It can be confusing to tell the difference between an ache which will soon leave and a full on running injury.
Aches that come from runs, (especially those grueling long runs) are your weak tissues that are breaking down to form stronger ones. As your running career continues you will be able to make better judgments on whether you have an ache or an injury.
Injuries will show themselves in various ways.
Common symptoms of running injuries:
You are having trouble running in your natural way. If something is causing you to run in a funny way you probably shouldn’t be running at all. Give yourself a break or depending on how serious you assess it to be, see a doctor.
You are still experiencing pain after a week. This is definitely not just an ache but is very probably some form of running injury.
Swollen joints are tell-tale signs of an injury. A good idea is to compare your swollen joint to other related joints. (e.g. knee joint to knee joint)
It is painful to run. If it is merely annoying to run it is possibly not an injury. When running though don’t take the motto, “No pain, no gain” very seriously. Don’t run if it is painful you may be increasing your chances of a serious injury!
If the pain is only increasing and not diminishing as a normal ache would you should probably take some care and rest.
If you still aren’t sure if you have a running injury you should definitely consult a physician. You don’t want to mess yourself up and have to cut running from your life!
What should you do if you think you may have a running injury?
The most important and healthy thing that you can do for your body if you think you may have a running injury is to REST!
Here are some other steps you should take to treat your running injury:
Don’t run for at least a day and rest for more if need be. If you insist on running with an injury you are really only damaging yourself more as running tends to aggravate the problem and increase the length of time that you are forced to rest.
See a Doctor. Every injury needs to be treated specifically and with care. If you are having ongoing/increasing pain you need to get professional help. Without proper treatment you could very well end up with some long lasting problems.
Talk with other runners. Runners tend to injure the same bones, mucscles, tendons, particularily the knees, shins, Achilles tendon, heel, etc. Oftentimes they have had these areas treated and know what it takes to get on the right track again so listen up!
If you are experiencing swelling then you should wrap the area. This will add compression to the area which will reduce the swelling. Just be sure not to wrap it too tightly or your circulation will be cut off and you will have even more pain. If the area is throbbing or is discolored you know you have wrapped it too tight. Wrapping it will stop blood from building up which will leave scar tissue.
Ice your running injuries to minimize inflammation and keep your blood flowing.
Elevate your running injury so that it is up higher than your head. This will help to get rid of blood from the injury and deliver fresh blood to the injured area. This will help you to heal faster.
Pop pills. Take vitamin C which will help the healing process go faster. Aspirin reduces inflammation and kills the pain.
When are You Ready to Run Again?
You shouldn't jump back into running where you left off before
any running injuries. This could very well cause you to get another injury
so take it easy. Do at least one “easy” week of running before resuming your training schedule although more than one week of easy running is better.
you have done alternative exercises (e.g. swimming in place of running)
while you were injured you will be more ready to pick up where you left
off but still be conscious of your body and give it at least a week to
ease back into your routine.
If you begin to have pain where your injury was you should back off and rest for a couple more days. Don’t push yourself over the limit…you really can end up with some serious lasting injuries.
Always keep in mind that the best thing you can do for yourself when experiencing any running injuries is REST!
*Disclaimer: While the information on this site is taken mostly from research journals and scientifically based texts it is not meant to replace a doctor or medical professional.