So you figured you’d avoid cars on the road for a day and took your running out on the D&L Trail. Gorgeous scenery ranging from full shade under the canopy of trees to breathtaking views of the Lehigh River. And then you stepped on a fallen branch and rolled your ankle.
Running injuries come in all varieties and from all kinds of factors, according to Joel Allen, PT, MSPT of Physical Therapy at St. Luke’s in Quakertown.
From acute hamstring strains and ankle sprains to plantar fasciitis and overuse injuries, they all start treatment with the age-old RICE approach: Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.
“A lot of what we see are overuse injuries, especially when talking about distance runners,” says Allen, a triathlete and former soccer player, and one of just two certified Healthy Running Coaches in Pennsylvania.
“They are runners who are trying to get in more miles before a race and they figure running longer is better, but I wouldn’t say that’s true. I would say training efficiently is more important, especially as you get older.”
According to statistics, 70 percent of all runners will suffer an injury that keeps them from running for at least a week each year, and the percentage climbs to 90 percent for marathon runners.
Consulting a running expert and being evaluated for proper running mechanics so that proper form can be established will lessen the chance of injuries. Undergoing a gait analysis helps runner find the most efficient form for them.
Allen says that the most common minor injuries for runners are shin splints, Achilles tendinitis and hamstring strains, all of which can be treated using the RICE method.
These same injuries also can be more severe, and any type of major bruising and swelling warrants a visit to an orthopedic specialist for a proper diagnosis.
“Treatment-wise, for an acute injury – a new injury that happened very recently – one of the best things to do is to get ice on it to reduce the inflammation,” Allen says.
He adds that many people continue to relive their younger days in their mindsets, when they could simply go out and run with great effort and distance and do little pre- or post-run preparation like warming up, cooling down and stretching.
Rest is an important ingredient of the treatment plan because it allows the injury enough time to heal with proper treatment. Proper hydration is also a necessary component of treatment because it has a direct effect on soft tissue’s elasticity.
There’s more to treatment than RICE, however. Recovery means a strengthening and balance program.
Allen is a big proponent of massage for injuries. Massages help stimulate the muscle and surrounding tissue while forcing toxins and swelling out.
If an injury lasts for more than a week or so, or causes extreme pain, Allen recommends seeing an orthopedic specialist or a physical therapist who can quickly find out any underlying issues or causes for both the injury and the slow recovery.