Running Injuries: My Pain Management Plan

Running Injuries: My Pain Management Plan

It’s 6:55 AM.  I’m wrapped in ice while scarfing down a healthy bowl of cereal and writing this post.  I just got home after an invigorating 4:40 AM run with my friends Rushton, Rob and Dawn.  We logged 9 1/2 miles in the cool morning breeze, which felt great…for about the first 6 miles.  That’s when my other buddies decided to join in for the last 3 1/2.

You may in fact know them.  They go by many names…Mr. Ache, Mr. Twinge, Mr. Tightness, Mr. Cramp, Mr. Stitch, and, my least favorite, Mr. Stab.  Call them what you want, but together, they hold the keys to a club where the password to get in is PAIN.  

This morning, the Pain Gang made their arrival known when I suddenly felt lower-back tightness, which quickly shortened up my stride.  A half mile later, I felt a tweak in my right arch followed by a grabbing sensation in my left calf a little further down the road.  My mind quickly went to work thinking, I need to get this running pain under control, stat.

When I mentioned my pain to Rushton about 8 miles into the run, knowing my sports medicine background, she challenged me with one stern question: What are YOU going to do about it?

Keeping Little Pains From Becoming BIG Injuries

I’m sure you’re wondering what a professional like me would do to solve training woes like the ones I encountered.  You’re in luck!  Here is the plan I immediately put into action to combat my three running injuries and keep them from forcing me to walk home and/or miss my big race next weekend:

During the Run

1. I slowed my pace while slightly shortening my stride to balance the sound and feel of my foot strike on both sides.  I noticed that I was striding too short with my right leg and too long on my left.  Balance your body played on a loop in my head.

2. Every 3 minutes, I performed three Carioca drills on each side while keeping my knees low to emphasize trunk rotation and loosen my hips and lateral thighs.  I do this during all my long runs and races as well.

3. I switched to the other side of the road to change the road angle to relax my legs.

4. I trusted my body’s ability to work through the problem instead of adopting a very disruptive Damn, this is just my luck that I’m injured again! mindset.

After the Run

1. I drank 15 oz of a water and Gatorade mixture to hydrate my inflamed tissues.   (1 minute)

2. I elevated my legs against a wall while pumping my ankles, wiggling my toes and setting my quads to help drain leg waste products produced during my run.   (4 minutes)

3. I aggressively rolled out my quads, IT bands, hamstrings and calves.   (4 minutes)

4. I performed Active Release Techniques on my right plantar fasciitis and left calf strain.   (3 minutes)

5. I quickly stretched my hip flexors, quads, hamstrings, calves and toe flexors under the enthusiastic supervision of Marshall, my official Flexibility Advisor.   (4 minutes) 

Marshall, Flexibility Advisor

6. I took 600 mg of Advil.  (30 seconds)

7. Finally, with my legs more relaxed, my muscles more pliable and my mind more at peace with my injuries, I iced my calves and thighs with my 110% Play Harder cold compression sleeves.   (30 seconds)

Is This Worth 1.2% of My Day?

Do the math.  It took me a grand total of 17 minutes to complete my post-workout rehab to reduce my running pain by 80%!  That represents about 1.2% of my day.  The old I just don’t have time to take care of my injuries is simply not part of my vocabulary, and I suggest you adopt the same rule.

Simply put, I just can’t afford to disrupt my training or let running pain interfere with my busy schedule, and neither can you.

Take Home Points

  • Addressing a running injury quickly and properly is key for mature athletes to stay in the game.
  • Time to treat injuries won’t just appear out of thin air.  Instead, make the time, and remember that a significant time commitment is not required.
  • The first step to get healthier below the neck is to get your mind right above it. Visualize yourself as a healthy and happy athlete, then do what is needed to make this become a reality!

Author: Mike Ryan

After 26 seasons as a full-time certified athletic trainer and registered physical therapist in the National Football League, Mike Ryan has outstanding first-hand experience. His unique professional and athletic background has sharpened his skills in the arts of sports injury management, elite rehabilitation, performance enhancement and injury prevention. Mike is now taking his experience to mainstream America. His mission is simple: Sports Medicine advice that is easy to use and brings fast results. Learn more about Mike Ryan

4 thoughts on “Running Injuries: My Pain Management Plan”

  1. Hi Mike.
    You have posted a good rehab protocol…. but I think you should also incorporate back strengthening exercises in management of running injuries.
    All the best for your major race.

  2. Mike, great information. I have been sharing these same principles with my clients/athletes for years. It is so important to pay attention to the acute pain. Other soft tissue programs seem to interfere with recovery in the acute phase, however, it was great seeing you use the Active Release Technique(ART) for your recovery during the onset of the pain . Being an ART provider here on Amelia Island and the only ART instructor in Florida, I have always used ART on acute injuries and the recovery is very quick. It is great that the Jags have someone that understands ART. Thanks.

  3. Why was your stride long in the first place? It is great that you have wonderful techniques in Rehab and as you said trust in the ability for your body to work it out. Which is exactly what you did by shortening your stride. What does shortening your stride do, it lessons the rotation through your body. If you run with correct mechanics you abide by the natural design of your elastic sensory lever system designed to not get injured in the first place.
    The message to take home is learn how to run with good form first before before using performance techniques to allow the body to recover faster. Although if you run with good form this aids recover anyway.
    Good luck.

    1. Thanks, Rollo. Running forms and strides come in all shapes and sizes. The best rule for most runners who don’t happen to have an exercise physiology lab in their garage and a couple of biomechanical kinesiologists living in the hood is to:
      1. Run with bilateral symmetry. In other words, to do the same on one side of their body as they do on the other.
      2. Relax muscles that aren’t helping you get down the road. Tight fists, a clenched jaw and crazy arm motions aren’t helping you run so make those body parts chill while you run.

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