Getting Injured: Mild Soreness/Pain

What I’m about to talk about is more of a beginning runner topic, so I’m sorry if it’s boring to my experienced runners, but I hope you’ll read and chime in with your thoughts/advice…

If there’s one thing I hate, it’s interpretative dance clamshell packaging running injuries.  I’ve been reading lately about a lot of blogging/non-internet friends getting injured.  Knees, piriformis muscles (a real pain in the ass), IT bands, blah, blah, blah.

The fact of the mattter is that running hurts sometimes.  We push our runs, push our speed (push it real good!)  We ignore soreness and twinges.  We try to run through pain, because if we stopped every time that something hurt a little, we fear we would never run.  Also, experienced runners tend to have awareness of typical runner problems and the problems that they personally tend to get and manage those effectively.  So they keep running (often to their detriment, but I’m not one to lecture since I do the same thing!)

But what if you’re a beginner runner?  First, remember that I’m not an expert.  If my advice helps, praise me…if it doesn’t, keep it on the down low and tell yourself that my advice was free and entertaining.

See?  Here’s a free and entertaining pic of me and Alex at Communist Memento Park outside of Budapest, Hungary in 2011.  Basically, instead of destroying Communist statues, the city saved them and dumped them in a dusty “park” outside of town.  We had a ball that day!  Viva la Capitalism!

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Ok, so you’re running, and something hurts.  Well, some signals are more dangerous than others.  A bit of soreness that seems to loosen up after you get a mile or so in?  I ignore it, enjoy my run, and then R.I.C.E. the shit out of it (heavy on the R and I, light on the C and E, and usually with a glass of wine if it’s nighttime).  If it keeps popping up, I increase my wine intake (that’s just smart, folks) and work on stretching.

This should be the part where I then extol the virtues of foam rolling.  I occasionally use my foam roller, but I go back and forth on whether I drink the Kook-Aid.  I used it like rosary beads in the last two weeks leading up to my marathon last spring and had adhesions so bad in my thigh, but I don’t know if it made a difference or not.  The sports massages I invested in were much more helpful (albeit more expensive).  Here’s an interesting article bagging on ye old foam roller that you might want to check out…I like this guy’s writing.

Best part of the article (besides the pic below)…

Let’s be honest, the act of foam rolling feels awful.

The most obvious issue here is we’re trying to get people out of pain and the act of foam rolling puts them in pain. You’ll often see people masochistically rolling something like their IT band with gruesome facial expressions. “Knee hurts? Let me destroy my IT band! Eat this shit IT band! Screw the foam! Where is my PVC pipe?!?! ROAR!!!”

This is a big reason runners carry foam rollers around like it’s their favorite dildo bible. They love self-inflicted pain (hence all the running to nowhere). 

foam-roller-it-band-exercise

I like this guy.  Roar!

So, if I’m working on stretching and icing and maybe taking a day or two off when something flares up, I’m usually good (with the exception of plantar fasciitis…a daily issue for me.)  

Other tweaks you can consider?  Run on the other side of the street…seriously.  Think about the fact that streets are graded for drainage.  Make sure you’re not running too far over where there might be a steep grade that’s creating an imbalance.  If you run on sidewalks, hit the street instead…it’s softer.  Make sure you’re in the right shoes.  Running shoes are a very worthy investment, and I advise everyone to go to a running store and get your foot and stride analyzed.  Change your pace.  Slow it down.  Stop and stretch during a run (lightly!) and see if that helps.  Drink wine before your run (okay, that’s a joke.)  There are lots of things you can try.

What if your attempts don’t stop the pain?  Well, at this point it will usually increase in intensity, stop getting better after the run gets going, or get better but then come back during the run itself.

If that happens, shit just got real.  Get yourself on the internet, do some more research on stretching, and prepare yourself for some time off (like a week or more.)  Or go to your doctor.  Or a sports massage therapist.  Or the liquor store.

Most mild injuries come from the ol’ too much, too soon mentality.  Let me use the wise example of a certain gal (yes, me) who decided to start running waaaaayy back in the day.  It’s a simple story…short and sweet.

She started running on the treadmill, and set running a mile as her first goal.  She worked on this 3-4x/week until she achieved the one-mile mark.  She liked it.  She felt stronger, more powerful.  She became addicted.  She said, “I just can’t quit you!”  

