At Hillcrest Physiotherapy we see a large number of injured runners. We see runners from across the spectrum, kids doing a couple of kilometers to augment their sports training, through to 100km ultra runners.
Running injuries mostly affect the legs/pelvis/back and can come on suddenly from a trip or fall or can come on slowly over time. Both types of injuries can be tricky to manage, especially as most runners are not keen to stop running.
There are many things to assess when we look at running injuries. Those injuries that come on suddenly are often a bit easier to diagnose, because there is a specific mechanism for the injury, that gives us a lot of information.
Injuries that come on over time can require a bit more detective work to figure out. It is helpful if the runner can give us some specific information. Research would indicate that a lot of our slowly building running injuries are due to loading issues. This can be a change in the frequency of running, the running surface, elevation, speed, or distance. It can also be things like new shoes, a new gym workout or return after some time off.
It is useful for the runner to have a record of their runs. Apps like Strava allow us to quickly see patterns in distance, elevation, speed etc. we can also calculate things like the acute to chronic load ratio (how much of an increase/decrease over your normal amount of running). All this information can help us build a picture and along with some physical testing allow us to figure out the best treatment options. Smart watches that measure variables like speed and cadence are also useful for diagnosis and treatment. But don’t worry if you don’t have any fancy gadgets, pen and paper notes work too.
Treatment may sometimes involve rest; we will try not to have you off running too long and will try to give you an alternative. But sometimes an injury is the bodies way of saying you need a running holiday. Often over loading injuries like bony stress injuries require off–loading, then a gradual build back up again. Other injuries like tendinopathies can be very slow to heal and patience is needed. We will almost always give you some exercises to work on as part of your treatment plan. We will also talk about loading, assess and discuss running technique – sometimes in consultation with your coach if you have one, we may also talk about nutrition, sleep and stress – all factors that can impact injury and healing. If required, we can refer you onto sports specialists and podiatrists for further investigation and specialist input.
If you have a running niggle, get it investigated early before it gets too bad, try and bring us as much information as you can about your running, and its also useful if you bring your running shoes and be prepared to do a bit of exercise when we assess you. But remember while sometimes you might get injured running, the risk of injury is far outweighed by the benefits of regular cardiovascular exercise. Its much easier to sort out a running injury than fix a broken heart.