We’ve all seen the memes and cartoons doing the rounds of social media, and it’s become a bit of a trope amongst injured runners but, joking apart, it’s a fair question isn’t it? When can I run again is first and foremost on the mind of any runner who is unable to run due to injury and a mixture of misinformation, fear and other emotions often create a lot of confusion, making it hard to make the right decision, either resting too much or overdoing it and aggravating the injury.
As part of a running injury assessment there are a few questions I will ask you, but here are my top 3 to help establish whether it is safe for you to run at all.
Firstly, when does it hurt? During the run or more afterwards? This helps me to establish whether it is a muscular, tendon or bony injury.
Secondly, how much does it hurt and for how long? On a 0 to 10 scale, is your pain more than 3 out of 10, and does it ease quickly on rest, or is it painful throughout the day and into the next day? This information helps me to assess the level of injury and the tolerance of the structure to loading.
Thirdly, what distance can you run before it starts to hurt? It might be that you can run 5k without significant pain during or afterwards, but pushing beyond that increases the pain.
Armed with this information we can start to establish a safe zone of stress, or a running capacity baseline. Let’s say for example that you have a painful achilles tendon. Running 5K does not hurt significantly, and there is some aching afterwards but not more than 3/10 and it eases quite quickly, not being especially stiff and sore the next morning. However running 10k makes it feel quite stiff and sore afterwards into the evening and it is painful and tender the next morning for the first few steps.
Based on the above, we can say that 5k appears to be a safe running baseline for now, and as we go through the rehabilitation plan building strength and capacity in the injured area, we can hopefully start to increase time and distance, establishing a new safe baseline until you are back to your preinjury training plan.
Of course if pain is immediate on running, worsening as you run, or is painful for hours and days afterwards, then we cannot establish a safe running baseline and would switch to low impact training such as cycling or swimming to maintain aerobic capacity while the injury heals.
How can I help you?
The purpose of a running injury assessment is to diagnose the injury and establish a safe baseline of activity to maintain function while the injury is healing and strength is restored. While sometimes unfortunately running has to stop altogether, for example with a stress fracture, often it is possible to establish a limited running baseline which helps the tissues to heal and is enormously beneficial psychologically as we know running isn’t just about physical fitness but also about that all important headspace plus the social aspects right?
Having a proper assessment enables you to navigate the minefield of misinformation and catastrophic language you can find as a result of doom scrolling through Dr Google! This all saves time and optimises your recovery so you can get back out there more quickly.
I love chatting to runners so why not give me a call and see if I can help you!