The runner’s body is a painful and disabling overuse syndrome that occurs in the lower leg of runners. The disease has been recognized for decades but only recently researchers have begun to understand it better. It appears that nearly half of long-distance runners sustain some degree of damage to their lower legs due to this condition. In the most serious cases, surgery may be necessary to repair the problem.
Causes of the runner’s body:
> Runner’s body is caused by repetitive trauma to the tibia or lower leg bone. The tibia runs from your knee to the ankle and acts as a weight-bearing structure when you run. When you run, your foot strikes the ground at an average of once every second with forces equal to three times your body weight. As your foot strikes the ground your body acts like a pogo stick. Your leg absorbs all the force of your body weight and rebounds, stretching the muscles in the front of your shin. This causes stress on bones, joints, ligaments, and tendons. Most people are able to run through this discomfort without any trouble but eventually, too much stress can cause problems.
> A stress fracture is a hairline crack in the bone and is one of the most common injuries among runners. Over time, these small cracks accumulate and eventually lead to symptoms such as pain along the shin that worsens with activity or exercise. It has been suggested that most running injuries really overuse injuries brought on by a high level of training. In some cases, people who have been injured may experience pain from the disease during their non-running time.
> It has been suggested that people with certain anatomical characteristics are more likely to develop runners’ bodies than others. People who have flat feet or low arches are more likely to get this condition because they are unable to absorb shock as well.
Symptoms of the runner’s body:
The main symptom is pain that is located at the middle or front of the lower leg bone (tibia) and can worsen with continued activity. Symptoms may include tenderness, stiffness, soreness, swelling, and/or bruising along the shin. Pain experienced with the disease is usually worst after exercise or training but can occur at any time of day. You may also experience pain when squeezing the muscle of the front lower leg between your thigh and shin.
Treatment for runners bodies:
The runner’s body responds well to conservative treatment, which generally involves resting from running until the pain resolves. This typically takes 6-8 weeks but can sometimes take longer. Other treatment procedures include icing, stretching exercises, strapping or taping the leg during activity, orthotic devices in your shoes to help the foot function better with each stride you take, anti-inflammatory medication to reduce swelling around the joints of the lower leg, and taking a break from all activities that involve running.
Physical therapy may also be helpful to address biomechanical factors that may play a role in the development of the disease. Your physical therapist can help you learn how to stretch your shins and strengthen your lower legs, which can reduce your risk of developing a runner’s body again in the future.
If you have pain in the front of your lower leg, it is important to have this evaluated by a doctor. If you do not improve with the above treatment options, surgery may be required.
A variety of surgical procedures can be performed depending on the type and severity of injury an individual has. The recovery time will vary but generally takes about 8-12 weeks.