Managing recovery after injury

How to recover from running injury

Running injuries often occur totally out of the blue and can be a great frustration to those impeded by them. What can be more irksome to a runner than being unable to run? Yet, with guidance from and careful control of the injury you could ease your way back to full health. Being aware of the limitations of your injury and knowing how to best overcome them will greatly aid your recovery.

There are ways you can go forward from the outset of your injury which can help you:

  • Speed up healing.
  • Sustain fitness.
  • Reduce inflammation.
  • Reduce tissue damage.
  • Accelerate your return to training.
  • Improve strength in location of injury.

Speedy management of injuries from running

Acting quickly is essential to accelerating the recovery process. Immediately after the injury occurs, treatment should be started. On the whole, running injuries are of the 'soft tissue injury' variety, for which the immediate post-injury procedure must be correct identification and PRICE.

P.R.I.C.E is an acronym for ...

  • Protection. Ideally the injured muscle(s) should not be used for running training. This may mean that the wounded limb needs to be bound up and remain unused.
  • Rest. Rest is an essential aspect of healing from a running injury. Recuperation time and respite is needed by the injured area so that it can begin to mend. Without rest there is an increased chance of additional harm befalling to the already damaged area.
  • Ice. The placing of ice at the affected site will reduce blood flow to the injury and assist with halting inflammation. Within the first 24 hour period, post-injury, a regular application of an ice pack for five minutes followed by a 10-minute rest will greatly aid healing and the speed of recovery.
  • Compression. By compressing the area surrounding the injury, swelling is reduced, further accelerating the healing process. This can take the form of an elastic type bandage or compressing an ice pack around the affected area.
  • Elevation. Elevating the injured area will reduce blood flow and fluid to the area, preventing a build up of inflammation. This allows waste fluids within the tissues to flow away.

It is important not to return to training too soon. The injured muscle needs to be made stronger and more flexible than it was before the injury occurred to prevent it happening again.

What to do next?

Allow at least three days for the inflammation to subside. Depending on the severity of the injury, it's possible that after three days you can start your rehabilitation. This can include:

  • Stretching. Stretching should be gradual, and carried out frequently on warm muscles. Stretching helps stretch the repairing muscle fibers and return the muscle to better then pre-injury levels of flexibility.
  • Sports massage. A sports therapist will be able to specifically target the damaged tissues, flush out waste products, remove knots and adhesions and align the repairing muscle fibers.
  • Fitness maintenance training. While running may be out of the question, cardiovascular fitness should be maintained through outher sports. A good alterntive for the runner could be swimming but other forms of cross training could be employed depending on the type of injury you are recovering from.
  • Conditioning training. A program of rehabilitation exercises should be carried out to strengthen the weakened muscle. The aim is to make the original injured muscle stronger post-recovery than before the injury.
  • Activity replication training. As recovery continues, the gradual introduction of activities that mimic the movements and loading of your running can be progressively introduced in readiness for the return to running.

Returning to running

On returning to running, the runner needs to build up gradually. This does not mean that the runner doing 50 miles per week goes from nil to full mileage in a single week, but does so over a period of time. Steady progression is the key.

In the long-term

Once you are back to full training, it is important to continue with the conditioning and flexibility exercises that you carried out as part of your rehabilitation. This is the best way of ensuring that the injury does not recur.

Comments (2)

  • DonaldLeeWaugh2 'Hi Iv got a stress fracture in my right foot & theres only 3 weeks to go for the Great North Run is there any thing I can do to help recover quicker Iv rested it elevated it & ice packed it ?'

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  • minifran 'I suffer from a recurring pain in my left quad that may not be apparent when I run, but can be randomly felt three days after running for no apparent reason. When the pain first occured 5 months I ignored it & subsequently spent 10 weeks out injured. What sort of rest should I be giving this to make sure I do not have to be out of action for so long again? I try to have a regular massage but do not feel that this is having uch effect on the long term problem.'

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