Cool running that's injury-free

With mornings and evenings lighter for longer, and spurred on by the London Marathon many novice runners may be sprinting towards sprains and strains if care isn’t taken.

These common injuries affect muscles and ligaments and happen when running on uneven surfaces or landing awkwardly.

Sprains are when ligaments that connect the bones are stretched, twisted or torn. Common in ankles and knees, symptoms include pain around the joints; inability to put weight on the joint or move it normally; swelling, bruising and tenderness.

Strains happen when muscle fibres stretch or tear, usually as a result of the muscle being stretched beyond its limit or forced to contract too quickly. Strains are common in the legs, such as hamstrings, and lower back. Symptoms include swelling, bruising or redness; pain in the muscle even at rest; spasms; weakness and some loss of function in the muscle.

The NHS advises in almost all cases sprains and strains should be treated at home.

Krishna Ramkhelawon, Public Health Consultant for Basildon and Brentwood CCG, said: “We see lots of enthusiastic runners that decide to get fit for summer without preparing and most of the time these injuries can be avoided. Make sure you wear the right footwear for the activity you’re doing; warm up before exercising; stretch after exercising and do regular strengthening and flexibility exercises. If you are starting to exercise again after a long time, then pace yourself, and start gently, with short bouts of exercise while you build up your fitness.

“If you do injure yourself apply PRICE therapy. Protection – be careful not to bump or knock the injury. Rest – don’t try and soldier on. Ice – wrap some frozen peas in a towel and apply to the injury. Compression – wrap with an elastic bandage. Elevation – keep the injury rested to help with any swelling.

“Sprained joints should be moved when it’s comfortable to do so, but muscle strains should be immobilised for a few days.

“Ordinary painkillers, such as paracetamol will help pain relief. And it can take up to eight weeks for injuries to heal. So it’s important to be patient.”

Call NHS 111 for injuries where the pain is severe; you can’t move the joint or muscle; you can’t put weight on the injury; it looks crooked or there’s lumps and bumps or there’s numbness, change of colour or coldness.

Find more advice on knee pain and other running injuries here