Aches, pains and niggles… When to run and when to stop:

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Running with an Injury – When to stop and when to not:

September is an intense month in the local road racing calendar with many 5k, 10k, and half marathon events taking place, not to mention important final marathon training weeks for October marathons.  It’s clear to us, from our recent Live Injury Clinics (first Thursday of every month on the NiRunning Facebook page), that many of you are, at this point in the season, running with aches and pains!

At Apex Clinic we are passionate about running and totally understand your dilemma; after months of hard training, the last thing you want to do is admit defeat and see all that hard work disappear down the drain.  But, on the other hand, you don’t want to risk causing further injury and being out of action for a considerably longer period of time after the running event.

So, how do you know when it’s ok to continue training through injury towards that all-important Race Day, or, when you should stop immediately and seek treatment?

First step: ideally seek an expert assessment:

In an ideal world, it would be advisable to see an experienced physio for an assessment of any niggle, pain or injury as soon as possible.  We would rather you see us within days rather than wait months before coming to see us, as it is almost guaranteed that we will get you back running sooner with less physio treatments required.

A physiotherapy assessment is always a crucial first step towards determining whether it will be possible to continue running with an injury – perhaps following a programme of soft tissue work, strengthening exercises or stretches – or, whether it will end up doing more damage and keep you off your feet longer, if not indefinitely.

In most cases, the only way to train through significant pain in the legs, feet or back whilst keeping the training intensity levels high and without cutting down on mileage, is by combining physio treatment with a regime of aqua jogging.  Many Olympic athletes, including Mo Farah, Galen Rupp and Jo Pavey, have incorporated aqua jogging into their regimes before going on to achieve great things.

If you decide to take the risk of running with an injury and then plan to get it properly assessed and treated after your running event, then without an assessment of you,  the reader, we can only give you a brief guide of when to continue your training and when to urgently stop.

Back pain, when to stop and when to not:

  • A dull ache, that is not sharp or stabbing and doesn’t build up in intensity as you run, may be a referred pain from the joints in the lower back.  In some cases, it may be possible to continue running and get this pain treated at a later stage.
  • A stabbing, sharp or needle-like pain which is often worse uphill, or hurts whilst coughing or sneezing, may be indicative of disc irritation.  We advise that you do NOT continue running with this sort of pain, but seek treatment immediately.

Knee pain, when has it got the upper hand?

  • Pain at the outside or inside of the knee, felt as a deep ache that builds up gradually the longer you run, with a possible catch, click or temporary lock of the knee, may indicate a cartilage tear.  We recommend you seek assessment immediately as you may risk further tearing the cartilage if you continue.
  • If you have a throbbing pain on the outside knee that does not build up in intensity as you run and recovers quickly as soon as you stop, this may be a sign of lateral ligament problems or ITB (iliotibial band) friction syndrome.   You may be able to continue running for a time with this sort of pain, but you will need treatment to clear this in the long-term.

Pins and needles,  stop or continue?

If you have pins and needles anywhere in your legs or feet, or a feeling of weakness in your legs as you run that’s often worse uphill and may be worse first thing in the morning, we recommend you seek an immediate assessment as this  strongly suggests irritation of the nerves in the lower back.  Leaving this untreated may lead to serious injury.

Achilles pain,  do you train on?

  • Mild Achilles pain, present only in the morning or during or after a run and ranging from mild to moderate on the pain scale, may indicate a mild condition.  It may be possible to continue running, although we recommend you seek treatment before the pain gets any worse.
  • An Achilles pain that is sore in the morning and intermittently throughout the day, even if you don’t run – after walking, driving or going upstairs – ranging from moderate to severe on the pain scale, may indicate a more substantial Achilles problem.  We recommend that you seek an immediate assessment as if you continue training, an Achilles rupture may occur, which is definitely bad news!

Remember folks, whilst these pointers may be useful as general guidelines, it is always advisable to seek a professional opinion.  Better to treat and beat injury than be stopped short of reaching your goals.  Good luck with all the upcoming races from the team at Apex Clinic!