How can you as an injured runner use pain as your guide? Well, that’s what we’re talking about today on the Doc On The Run podcast.
I was just lecturing at the International Foot and Ankle Foundation meeting in Lake Tahoe and I was giving a couple of different lectures on running injuries, and one of them was about the protocols that I use with injured runners so that they can maintain their fitness, stay fit, stay active, and keep running.
One of the doctors asked me about how I make these decisions and one of the things I explained to them was that the worst piece of advice I myself ever received as someone who was injured was when this doctor told me, “Just let pain be your guide.” I still remember literally thinking, “Well, if pain is my guide, I know if it doesn’t hurt, it couldn’t possibly be building any strength.”
I know that we as athletes, particularly endurance athletes, have a definite no pain, no gain mentality. That works for you in training, but it works against you when you’re injured and you’re recovering. So it’s really important that you understand that you have to use pain as a guide, but you have to read the signs, and that’s really the point of today’s episode.
You’ve got to pay attention to the things that are signs of improvement or lack thereof because if you’re not getting better, you have to back off. If you increase your activity and your pain level goes up, something bad is happening. If you increase your activity and you get bruising, you know you have cracked, split, torn something, you’ve injured some kind of tissue under the skin, so much that it’s bleeding under the skin. That’s why you got a bruise.
If you have swelling, you know that you’re causing an inflammatory response because you’re irritating the injured tissue too much. Don’t forget, all over-training, running injuries are stress related injuries. If you stress the injured piece of tissue more than it can tolerate as you ramp up your activity, you get some kind of sign and those signs are the things you have to pay attention to. They are your roadmap to actually returning to activity faster.
Part of what I did in that talk in Lake Tahoe about these protocols was I explained to them that there is no set protocol. If you ask me, “What is the protocol you give somebody with a fourth metatarsal stress fracture?” It depends on all those signs and that’s part of what we talk about in the 12 steps presentation. It’s part of what I talk about in all the courses that I’ve created whether it’s the metatarsal stress fracture course or the runner’s heel pain course or the Achilles tendon course. They’re all explaining how you figure out whether or not your injury is strong enough to move to the next level of activity.
The goal with any running injury is to make sure that you can stay fit and keep running. You can’t do that by sitting around doing nothing for four to six weeks. So if the doctor tells you, “Use pain as your guide,” you’ve got to be clear about that. You’ve got to ask the doctor questions to make sure that you understand what that really means in your particular situation with the particular injury that you have, that is in the level of severity that it is in today. Not what it might be at four weeks, what it might be at six weeks, but what it really is for you today. Those are the things you’ve got to figure out if you want to keep running and get back to running as quickly as possible.
So go to docontherun.com/12steps, and you can check out this presentation and I’ll go through it with you to actually show you the exact steps I follow when I’m trying to help an injured runner figure out what to do to maintain the running fitness, recover from the injury, and get back to running as quickly as possible. So go check it out. I’ll see you in the training.
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