Injuries - Why we get them and how to deal with them!
Injuries occur when a structure in the body is overloaded to a point that will cause it to become damaged. This is when we get to know about it - something hurts, swells and or goes red! Our body is responding to the damage and is getting on with the job of repairing the damage that has occurred. What we do at this stage is really important! What we must not do is get overly impatient and annoyed – ok well just a bit, but get past that bit quickly because it won’t help.
Running injuries usually occur one of two ways - Acute trauma or Chronic injuries, result from repetitive damage over a longer period of time. Acute trauma is usually more painful at the time and it will need time to recover as the damage is often more extensive. This could be doing something like going over on your ankle or snapping a metatarsal. Chronic injuries usually build up over a longer period of time. These are the little niggles that we sort of ignore and then 3 months later are behaving a bit like an acute injury. They will stop us from running and letting us know that things are not great.
What to look for or what we call the symptoms - redness, heat, pain and swelling is your bodies response to the damage you have done to yourself. This is the inflammatory response of your really excellent healing system kicking into action. Pain is often the big problem from a running point of view. We know we should take heed but we try to push it a bit to see what we can get away with. If not yet painful, tightness, stiffness, soreness – something not quite feeling as it should.
Our bodies use pain to stop us from doing more damage. It is a mechanism that is designed to help us. Yes it is, it may not feel like it is helpful but it is. We have to listen and take note of what our body is saying to us. Ignoring or blocking pain with pain killers is often storing up another problem. As I said, our bodies have a fantastic mechanism for repairing the damage we have done, we do have to allow our bodies time to do this and listen to what is going on. If we don't listen then we can soon fall into a vicious cycle outlined below.
Acute injuries are often easy to look after as we usually cannot continue to run with any level of comfort and we are forced to rest and take heed. The big issues are often with chronic injuries - injuries that have been going on for at least 8 weeks. These are often not sever enough to stop us running but do limit what we can do. We often see people in clinic and they say the problem used to come on at 10 miles, then 7 miles, then 5, now it comes on at 3. At some point we have to address the problem. It is not going to get better if we keep on try to run through it. If we just keep on applying the same damaging force to the injured structure then it is not going to get better.
Our bodies learn how to deal with these problems. In the above example there may be no further damage occurring but the body is learning to recognise the problem and do something about it. It knows that if it does not create pain then you are going to keep on running until you do some proper damage. Your brain recognises the signs and sends some pain down to the affected area before more damage occurs so you think something is going on and you stop. The brain has won this little battle, next time you go for a run, the brain remembers what it did and does it again, this time a bit earlier. Again it wins. We are designed to learn by this very helpful feedback mechanism and we learn this quickly. The amount of pain doesn’t always relate to the amount of damage, but we need to take heed of what it is telling us.
As Einstein said "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."
Reasons why I run. No 1
As we have said, Injuries occur due to structures being loaded in a way they cannot tolerate. Running applies a repetitive, above body weight force to the body every step. Over many steps these forces can cause the structures being loaded to become damaged. These damaged tissues become chronic injuries. Our bodies will be aware of the damage occurring long before we are. Our body will be making adjustments to reduce the damaging load being applied to the tissues.
It is only when our body runs out of options that we become aware of something.
So the little niggle in a muscle that feels a bit tighter than usual after a run, or an ache when we get up after sitting. These can then progress to a tightness that stays or the standing ache becomes a pain for a bit longer before settling down. The pain we get when running that starts to happen a bit earlier are all signs that something is not right and it is getting worse.
What can we do? Have a look at your recent training. Have you done a bit more than usual and building a bit too quick. Check other factors - emotional / other stresses will impact on our bodies ability to heal. A good rule of thumb is the 50% rule. Reduce what you are doing by 50% - time or distance, but just have a think about what you can afford to drop to give your body a chance to recover. Footwear - have they worn out to a point they are making our body work in a different way. Have you changed your run routes recently? Often we really benefit from a couple of easy weeks. At the moment with no races coming up for most of us, taking a couple of easy weeks can us a great deal of good. Our bodies thank us for it and come back stronger.
Remember it is not the training that makes us stronger, training causes damage, it is the recovery that makes us stronger.
So take note of what your body is trying to tell you. Have a listen, really listen. Maybe all it needs is a couple of easy weeks. If this doesn't seem to make much difference then we are here to have a look and offer treatment and / or a course of action that will help. We will only tell you to stop running if we really think there is something serious going on, but we may advise you to reduce your training load or rethink how you are training. Take heed before drastic action is required.
Any questions then please get in touch. Stay safe.