Being an avid runner often comes with a host of nagging pains and injuries. Ideally, runners would love to live a pain free life, but unfortunately running can be very hard on the human body, and no amount of stretching or warm-ups can prevent pains or running injuries 100% of the time. Proper physical therapy techniques can stave off or manage on-going runner pains, and in the cases of major injuries, can keep a runner from experiencing long term consequences of these injuries. We’ve done some research on the top running injuries, and just how physical therapists treat them.

Runner’s Knee

With around 40% of running injuries involving the knee, it’s no wonder runner’s knee, or Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS), comes in at number one. Runner’s knee occurs as a cartilage irritation under the patella, or kneecap, and is often caused by inward foot rolling during running in combination with weak upper leg muscles. It can feel like an aching pain right around your kneecap and can be exacerbated by squatting movements as well as walking stairs, sitting or standing.


Treatment for runner’s knee revolves around building strength in the upper leg and thigh muscles. Standing hamstring and quadriceps stretches, quadriceps sets, and straight leg raises are a few exercises physical therapists will use to treat runner’s knee.

Achilles Tendonitis

Without a healthy Achilles tendon, walking, let alone running, is impossible as the Achilles tendon attaches the heel to the two major calf muscles. Number two on our list of running injuries is Achilles Tendonitis and is responsible for about 11% of all runners’ injuries. Achilles Tendonitis is simply a tightening and irritation of the Achilles and is most often caused by week calf muscles with runners who do sprinting and hill running.


The first protocols for Achilles Tendonitis are rest, ice, and often anti-inflammatory medicine. Light stretching of the affected area, coupled with strengthening exercises of the calf and Achilles areas come soon after. The three goals of physical therapy for Achilles injuries are first pain relief, then instilling proper movement and finally muscle strength and balance.

Plantar Fasciitis

Plaguing around 15% of runners is the most common foot injury called Plantar Fasciitis. Plantar Fasciitis, put simply, is small tears and inflammation of the tendons that connect the toe to the heel. Plantar Fasciitis will often feel like a bruise in the middle of your foot and can be felt most right when you get out of bed in the morning. This condition we see mostly in runners that have low arches, over pronate and over supinate during running. Standing for long periods of time can also inflame Plantar Fasciitis.


Unfortunately, there is no “quick-fix” to Plantar Fasciitis, but with a few physical therapy techniques, the pain can be contained and vastly improved over time. Stretching in the ankle and planter fascia area, the use of a night splint to maintain proper ankle and toe positions, fitted footwear inserts, and icing of the affected area are just a few techniques to treat this type of pain.


Often times, runners that return to running after an extended time off can suffer from the ever-so- common “shinsplints”, or medial tibial stress syndrome. Shinsplints are muscle tears in the muscle that surround the runner’s shinbone or tibea. Having the wrong running shoes coupled with too many miles of running often cause shinsplints.


When shinsplints occur, just like Achilles Tendonitis, rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory medicine are the first course of action. A few techniques physical therapists use to treat shinsplints are stretching the affected and surrounding leg muscles including the calf and foot, massage, taping the foot to reduce load, and of course suggesting new running shoes with a proper arch support.

As running and physical fitness becomes more popular in everyday life, injuries like these will also become more common. When an injury occurs, it’s important to consult with a licensed physical therapist to insure your injury doesn’t persist or get worse. We’ve shared a few techniques PTs use, but there are many more techniques that could apply to your specific condition. Happy running!

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