The Fix: A Primer for Treating Running Injuries
Ouch. In your enthusiasm for more miles, you've hurt yourself. Never fear, just about every running injury can be cured within a matter of weeks, and it all starts with these basic principles.
Posted Wednesday, 29 April, 1998
Ouch. You've hurt yourself, but the pain you feel seems less important than the pain of not being able to run. Never fear, just about every running injury can be cured within a matter of weeks. Don't be discouraged, but do be responsible. Your injury is not a bolt from the blue. It happened either because you were doing something wrong, or because your body has a slight structural imbalance. Treating running injuries has to be about treating the cause, not just the pain and symptoms. In the words of the late running guru Dr. George Sheehan, "Treat the reason, not the result."
Don't get us wrong, we aren't dismissing the pain of your symptoms. Before jumping into how to correct the root cause of your specific injury, a few general notes on easing your discomfort:
Most injuries respond well to the "RICE" treatment: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Ice the trouble spot for ten minutes on, then ten minutes off, repeating as necessary. You should ice as soon as possible after you have been injured, and immediately after a run if you are running with an injury. Combined with compression (with a cold pack, for example) and elevation, icing goes far to reduce pain and swelling. Heat should only be applied to an injury after the inflammation is gone, probably after about 72 hours. If your swelling has gone down quite a bit, but there's still a little bit of inflammation, try alternating heat and ice after a few days of ice-only treatment.
Anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin or ibuprofen (e.g., Motrin and Advil) can also ease pain and swelling. But you should never use them to mask pain simply so that you can go running. In fact, never take anti-inflammatories before running, period. Pain, while plainly irritating, serves a useful purpose; it's your body's way of telling you to stop. You are not doing yourself any favors by covering up that pain and ignoring it so that you can run through an injury. You'll only do more harm. Feel free to use these drugs to speed your recovery and ease discomfort, but only when you are not involved in an activity that might aggravate your injury.
Once you've eased the pain, it's time to tackle the real problem and figure out what caused it in the first place. With the help of the crack injury experts at Cool Running, you now have that information at your fingertips. Tell us where it hurts...
> Lower leg
> Upper leg
> Hip or back
> Chest or belly