Regular runners have all been there. You’re jogging along the trail and suddenly feel a sharp pain. “Ag, no, I’m fine – it’s just a niggle!” But is it? A runner’s worst nightmare is getting injured, setting them back in their training and fitness journey. Medshield spoke to Cape Town-based physiotherapist, Genine Manchip about the difference between a manageable niggle and when it’s time to seek help.
Understanding the difference between a running niggle that will sort itself out and one that could become a proper injury can help to ease muscle soreness and stiffness, helping you have an improved, healthier running experience.
“It’s important to determine if the pain you are experiencing is due to an injury or from stiff muscles that have not been used in a while,” says Genine.
Understanding Your Pain
“The pain and stiffness you feel the day after training or later in the evening after a run/strength session in the morning is called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS),” explains Genine. “This is due to the inflammation caused by the exercise you did. This generally peaks two days post-exercise/onset. You might have heard someone talk about the ‘second-day stiffness’. This is not an injury. This is your body adapting to the training,” explains Genine.
How to ease the DOMS?
“It’s important to do low-intensity exercises, such as yoga, easy cycling and walking, and keep moving because being static will just make you feel stiffer when you start moving again. Movement is good for circulation and improves recovery.” If you feel like treating yourself after an intense race or session, sports massage is also a great idea, recommends Genine.
However, Genine says, “If you feel pain while running in a joint or muscle, more than 2/10 intensity and it progressively increases in intensity to about 4/10, this is a niggle that calls for stopping.”
Her best advice?
“Walk back. Get home and ice the painful area. If you wake up the next day and it’s not painful when climbing stairs you can try again,” she explains. “However, if the pain persists the next morning, it’s best to take a break from running and rest for 48 hours.”
Once the pain has subsided during walking, she recommends trying again. If however, you still experience pain after resting after 48 hours or if you’ve decided to try running again and the pain returns it may be time to see a physiotherapist.
But what if the pain is worse than 2/10?
“In the unfortunate event that you feel a sharp pain of 6/10 or more while running, commonly in the back of your thigh or calf muscle, or a sprained or twisted ankle, then you must stop immediately and return home to ice that region. Rest and then make an appointment to see the physio as soon as possible,” she advises.
If you are new to running, read this advice from Genine on how to avoid running injuries.