So she started running at 5K pace, because she didn’t really realize that any other pace existed since it was all so painful, and resolved to run 4-5 minutes more EACH TIME she ran.  She killed herself, got up to 45 minutes within a matter of weeks, and then had to stop running for a month because her IT band got completely jacked up.

She was very sad (but she didn’t give up!)

The most common beginner running/overuse injuries?  Runner’s Knee, IT band injuries (ITBS), Hamstring pulls, Shinsplints, Plantar Fasciitis, and painful side stitches.  Here’s link to a good article describing them, along with treatments, stretches, etc.  It’s a great starting point for a beginner runner.

What if you have more sudden pain during a run?  Pain that’s sharp or shooting rather than pain that you would describe as tightness, stiffness, dull, throbbing, sore, etc. is a much bigger danger sign.  When I get pain like that, I give it only a few minutes to go away (in case it’s just some random thing that resolves quickly).  If it doesn’t, I walk home and see how I feel later after the R.I.C.E.W. (I added Wine!) regimen.  If I feel it the next morning, or if I feel it at the start of my next run, I shut the show down for a few days.

Let the type and intensity of the pain be your guide.  Here’s another great article describing specific types of pain and what to do.

And finally, here’s a great article on piriformis pain (that common pain DEEP in the ass), again written with great flair by The Salty Runner…A Friendly Guide to the Running Butt.

Fellow runners, please feel free to add any comments!  Happy running, and happy weekend!

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24 thoughts on “Getting Injured: Mild Soreness/Pain

  1. Good points! Are you rolling out your Plantar with a golf ball? It sucks too!
    As you may know, I got an unusual pain this week on my run. I knew enough to know it’s not an ache, but something more. I’m hoping that knowing to RICEW right away will make it a short break, rather than a long one.
    Side note – I even take my roller on the road with me. It fits in my suitcase right next to the fleshlight, er, uh, I mean bible.

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  2. If it weren’t for the roller, ball, massage, physio, yoga and rest….I wouldn’t be vertical let alone running 🙂 Prevention for sure! Sharp acute pain is always a sign to stop and assess what is going on. Wishing you happy and healthy running!

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  3. I’m a foam roller skeptic too, but I love massages, yoga stretches and my chiropractor for issues. And both yoga and strength training seem to keep injuries at bay, especially working on my core, hip flexors and glutes.

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    • I think it’s one of those things where you do it, and maybe things get better, but maybe they would have gotten better anyway with time and with the other measures that people typically take at the same time. I’m on the fence…but I still run to it when I feel an injury coming on. And I’m hoping to start yoga soon for the first time ever…I’m excited!

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  4. I liked your blog. You said a lot of things I agree with! Maybe it’s because I’m only a beginner but like you say if you push yourself too far too soon it hurts and you need to step back a bit. I do find that yoga helps though

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  5. I’m not a beginning runner (just finished my 4th half marathon training cycle) but I’m dealing with shin splints I haven’t been able to get rid of, even after only running once in the last few weeks since my race. The not running is killing me (and I want to take advantage of my half marathon endurance and run harder!) so I made an appointment to see a sports medicine doctor on Monday to figure out what’s going on and how to feel better so I can safely resume running. Until now I assumed some soreness should be pushed through but the fact total rest didn’t get rid of my problem makes me wonder if I pushed a little too much.

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    • It’s such a delicate balance, isn’t it? Especially when you’re trying to keep that built-up endurance…I’ve been there! I hope your appointment gets you some answers…I’m curious to see what he/she says! Good luck, and thanks for reading!

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      • It turns out I do have a stress fracture, which means six weeks off. I’m ok with it–now I have a plan and someone else (the doctor) to let me know when I am good to start running again. In the meantime he claims I won’t lose endurance if I do other low impact cardio. We will see!

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      • I’m so glad you have an answer at least! It’s funny–I was at lunch with a running friend yesterday who just got over a stress fracture and took seven weeks off. If it makes you feel better, she said that once she started up again, she was surprised to find that she hadn’t actually lost as much endurance as she’d thought she would! Keep hope alive, and good luck with the low impact cardio!

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  6. This was a great post and I’m so glad you wrote it the day before my race. It definitely kept me honest with myself and in a realistic state of mind about what was just mild soreness and when it crossed into pain that indicated I needed to slow down and stop for a stretch. Thanks! 🙂

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