I am an injury prone runner. Without this tendency, I am absolutely certain I’d be an olympic caliber runner (in my own private world at least), but I have to accept the fact that my tendons are drama queens who flip out whenever they are asked to do anything new or difficult.
When I tried to start running again after my first son was born, my knee tendons rebelled and I ended up quitting based on my doctor’s advice.
This go around I am pulling a Scarlett O’Hara and declaring “As God is my witness, I will NOT quit running again because of my stupid tendons”.
While training for the 2013 Princess Half Marathon, I got some bizarre hip/iliac crest injury that I saw several doctors about and went to physical therapy, but I really never got a good diagnosis. I ran through it and it eventually went away.
My training was going really well this summer until I decided that I needed to add another day of running to help me train for the 10k/Half Marathon on consecutive day challenges at Tink and Princess. After my very first back to back running days, my right heel started acting up. I quickly reassessed and decided that I’d return to my not running on back to back day plan, but the heel issue was still tweaky. It didn’t hurt enough to keep me from running, but it was stiff and sore in the morning and hurt a bit after runs too.
So, I’m taping it, icing it a couple of times a day and taking ibuprofen. We have a occupational/physical therapist at work (paid for by our self-insurance health plan) so I got an appointment with him. On my first appointment, he said to get new running shoes. I went to the store with an old pair, they assessed me and said my shoes were “perfect” for me. When a running shoe store doesn’t try to sell you a new pair, you know you’re in the right shoes.
I have trouble being direct and forceful with medical professionals but running is very important to me so I channeled my own inner drama queen, went back to the PT at work and said “I think it’s my Achilles insertion that is inflamed, I got my shoes checked and they’re fine, I took some time off running and it didn’t heal it, and I’m not going to stop running, so I need to know what you can do to support this injury while I continue to train for my half marathons this winter.” This is a breakthrough for me, I normally cannot be this direct with medical people for some reason. Once I said that, he said we could do weekly appointments with massage, electrical stimulation and ultrasound and we did the first round that day.
I’m taking a week off of running just to see if it will speed the healing, so today is going to be a long bike ride.
I’m still in the middle of this injury but here’s what I’ve learned so far about dealing with a running injury:
- You may have to go through the stages of grief, you know starting with denial, continuing in denial for longer than is good for you before moving to blame, anger, and eventually making it to acceptance.
- Taking care of an injury in the early stages will save you a lot of pain and time and money. You don’t need to flip out over every twinge, but if you’re being honest with yourself, you can differentiate between a fleeting pain and a recurring twinge that you really know is the start of something bad, even though you don’t want to admit it to yourself.
- The best cure for most running injuries is rest. If you can take a week or two off, do it. Ride your bike, swim, focus on strength and core training or just lay in the hammock and read romance novels, just don’t run for a week or two.
- Ice and anti-inflammatories are your friend too. I have some great reusable ice packs that are flexible and have velcro to strap them to whatever area is injured. I had a friend recommend Blue-Emu oil and I’m trying that too (it is a topical cream). Foam rolling or using the stick is always helpful.
- Your doctor won’t like this, but there is lots of great information out there on running injury diagnosis and treatment. If you have acute pain and are limping you need to see a doctor. If you are just having twinges and suspect something is brewing, google the symptoms and see if you can get some tips on how to help heal it in the early stages.
- If it still hurts after a week or two of rest/self care or if it comes back as soon as you try to run again, you really need to see a doctor. They can properly diagnose it and have treatments at their disposal that can speed up the healing. If their first response is “quit running” or “don’t run for six months” before they’ve tried any other options or done any real tests (like MRI or x-ray) I’d recommend either telling them how important running is to you or finding another doctor. I’ve found that some doctors are really anti-running and their first reaction is to tell you to quit.
- While you’re healing:
- Don’t be mean to your family, children, pets or co-workers. You may not think you’re being mean but be aware of this possibility. Not running = grumpy = mean. Don’t be that person!
- Don’t try to run before you are scheduled to. No, not even a “test” mile. If the tendons, muscles, ligaments are trying to heal and you stress them too soon, you’ll undo all the good work resting did and will set yourself back requiring more rest.
- Find another exercise you can do. Swimming is almost always ok. Biking is usually ok. Strength and core work can usually be accommodated. Maybe even give yoga or meditation a try. Check with your doctor to see what exercises are ok.
- If you have an icing, medicine, stretching or physical therapy regime, do it every day. Even if the injury is feeling better.
- Enjoy your extra time. You won’t turn into a couch potato overnight or even over a week or two. Sleep in. Take a bath that has bubbles instead of ice in it. Plan a fun Friday night since you don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn for a long run on Saturday.
- Remember this is only temporary, running does not define who you are and someday this huge devastating problem will just be a vague memory of a short speed bump in your progress as long as you stick to your plan.
I’m not a doctor or medical professional, this is NOT medical advice just an attempt to convince myself to follow these recommendations as well. I’m terrified my Achilles will sideline me from my races this fall so I’ve got to be smart. And I’ve got to try not to be so grumpy about it!
How do you deal with running injuries? Any other tips for keeping sane and civil while healing?