Whatever we do in life we’re susceptible to the odd niggle, sprain, break or old annoying injury that hinders everyday life. We can work through them on our own, if we choose, seek medical support and / or visit a professional for advice, guidance and intervention. But, how long should you suffer, and how long should you be seeking help before you start seeing even the slightest change? Danny of DC Injury Clinic shares his views:
Take the mic Danny….
Here’s a little secret; everyone gets injured. Everyone. That person on the start line every weekend? They get injuries. Your gym instructor that is 11 out of 10 on the energy dial all the time? They get injured. Your sports therapist/physiotherapist? They suffer the same as you. With the best will and practices in the world, injuries, aches and pains are one of life’s inevitabilities.
I think it is important to respect our body’s response to training, part of which is recognition of when you are getting injured. I break this down into four stages of injury:
Stage 1. Pain after exercise which settles after an hour or two
Stage 2. Pain causing discomfort whilst training, but causing no reduction in your training, yet!
Stage 3. Major discomfort and pain which limits your training
Stage 4. Pain so severe you are unable to train.
Stage 2 is the ideal time to seek help, though clinically speaking most people are at Stage 3 or 4 before making an appointment with a specialist.
It is true that the earlier you deal with your problem the quicker you will be back running, but I also think it is human nature to “see how things go”. And how we deal with injuries, is in many ways unique to the individual, with their own aims, goals and commitment levels. Also unique to the individual is their healing capability, and adherence to rehabilitation.
Getting back training after injury can be hard physically, but also mentally. We should never underestimate the power of apprehension. Avoidance can be damaging in the long term, as we psychologically build what was once a daily occurrence into a terrifying prospect.
- Gardening changes from a pleasant way to spend an afternoon, to something which could lead to your back “going” again.
- Your regular running route seems full of threat.
- Those weights look far more menacing than they did pre-injury.
I think it is invaluable to build a working relationship with your local therapist of choice, so that they can build as full a picture as possible of you as a person, as much as a runner. When I see runners with injuries, niggles, aches/pains etc. I subdivide their risk factors into 4 categories – each one as important as the others;
Training: is this person training too frequent (overtraining)? too intense, too long? are they cross-training? are they training in the ‘right’ gear, on the ‘right’ surface, with the ‘optimum’ technique (for them)? are they warming up/cooling down?
Anatomical: what foot type do they have? what range of motion do they have through their joints? how is the pelvis positioned? do they have a leg length discrepancy (and is that important?)? gender, body type, age, Q Angle (angle between hip and knee)
Biomechanical: essentially how does all the above anatomical detail come together?
Lifestyle: what drives this person? Stress levels? What is their occupation? Is that relevant? Are they under intrinsic pressure to run? Extrinsic pressure?
I believe that if these criteria are addressed early, and we work on changing attitudes towards the injury and not focus only on “treatment”; if we empower people with the skills of strengthening, stretching and, if required, dietary advice to put the patient in control of their problem and not the problem controlling the patient, then results follow quickly.
I rarely see anyone for more than 3 sessions for the same issue – and if I do not see the results that I – and the person – would expect within 3 sessions, I have a strong multi-disciplinary referral system in place.
Likewise, if you aren’t seeing results with your specialist, it’s okay to seek alternative advice.
Now, where’s my trainers…