Monday, May 18, 2009

Everybody Hurts, Part One..

In addition to being a popular REM song, this phrase should strike a chord for just about EVERYONE who runs.

I've talked before about some GREAT ways to stave off running related injuries/aggravations. BUT, running is a high impact sport involving a ton of repetitive motion. Despite our BEST efforts, aches and pains do come up sometimes!

This is part of the reason why our training doesn't include consecutive days of running. The days in which you are resting or engaging in cross-training are providing your body an opportunity to heal/recover from the impact associated with the previous run.

I've spoken with a number of you over the past few weeks about various issues, but want to provide some tools for you to do a little self diagnosis of your own.

Bear in mind, I'm NOT a doctor, but I'm pretty familiar with the myriad running related injuries/aggravations that can happen....I've endured most of them myself!

First a few questions you should ask yourself in assessing what's bothering you:

1)Is it a sharp/intense/radiating pain or dull/aching pain? If it's the former, this is something you should likely NOT run through and probably get checked out by a specialist. I would also add that if the nature of the pain is 'constant', it also probably needs some attention from a specialist. If the pain you're feeling is more dull/aching, it's likely you can address the issue with some REST, ICE, COMPRESSION, and ELEVATION (RICE). I've given a number of you this kind of direction.

2)Does the pain occur at beginning of the run and become less pronounced after the first few miles? If it's the former, you may be looking at some tight muscle groups that simply need some additional rest in combination with some additional stretching/bodywork.

3)How long has this pain been bothering you? When did it first manifest? In asking these kinds of questions, I'm trying to determine if there were any significant changes that might correlate with the discomfort you're feeling. Maybe you started running in a different kind of shoe when the pain first appeared. Maybe you started doing more 'tempo' around the time the pain first appeared. Maybe you've been running in a worn out pair of shoes too long.

So, now that we've got a better idea of what 'kind' of pain/discomfort you're feeling, let's take a look at a few common issues in a few different areas:

1)Runners Knee- This is kind of a generic term for knee pain/discomfort that occurs with a lot of beginner/intermediate runner's. This pain typically shows up around and sometimes behind the kneecap. While the pain manifests in the knee, the reality is that the problem may in fact be tied to your legs and feet. Your knee should move up and down in a narrow little groove in your thigh bone. But, if the knee is not tracking properly, you're looking at a kneecap that rubs up against and irritates surrounding cartilage. It's not uncommonly the case that this 'poor tracking' is due to weak thigh muscles.

2)ITB Syndrome-You know that funky stretch we do where we cross one leg over and squat? This is a pose that is designed to help stretch the IT (illiotibial band) band that runs along the outside of your leg. The IT band runs along your knee and hip bone. Sometimes you can develop excess friction between the IT band and the hip bone or knee bone. Some of you have complained about some minor hip pain or pain along the outside of your knee. In most cases, it's probably due to some IT band issues. As stretching the IT band can be a little tough, a 'Stick' or a foam roller can be a handy tool to loosen up a tight IT band and/or the surrounding muscles.

These are two of the big issues that I commonly see. With both of the aforementioned issues, you ideally should be reducing your mileage/training and treating the affected area with ice and anti-inflammatories. Once the pain subsides, doing some exercises to strengthen your quads/thighs should help stave off runner's knee.

Similarly for staving off IT Band issues, you want to strengthen your quads, hamstrings, and gluts.

Next week, I'll provide some info. about two other commonly encountered issues: plantar fascitis (my personal favorite! UGH!) and shin splints.

Until then, LISTEN to the messages your body is sending you and DO NOT run through sharp/intense pain!

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