As an athlete or a parent of an athlete, you may be used to aches and pains here and there.  There are some guiding points to remember, as you want to make sure you are in tip top shape to prevent an injury and at the same time, you want to make sure you don't have an injury that needs immediate attention.  

When You Have An Acute Injury Where You Cannot Maintain Daily Activity

If you have injured yourself, it may seem like it is something minor that you can walk it off.  If you can, then that's great; everyone has minor spills or sprains, especially if you are active.  However if you cannot perform daily activities, such as walking without limping or without pain, then it is time to seek attention.  In addition if you cannot stand for as long as you usually do or have other difficulties with going up and down stairs, walking in school, or even participating in gym class or other daily activities, then you should definitely see a doctor to have it checked out. 

When You Have An Injury That Does Not Go Away After Rest

Rest in itself is essential for muscles.  When you exercise and feel "sore," there area microtears in the muscle fibers that have to regenerate.  During rest, cells caleld fibroblasts repair and recreate muscle fibers that allow your muscles to grow stronger and leaner.  It is recommended that you take 24 to 48 hours rest between training muscle groups, and this way they you will prevent overtraining and allow the muscle fibers to heal between exercise sessions. When an athelete is injured, we say take it easy and rest.  Sometimes after an acute injury, you may need more rest in order to allow your muscles to repair themselved.  You take a load off of your feet and legs, let the muscles rejuvinate, and then attempt the activity again.  However if after rest, your feet and legs still feel painful, then it is time to have a doctor examine it to make sure there is no tear or even inflammation of the tendon, such as a tendinitis that can cause pain and swelling and will not go away after rest. 

When You Have A Condition That Affects Your Training Or Affects Your Performance And Does Not Have A Diagnosis

If you have a condition that affects your training and does not have a diagnosis, it is important that you have a diagnosis, otherwise, how can you have a proper treatment plan?  If you know your heel hurts but you don't have a proper diagnosis, there can be many causes for heel pain.  It can be caused by a bony abnormality such as a stress fracture, or it could be inflammation of the tissue on the bottom of the foot such as plantar fasciitis, or it can even be a nerve issue such as tarsal tunnel.  All of these appear to be heel pain.  When you can't train as often, as consistently, or as intensely as you would like to train, it is important to know exactly what is causing it.  All three of the examples of heel pain I mentioned above are treated very differently.  So if you do not have a proper diagnosis, how do you know how to treat it?  Without a proper treatment plan, then you may be sidelined for a long time.  Some injuries may need complete immobilization in a CAM boot in order for proper healing, and other may need physical therapy and bracing, or someting to decrease inflammation such as the MLS laser.  Other heel pain issues may need orthotics to help relieve the pain and prevent it from returning.  With a proper diagnosis comes a proper treatment plan.  And those both can only come if you visit your doctor. 

An Overuse Injury Is Still An Injury

patient touching her heelEven if you do not have an acute injury, overuse of a certain tendon or joint can also cause injury.  Think of it as repetitive trauma to the area.  Instead of thinking of trauma to the area as an traumatic injury, an injury can be caused by overuse of the tendon or joint.  Because of an overuse injury, you may not ever really "hurting" yourself. You may only remember doing a particular activity over and over again, or doing the same activity for longer period of time or for a longer distance.  All of these may contribute to an overuse injury.  But remember, you still need to see a doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.  

Starting A New Sport On The Off Season/Cross Training

When you start a new sport or start cross training, a new sport brings new stresses and tension on different muscles and tendons.  As2 people running you ramp it up, you want to be checked by your doctor for any potential pitfalls.  The worse thing would be if you started a new sport and a new injury sidelines you.  If you know you will start running on the offseason of football or you will play lacross on the offseason of swimming, it is important to make sure your feet and legs are in shape for the different stresses that different sports wtill bring. 

Prevention - Have Your Orthotics Checked 

picture of shoes with orthoticsYou love your custom orthotics that you received from the doctor.  They were part of the treatment plan to help place your foot in a biomechanically neutral position to help get rid of your original pain, and also to keep your foot in the correct position to prevent that injury from happening again.  Orthotics will wear out too at some point, and you want to catch it sooner than later instead of finding out, through a new injury, that the orthotics were wearing out and not providing enough support.  Get ahead of the game and make an appointment with the doctor to have your orthotics checked.  Thought they may last 1 1/2 to 2 years or more, if your child has orthotics, it may be sooner.  If the topcover is visibly worn, think about the integrity of the shell after so long.  You want to do everything you can to allow the orthotics to do what they are supposed to do - relieve your pain and prevent it from returning. 

There area many reasons to see your doctor, some are preventive, when starting something new, or an orthotic evaluation.  However, if you or your child is an athlete, remember to keep this in mind.