Up to 80 percent of runners get injured, and it’s no wonder. As healthy as exercise is for the body and soul, it seems that it’s all too easy to get hurt when you work out on a regular basis. Injury can come from running too many miles or adding too much speed before the body is ready. And who hasn’t stepped in a pothole, landed oddly off of a curb, or taken a fall?
These are some of the most commonly-held myths about running injuries, and how to bounce back quickly when you do get hurt.
REALITY: While your aches and pains may dissipate, if you don’t do anything to identify and correct the problem that led to the injury in the first place, it will inevitably return, said physical therapist Kerri Kramer Webb founder of Fast Track Sports Medicine & Performance Center in Merrifield, Virginia. The solution may be simple—like replacing worn out or ill-fitting shoes. It might require some more extensive evaluation. A biomechanics analysis—which a sports medicine doctor or physical therapist can conduct—could pinpoint strength imbalances or problems in your running form that may be leading to your discomfort. He or she can prescribe exercises you can do to correct them and avoid re-injury.
REALITY: Pain is your body's signal that tissue is breaking down, said Webb. The feeling of pain typically arises after a biomechanical issue has taken its toll. “Running through an injury literally never works and typically increases the damage,” she says. Pain that is considered a "warning" but not quite an injury will decrease within 24 hours, said Webb. Reduce the strain on the area with low-impact exercises once a week unless painful, she advised. If the pain returns, talk with your doctor. You should also see a doctor if the pain is limited to a certain muscle or tendon on one side of the body, if you feel pain in your joints, if you experience pain that you would describe as shooting, burning, tingling, or numbness, she added.
REALITY: While braces and tape do give additional proprioception and help take the load off a joint, muscle, or tendon, these devices will only hold up so long to buffer any of your body’s weaknesses, instabilities or asymmetries that are causing the discomfort., said Webb. If you’re using any of these devices, as long as you’re getting treatment for the injury from a health professional, she advised.
REALITY: When you have a running injury, and want to bounce back soon and strong, it’s critical to get treatment strategies come from health care professionals who understand running and can help you get back on the road soon, said Webb. As long as you do not have a fracture or a medical emergency, it’s likely that you will be referred to a physical therapist, said Webb. Seek out a sports physical therapist who performs slow-motion video analysis of running, and can spot any biomechanical issues that may be leading to your discomfort, Webb said. There is no running injury certification for doctors or therapists. So find a clinic that specializes in running and or sports physical therapy or get recommendations from other runners. And some of the best medical professionals for runners are those who run themselves, she said. So if your doctor runs, that’s a good sign!
REALITY: Anti-inflammatories work to slow down the body's natural healing response, said Webb. Trying to continue to exercise, and popping over-the-counter painkillers is “an absolute no no,” she said. “Your pain receptors are reduced and you won't have strong signals to tell you if you are further breaking down tissue.