When you are training for a big race, or just running regularly, pain can start to seem normal. You log the miles, you stiffen up, and you push through…right?
Well, sometimes, this school of thought is ok. But, sometimes, it can leave you dealing with a serious running injury. One that could sideline you for days, weeks or even months. So how can you tell the difference between ‘normal’ training discomfort and pain that requires treatment? Just keep reading, of course!
If Pain is New or Different, Watch Out
Like we said, running a lot can leave your muscles tight for a day or two, especially right after you up your mile count. And, for most regular runners, that type of discomfort will be fairly familiar.
When unusual, sharp or stabbing pain pops up, however, it’s a sign that something out of the ordinary has happened. Tenderness to touch, especially over your shin or foot bones, is also a sign that your runner’s pain has crossed over into injury territory.
If new pain pops up, your first course of action is to rest. Stop all runs, ice the affected area, and give yourself a day or so to see if the pain goes away. But if it doesn’t, chances are, you’re dealing with a running injury that will only improve with medical care. Get into your podiatrist’s office as soon as you can!
If you Can’t Walk Straight, You Can’t Run!
It can be almost impossible to convince dedicated runners that they are too hurt to train. So, sometimes, that new pain rule we just discussed? It gets broken.
So, if you’re the type to train through pain, or talk yourself out of seeing a doctor, at least listen to this warning: if you are limping, or favoring one side when you run, you are probably injured. Now is the time to stop training and see your podiatrist!
If you don’t think limping or favoring one side is a major problem, consider this: any time you take pressure off one part of your body, you are putting undue area on another area, one that may not be equipped to deal with the impact of training.
In this way, by training through the heel pain of plantar fasciitis, you could alter your running gait to the point that you end up with a stress fracture on the outside of your foot. One that developed because your feet rolled outward as you ran, in order to avoid triggering a painful spasm in your heel or calf muscle! Now, instead of a treatment plan that involves a short rest, stretching and icing the affected area, you’re looking at several weeks away from your runs. You may even end up in a walking boot, depending on the severity of your injury.
We know that, for runners, the thought of not running, even for a day or two, can induce panic and visions of slower times and decreased miles. But if you at least agree to press pause for these two symptoms—new or sudden pain, or a change in gait, with or without a limp—you are less likely to worsen a mild injury and take yourself away from your training for an extended period of time.