on uneven and hard surfaces, and always do stretching, strengthening, and flexibility exercises before training.

Recovery

ITBS is a non-traumatic injury, but it can be quite challenging to get rid of. ITBS usually takes 4 to 8 weeks to heal fully. The recovery process is long, but it’s important to focus on healing and avoid physical activities that can irritate the infected area. Get a lot of sleep, always massage the injured area, and do some simple stretching exercises.

Road Rash

Road rash is one of the most common sports injuries that occur during crashes—not from overuse. Bike crashes in cycling are common, especially during training. And large skin abrasions, called road rash, are common with these crashes.

Road rashes are superficial injuries to the skin. This injury involves the outer tissue of the skin being ripped away by a rub or a scrape against a hard object or surface, such as falling off a bike or stumbling or tripping over while running.

Prevention

Preventing road rashes comes with preventing any accident from cycling or running, which can be quite challenging. You can’t completely prevent road rashes as some accidents are unpredictable. However, you can minimize risks by using the right bike that fits you, wearing the right gear, and being aware of your surroundings.

Recovery

Since it’s a superficial injury to the skin, road rashes can heal within two weeks of proper care and wound cleaning. Injured athletes should keep their rashes clean and moist. Aim to minimize scarring during recovery. The best way to do this is to use antibiotic ointments and non-stick dressing.

Runner’s Knee

Runner’s knee or Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS) is the umbrella term for several conditions or injuries that cause pain around the kneecap. Contrary to popular belief, runner’s knee is different from ITBS. Runner’s knee injuries cause pain on the front of the knee, while ITBS causes pain on the side. The two, however, are considered the two most common knee pain and injuries among runners.

Runner’s knee brings pain around and under the kneecap. It is often caused by excessive and repetitive strain, training errors, and existing injury to the ankle, hip, or knee.

Prevention

Preventing a runner’s knee involves being mindful of its most common causes—which are all mentioned above. For prevention, aim to strengthen your core and leg muscles, watch your running or cycling form, and avoid sudden intensified physical activity.

Recovery

A runner’s knee doesn’t permanently damage tissues, so it’s easy to recover from them, provided that you don’t have other existing injuries. However, you can’t make a runner’s knee go away in a blink of an eye. According to a recently published report in the U.S. National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) and the Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiB), “there are currently no treatments that directly target the cause of pain at the front of the knee. But good-quality studies have shown that regularly doing exercises to strengthen the thigh and hip muscles can help.” The best way to recover from a runner’s knee is to reduce your physical activities and incorporate strength training.

Final Reminders

The list includes the most common sports injuries cyclists and runners face today, together with the standard ways to prevent and recover from them. However, note that all these tips involve self-care and basic diagnosis, and remember that each body heals differently. If you think your injury isn’t normal or untreatable at home, consult a medical professional immediately.