Running injury rehab mistakes is a relevant topic for many runners, including myself! Although I’m a PTA (Physical Therapist Assistant) that runs A LOT, I make mistakes with managing an injury. Currently, I am battling a three+ week hamstring strain.
I’m in the midst of training for my 11th marathon with a goal to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Granted, goals are great way to push ourselves. But we tend to wear “blinders” in pursuit of a goal, and ignore the warning signs we typically don’t miss. I am personally guilty of just that.
With that, here are eight top running injury rehab mistakes, many of which I made myself. Learn from my mistakes, so that you are on the mend more quickly, and back to pursuing your goals.
Running Injury Rehabilitation Errors
1. Ignore it and think/hope it’s just a niggle. It is important to know the difference between a niggle, and a true running injury. Not always easy to do! If discomfort persists for longer than a week, or increases in intensity, it is likely not a niggle. If the discomfort is present when not running, or when you awake in the morning, also likely not a niggle. Bottomline, if you feel the issue during your daily activities (and originally only with running), then it is time to take this more seriously.
2. Not getting help soon enough. I waited two weeks before making a PT appointment. One appointment, and I felt markedly better. I was not free of the running injury at that point, but was on the path to recovery. I could have been on that path a lot sooner.
3. Continuing with training plan and ignoring the discomfort. I wanted to stick to my plan; I had a goal to meet! Fine, but ending the workout early (if pain felt during the workout), or laying off the training plan for a few days initially may be sufficient to let the issue resolve. And, you will be back to your true training form sooner. “Nip it in the bud,” as they say.
4. Running through pain. At times, we have little flares up for a few minutes during a run, and then, thankfully, resolve. But, if the pain/issue only continues to get worse, don’t ignore that. Also don’t ignore: pain that makes you limp/alter your stride, or a stabbing/wincing pain while running. Don’t start a run if you feel pain before the run begins, if you notice any severe swelling, or your range of motion is reduced. Here’s a good article that gives more detail.
Note, strength training is a great way to prevent running injury! Read here to find out more.
More Common Running Injury Rehab Errors
5. Being impatient and attempting too much, too soon. Once in the rehab process, be patient. One good run does not mean you are “better.” I made this mistake myself, and put my training behind at least a week plus with one run workout. While injuries appear to be “sudden,” they often are not. Similarly, rehabbing takes time, and gradually building up on pace and distance are key.
6. Bringing on pace and distance too quickly. Add distance/time gradually first, then intensity later. A faster paced run puts additional strain on muscles/tendons and creates more impact on the body. With distance/time, add it back gradually, otherwise you will flare up your injury, or potentially new aches and pains.
7. Stopping your physio exercises too soon, or not doing them altogether. I highly recommend seeing a Physical Therapist to assess and treat your running injury. Yes, that means time and money. But, not properly treating an injury may lead to even more time before you’re healed, and some investment to improve your situation. Regardless, DON’T make the rehab error of skipping/skimping on the physio exercises prescribed by your PT. The exercises may be dull, but are effective in addressing the issue, and preventing further injury.
8. Getting crazy with stretching and foam rolling. Foam rolling and stretching are important to stay healthy, and can benefit when injured. But, an acute injury (ie: muscle strain) should not be stretched aggressively, or foam rolled with intensity. That rehab error can lead to more injury! Rather, wait until the injury is past the “acute phase” (at least three days) and focus on “PRICE” (protection, rest, ice, compression and elevation). If the area is still tender/painful to the touch and with most movement, shows swelling and bruising, hold off. Once you resume rolling/stretching, go lightly (maybe a less dense foam roller), and focus on the areas first around the injured area.