How Do I Know if I’m Injured?

Running isn’t always a comfortable experience. Personally, I feel “something” during almost every run. Over a month of training, you likely have a couple of terrible sessions, lots of sessions that feel “fine,” and a few runs where you feel like Sara Hall or Eliud Kipchoge. It’s common (maybe expected) to have brief bouts of hip tightness, a sore knee, or an achy foot during a run that goes away after your session. Most runs are okay with a handful of terrible and transcendent sessions.

If your expectation is to feel completely pain-free on every run, you may need a new hobby. The injury bug bites everyone at some point. With 19-92% of runners being hurt every year, the injury bug bites all of us at some point!

Runners are stereotypically very motivated, persistent people. Why else would you spend hours running on a beautiful spring morning instead of sleeping in and crushing brunch? Those character traits can be valuable throughout your life but serve as a roadblock to getting help when needed. Understanding how to differentiate an injury from “normal running pain” is crucial. Every ache and pain doesn’t warrant a doctor’s visit, but certain situations require outside help to get you back to 100%.

How do we know when the pain you feel is something to push through, and when do you need professional help? I’m glad you asked!

When should I seek out help?

As a health care provider, I feel it my duty to describe a few red flags for running discomfort that always warrants investigation. If you are experiencing…

  • Swelling
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Loss of the ability to put weight on your leg
  • Changes in your overall health

Get it checked out!

To answer “Am I injured?” we need a working definition of a running-related injury (RRI). A few years back, researchers from across the world put their massive brains together to define what was a RRI?

Here’s what they decided…

“Running-related musculoskeletal pain in the lower limbs that causes a restriction or stoppage of running for at least 7 days or 3 consecutive sessions, or that requires the runner to consult a physician or other health professional.“

Bleh. That’s a mouthful.

In layman’s terms, a RRI is…pain that causes you to change your running and potentially seek out help.

When you are struggling to figure out if the pain or discomfort you’re experiencing is a true injury, I think it’s helpful to look for a few characteristics.

Pain with Daily Activities

Unless you work in a very physical job, running is likely the most physically stressful part of your day. Running might not be the best option if you struggle to complete your daily tasks due to pain or discomfort.

Persistent Symptoms

You’ve likely experienced brief bouts of pain during a run that goes away as quickly as it appears. Persistent pain that stays for weeks or months warrants investigation. Consulting with a health care provider can help establish a specific self-management plan to put you on the path to success in the long term.

Missed Training Sessions

Everyone has to adjust their training schedule at times. If the pain you are feeling is causing more ❌ than ✅ in your schedule, it needs to be evaluated. A missed session isn’t the end of the world. But…if you look over several weeks and find yourself changing your sessions due to pain, get it checked out.

Your Running Form is “Off”

Your running form is as unique as your fingerprint. You likely know the feeling of your specific form being “off.” If you feel like your movement is off, take note! Pushing through altered mechanics is never a good idea.

Your “Gut” Instinct

You know your body better than anyone.
If your gut tells you something doesn’t feel like “normal running pain,” get it checked out.

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