We’ve all heard the expression “No Pain, No Gain;” a mantra used to push the body beyond pain. It’s a maxim I used when training for marathons, but not anymore. I’ve learned my lesson. Runners and athletes who think they’re invincible, unstoppable, ignore their body’s signals, believing they can run through the pain, until one day it’s so severe they’re sidelined for months with injuries. At the first sign of pain, you need to stop, listen to your body, and respond accordingly. You’re not a God, just mere mortal, with bodies that break with wear and tear. Treat it with care, and you’ll be rewarded with years of good running.
For some, that message falls on deaf ear until they’ve learned the hard way. Soreness and pain are typical for long-distance runners. However, muscle soreness, that good old feeling that lets you know you’ve worked your muscles hard, is not what this post is about. This post is about sprains, tears, rips and other pains. The kind that causes a change in your stride puts a limp in your walk and an ensuing ouch! Pain that signals the body it’s time to stop and rest.
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Common Runner’s Injuries
- Runner’s knee (Patellofemoral Pain syndrome): A tender pain around or behind the kneecap. Runner’s knee can result from overuse, malalignment of bones, direct trauma to knee, problems with feet(fallen arches, flat feet-overpronation), weak quadriceps (thigh muscles)
- Stress Fractures: A small crack in a bone that causes pain and discomfort. It typically affects runners in the shin and feet. Pain is worse during activity and improves with rest. Rest is critical. Continued running on a stress fracture can lead to severe injury.
- Achilles tendinitis: Inflammation of the Achilles tendon (the large tendon that attaches the back of the heel to the calf). Treatment includes: Rest, icing the area, and calf stretches
- Plantar fasciitis: Inflammation of the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue that runs from the heel to toe on the bottom of the foot. Tight calf muscles and a high arch contribute to inflammation. Also caused by increased running mileage. Treatment includes: Calf stretches rest, icing the bottom of the foot.
- Shin splints: Pain that runs the length of the shin bone (tibia) in the front or side of lower leg. Can occur from increased mileage too quickly. Flat feet can contribute to shin splints. Treatment includes rest and stretching.
- Iliotibial band syndrome: The IT band is a ligament that runs from the hip to the outside of the knee. IT pain happens when the ligament thickens and rubs the knee bone, causing inflammation. Treatment includes: Reducing workout, heat, and stretching before exercise, and icing the area after activity.
- Ankle sprain: Accidental twist or inward roll of the ankle which stretches or tears ligaments across the ankle. Sprains generally heal with R.I.C.E: rest, ice, compression, and elevating the foot.
- Muscle Pull (Muscle strain): A small tear in the muscle, typically created by overstretching. Treatment includes RICE: rest, ice, compression, and elevation.
If you’re a runner, you’ve probably heard about the R.I.C.E. method which stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Most running injuries respond well to this treatment which reduces swelling and pain, and protect the injury from worsening. R.I.C.E. should be implemented 24 to 48 hours following the injury. When done properly, the injury should heal swiftly.
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- Rest: Take a break from the workout for a few days. If the injury is minor low-impact cross-training such as swimming, cycling and stretching may be beneficial.
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ICE: Use ice immediately after the injury. Every 4 to 6 hours ice the injured area for 20 minutes with an ice pack or frozen bag of vegetables. Do not place the ice pack directly on the skin. Can cause ice burn. Wrap with a towel for protection. After the inflammation has gone down use heat (Typically after 72 hours). If inflammation persists but the swelling has gone down, alternate with ice and heat after the ice treatment.
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3. Compression: Reduces swelling and provides pain relief. Wrap injured area with Ace bandage, but not too tight. Do not resume activity. Give the injury time to heal.
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4. Elevation: Elevate the injury higher than the heart if possible, by lying flat and propping the injured area on pillows.
In addition to RICE treatment, ibuprofen or naproxen can be used to relieve swelling and pain. Talk to your Doctor first to see if advisable.
If there’s no improvement after 7-10 days a visit to the doctor may be necessary, especially if the following symptoms are present:
- Injury is very painful to the touch
- Pain radiating to another area of the body
- Numbness, tingling, or weakness in the injured area
- Severe pain in a joint or bone
- Significant swelling at the injury site
- Difficulty moving the injured part
Injuries can be emotionally and physically frustrating, especially if you’re training for a race or a marathon. Don’t stress, embrace the few days of rest. Your body probably needs it. If the injury is mild, try cross-training with low-impact workouts such as swimming, cycling, and stretching. And don’t try to run before the injury has healed. You could end up sidelined much longer. When you’re certain your body is ready, head out for a test drive. Mix up the workout by running and walking the first few days. Before long, you’ll be back to your old pace.