Running Injuries: When Do You Actually Need To See a Doctor?
Runners are notorious for being stubborn, particularly when it comes to pain. At what point are your nagging aches and pains a sign of a more serious injury? Here, when you should see a doctor for your running injury is discussed.
When to See a Doctor?
If you are experiencing pain that is emanating from a bone – as opposed to a muscle – it is time to see a doctor for a diagnosis. Bone pain can be differentiated from muscle pain in most instances by recognizing certain characteristics. For instance, bone pain tends to be localized, sharp, persistent, and experienced in response to pressure while muscular pain covers a broad area, is dull, and lessens over time.
If your pain changes the way that you walk or run, a professional opinion is necessary. Over time, an altered gait will lead to additional injuries and imbalances.
Numbness, Tingling, and Swelling
If you are experiencing numbness or tingling in conjunction with pain, you should see your doctor in order to rule out a nerve injury or disorder. Prolonged swelling in conjunction with pain is also a sign that you should be evaluated by a physician.
If you have taken time off in order to rid yourself of pain but the sensation persists, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor.
If you are experiencing intense pain that either keeps you up at night, or requires medication in order to manage, a doctor’s intervention is necessary.
Constant pain can cause depression and anxiety in injured runners. If your quality of life has been diminished due to the constant worry about your injury, schedule an appointment with a physician.
Not all running injuries result in painful sensations in body. If you are experiencing a mystery ailment that is affecting your running, a doctor can help determine the underlying cause, such as low iron or a thyroid disorder.
Training for an Important Race
Finally, if you are training for an important race and would like to minimize the amount of time lost due to injury, see a doctor sooner, rather than later. If you wait too long to fix the problem, you will require more time off than if you nip the injury in the bud.
Common Running Injuries and When They Become Serious
The most common injuries are described, as well as when it becomes necessary to seek medical intervention.
Shin splints are common among athletes, new and old alike. If this injury does not go away after 3 days of rest, schedule an appointment with your doctor. Another sign it is time to have the problem addressed is if the pain becomes sharp and intense, which could indicate a stress fracture.
IT Band Syndrome
The IT Band runs from the top of the hip into the knee. This tendon generates force while also stabilizing knee and hip. IT Band Syndrome occurs when scar tissue builds up in the IT Band, causing pain in the knee, hip, or along the outside of the thigh.
In many cases IT Band Syndrome can be managed with rest, diligent foam rolling, and hip strengthening. However, you should plan to see a doctor if the pain persists after taking time off, or if you are unable to run or walk with your normal gait due to pain.
A stress fracture is an overuse injury that occurs due to an excessively quick mileage build up, poor biomechanics, running in improper shoes, or too much running on hard surfaces. The symptoms of a stress fracture include acute, localized pain that intensifies during exercises and decreases while at rest, as well as swelling near the affected area. As soon as you identify bone pain that persists despite taking time off, or if the pain is experienced during times of rest, you should schedule an appointment with a doctor.
Runner’s knee is a blanket term for general knee pain that can be caused by a number of factors. Most commonly, a weakness or imbalance in calf, hamstring, quadriceps, or hip strength is most likely to blame.
While runner’s knee is annoying, it rarely leads to a more serious injury which is why many athletes frequently choose to run through this type of pain. However, athletes should see a doctor if the knee pain feels like bone grinding on bone, or if the pain significantly worsens. Similarly, if knee pain does not subside after taking time off, a doctor’s appointment should be scheduled.
Plantar fasciitis is a common injury that results in foot and heel pain. This injury can be stubborn and last longer than 12 months, especially when not treated right away. Runners who experience foot and heel pain for more than 2 weeks or pain that significantly worsens should consult with a physician.
What Type of Doctor Should I See?
When it comes to running injuries, a proper diagnosis is most important. Oftentimes, runners are hesitant to see a doctor because they do not want to be told to stop running. The shortest recovery time will take place when the proper type of doctor is visited. Here, six different choices, as well as their merits, are described.
General practitioners typically have little experience with sport-specific overuse injuries. Unless your doctor is an endurance athlete, the most typical response is to abstain from running and to take an anti-inflammatory.
In most cases, scheduling an appointment with a specialist is the best option, as a general practitioner is likely to refer you to one, anyway. Bear in mind that your insurance company may require a referral for non-GP doctors, so be sure to check before you make an appointment.
Sports Medicine Doctor
A sports medicine doctor is a physician with specialized training in sports medicine. If you need a diagnosis for an injury, a sports medicine doctor is the best place to start, particularly if you are unsure what type of injury is affecting your running.
If you are experiencing any type of muscle, bone, joint, or tendon pain an orthopedist is right for you. Look for an orthopedist that specializes in athletes. While this option is great for diagnosing problems with the skeletal or muscle system, an orthopedist is not best for diagnosing blood or hormone disorders.
A podiatrist specializes in foot injuries such as plantar fasciitis, metatarsal stress fractures, and big toe tendonitis. If you are experiencing pain, tingling, or numbness in your feet, consider heading straight to a podiatrist.
A physical therapist is someone who can develop an individualized rehabilitation program to treat current injuries and prevent future ones. Runners can make an appointment with a physical therapist after an injury has been diagnosed, or receive a referral from another doctor.
Spinal alignment is necessary for pain-free running, but running is a high impact sport and even the smallest muscle imbalances can lead to misaligned or restricted joints, hips, and spine. A chiropractor that specializes in the needs of athletes can relieve pain while also prescribing strengthening exercises. Visit a chiropractor for general back or joint pain while leaving injuries such as fractures or torn ligaments to the expertise of other doctors.
The Dangers of Not Treating an Injury
What happens if you have a serious injury and decide not to visit a doctor? Depending on the injury, you could be sacrificing your ability to run pain free in the future. While shin splints and stress fractures will heal on their own given sufficient time away from running, chronic injuries such as tendonitis frequently stem from an underlying biomechanical problem.
A doctor will help you determine your weaknesses and develop a plan for overcoming them. The end result will be a stronger, faster, and pain-free you.