Early Detection and Treatment of Running Injuriesby Warren Finke, Team Oregon
By most estimates, 70% of all runners will experience an injury annually that will cause them to take time off from their sport. Fortunately, running does not produce the traumatic kinds of injuries that might be experienced in sports such as sky diving or downhill ski racing. The preponderance of running injuries are, in fact, chronic soft tissue inflammations. The onset of these injuries is not sudden, but usually follows a history of neglect and abuse. Running injuries are caused, they don't "just happen".
This class of soft tissue inflammations are often referred to as "overuse" injuries, a term which may be misleading since they are more often a result of changes in training rather than only volume of training.
Because of their progressive nature, three fourths of running injuries could probably be avoided or reduced in severity with early detection and treatment.
There are four stages exhibited by running injuries:
Stage 1Symptoms : Pain noticed only after running, sometimes hours after or the next morning.
Prognosis: 1-2 day recovery possible with proper treatment and elimination of the cause.
Treatment: Ice, Compression, Elevation, Massage
Stage 2Symptoms: "Discomfort" or "tightness", but not pain felt while running. Normal running and racing still seems possible.
Prognosis: 4 - 7 day recovery possible with proper treatment and elimination of the cause.
Treatment: 2 - 4 day rest or a non-exacerbating alternate activity, Ice Compression, Elevation, Massage, Anti inflammatories, Seek professional help if no improvement or worse after 7 days rest and treatment.
Stage 3Symptoms: More severe discomfort described as "pain" felt while running. Runner feels compelled to reduce training and/or racing levels.
Prognosis: 2 to 4 week recovery possible with proper treatment and elimination of the cause.
Treatment: 4 - 7day rest or a non-exacerbating alternate activity, Ice Compression, Elevation, Massage, Anti inflammatories, Seek professional help if no improvement or worse after 7 days rest and treatment. Requires rehabilitation with a return to running when no pain on activity.
Stage 4Symptoms: Severe pain. Runner cannot run.
Prognosis: 6 week or longer recovery possible with proper treatment and elimination of the cause.
Treatment: Seek professional help immediately. Requires professional treatment and rehabilitation. Return to running only when no pain with activity.
The Bottom LineMost injuries do not develop through these four levels overnight. This is why most of them can be dealt with before they affect performance. The key is detection at stage 1 or 2 and aggressive treatment before further progression. Unfortunately, this is not often done. The usual scenario of progressive injury is: "Gee, my foot, leg, etc is sore. Couldn't have been the running I did this morning". "Hmmm, when I'm running it feels kind of tight where it was sore yesterday". "Wow, that was tight yesterday too, maybe I'll run fewer miles tomorrow". "Well, it's still sore, I'll go run on it to see if it still hurts". "Ouch! Better not run on this , it might cause permanent damage".
Rather than denial or fear of the loss of fitness, the runner needs to adopt a defensive posture that assumes a potential injury and treats it in an early stage. This aggressive preventative early treatment behavior should be considered part of the sport of running; not the "wait till it's broken to fix it" behavior that most runners do.
Steps to proactive injury prevention and treatment
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