Last night I had the opportunity to sit in on a speech about injury prevention by Dr. Scott and associates. They covered a number of the most common running injuries, ways to prevent them and when to seek treatment.
Dr. Jacob made a great point when he said, "runners routinely carve out 2 hours to run, but say they can't find ten minutes to stretch after." Stretching is important, we all know that, just do it.
Many of the problems that occur in runners are the result of wearing the wrong shoes, or wearing old/worn out shoes. It is important for every runner, no matter what distance, to have their gait analysed to help them find the proper shoe. Most specialty running stores will have staff capable of doing this for you. Some even have video cameras attached to a treadmill so you can see if you pronate or supinate, and also how well the shoe corrects for that. Don't worry if your running store just asks you to run down the block and back while they watch, the fancy equipment is only necessary for you to see what you are doing.
Of course we all know that shoes wear out. What few people realize is how quickly they wear out. For runners it is recommended that you get a new pair of shoes every 300 miles. As the shoe wears out it loses shock absorption, cushioning and stability. If you start experiencing more pain in your joints or muscle fatigue you may need to buy a new pair of shoes.
I was surprised to learn that shoes break down even when you aren't wearing them. For example, the older, discontinued models offered at a huge discount which are available at every running expo I have been to. Even though the shoe hasn't been worn, the midsole breaks down over time (Don't we all).
Following a smart training program is important. The rule of thumb I was raised on is don't increase more than ten percent a week. Of course there are people who can get away with running a half marathon the first time they lace up, even if they live through the experience it is still unwise. Hand in hand with this advice goes the wisdom, start training early. It is easier to train for a marathon when you have 6 months than when you have 2 months.
Even if you are doing all of the above, sometimes you will still find yourself developing an injury. Everyone has heard the phrase, "consult with your doctor before participating in this exercise program." And some of us do! But I always assumed that advice meant we should make sure our heart was up to the workout. I doubt I am the only who didn't consider finding a sports doctor to make sure our joints are ready for the new activities. Sometimes a small misalignment can cause a lot of pain, and, if left untreated, it can escalate into an injury that takes you out of your sport for a few weeks to a few months.
How do you know when you should see a doctor? It is widely agreed that if you have to alter the way you run or walk because of the pain, it is time to seek help. I take a somewhat more conservative view. If the pain persists for two weeks or more, I think it is worth looking into.
Who to go to for help.
Specialty running stores can introduce you to trusted sports doctors in your area.
I am very fond of the team at Elite Sports and Spine. They are located in Bellevue, WA, and can refer you to a doctor in your neighborhood.