Many times when we get injured and have to take time off from running, we spend hours and days trying to figure out how we got injured in the first place. Of course, sometimes you know exactly what caused your injury because you fell, twisted wrong, or something such as that happened.
But for many runners, we have no real idea what the hell happened. All we know is something hurts and we need to take time off or that something is going to get worse. We are left with little clues which we must piece together to figure out the most likely cause to our injury.
If we don’t figure it out, we run the risk of causing the same injury down the road. So while we sit and rehab ourselves, we ask many questions and change many things to try to figure it out. Was it my shoes? Was it not stretching? Should I do a warm up? Do I need to add strength training or am I doing too much? Maybe, it wasn’t running at all, but the cross training I’ve been doing? Am I overtraining? Did I increase my miles too quickly? I am doing too much speed or hill training? Do I need an insole?
We want to get back to running so badly that we throw everything we know at the injury including but not limited to pain medication, ice, foam rolling, stretching, new shoes, insoles, more or less cross training, more or less strength training, reduction in miles, softer surfaces, and compression clothing.
All of these are great and one or a combination of them will likely help you get back to running sooner rather than later (unless it’s a stress fracture or something equally as serious). However, by trying so many things at the same time we actually hinder our ability to figure out what caused it in the first place and which treatment actually helped.
Why do we care if we are back running? Because you don’t want it to happen again.
If you start all of these things, you’re unlikely to maintain all of them or any of them for any extended amount of time (more than 3-4 weeks). As soon as you feel better, you are going to stop. This places you at a pretty high risk of re-injury within the next six months or so.
So what should we do?
Start with RICE, Rest Ice, Compression, and Elevation.
Then ask yourself if you changed anything in your routine recently. If you have, start there. If you increased your miles, back off them and build more slowly. If you went with a new type of shoe, switch back. If you added strength training, try reducing the weight and/or repetitions.
If you haven’t changed anything, it’s a little trickier. Many strains are caused by an imbalance in muscle strength or the opposing muscles are tighter, possibly both. Adding in light strength and foam rolling to balance out the muscles and loosen them up is the best place to start.
Use light weights or body weight with 10-15 repetitions and make sure you do both sides. The problem is unlikely to be your shoes or the surface that you run on, unless you have significantly increased your miles and in that case, decrease your miles and build more slowly.
And sometimes, we are just not goigt to know what in the hell happened.