Running with Moe: Ways to recover faster from running injuries
This past week I have had several individuals ask me about injuries, including myself.
As an old athletic trainer, I would fall back on the standard ‘RICE’ formula. This stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. This seemed to work for both sprains and strains to start letting the healing process begin.
I am not sure if all of these injuries have been the result of the marathon season winding down, and all of those long runs are finally catching up. The muscles, tendons and joints are just plain tired and need a time to recover.
The first treatment for injuries is always rest. Let the body adjust to whatever is wrong and let the natural process of healing begin.
The ice has a couple of variations in treatment.
Some say ice, or cold, should be applied for 48 hours and then it is OK to use heat to help get well.
Others say wait until the temperature of the injury sight is the same as the rest of the area before you apply heat. For this method, a person will put the back of the hand over the injury and if it stills feels warm to the touch keep up with the ice treatment.
The compression part is meant to keep the swelling down and help squeeze any accumulation of blood — or synovial fluid from the joint — out of the injury area and make it easier to return to a normal movement pattern without the swelling limiting the range of motion.
The elevation part is similar in reason as compression and is meant to limit swelling if the injured area is lower on the limb.
For runners, injuries to be in the legs. Since gravity tends to always pull down and allows the swelling to settle in the injury area. Anyone who has sprained an ankle — and has to stand any length of time on their feet — can attest to this at the end of the day when the ankle now looks like a football.
What is missing from this simple explanation of treatment for an injury is the factor of time. How long should you rest? How long should ice be applied? How long should compression be used over the injury? How high should the elevation be and how long should it be elevated?
As with anything, it often comes to the point of “too much of a good thing is bad.”
If the area is rested for too long the muscles in the area become atrophied (get smaller and weaker) and take longer to rehabilitate. Many physical therapists treat patients as soon as it becomes possible to start movement from orders from the medical doctor.
The key to moving follows the recommendation of Allan Besselink, author of RunSmart, A Comprehensive Approach to Injury Free Running, when he says a runner has to listen to their body. With this he writes that a runner needs to know the difference be ‘hurt’ and ‘harm.’
For most injuries, the first few movements will be painful and hurt. Harm comes from the hurt resulting in more damage to the injury because you went beyond what was necessary. He explains that if the injured area still hurts and feels worse 20 minutes after moving then some harm may have been done.
He is a strong believer in the body’s ability to utilize Wolff’s Law. Wolff’s Law basically states that when you put the body under stress it will adapt to the stress and get stronger. This is true for bone strength, muscle strength and tendon and ligament strength. If you can move the injured limb then the added stress will make the area stronger and promote healing. The key to this, and worth mentioning again, becomes knowing the difference between ‘hurt’ and ‘harm.’
Old-time pitchers in baseball didn’t have the advantage of relief pitchers in the middle innings. If a game went 14 innings they pitched 14 innings. If they had a sore arm they threw a baseball against the wall until it got better.
Go ahead and run — and run as fast as you can, as slow as that might be — for a faster recovery from an injury.
Just remember it may hurt a bit but don’t do harm.
Dr. Maurice Johnson is a former professor at Texas State University in the Department of Health and Exercise Science. His column appears every Sunday in the Daily Record.