Injury - can we prevent it?

Runners seem to get injuries. And often the pain doesn't start till sometime after a run. Anyone any wisdom about pre-empting injury? For context have just done w9r1 and have niggly back pain and back of left knee stiffness. No big deal but I really want to stay serious-injury-free if it's within my power! Particularly as I want to keep running till I'm in my eighties (currently 66) πŸ˜€ . Thanks in advance oh wise and wonderful forum!

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24 Replies

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  • You can do everything correctly, listen to advice and heed advice. Slow down, go steady, warm up, cool down, hydrate, wrap up,strip off, rest, recover, squat , stretch, strengthen and flex.... and it can still go pear shaped!

    The one thing you must never, never do though is, as I did, and that is to say, in a reply to a post... " Oh, I have never had a running related injury.... " Ha!!!

  • I promise promise promise I will never say such a thing! Get back in your runners soon Oldfloss x

  • The best thing you can do to avoid injury in exercise is to exercise sensibly. Barring purely random accidents and exacerbating previous weaknesses, I would say the vast majority of injurs occur when we push too far, too hard, too fast. Almost all exercise improvement is based on the principle of progressive overload: pushing the body to adapt to doing a little bit more than it was capable of before, but there are sensible limits to make sure that is done safely, be it running or weightlifting or whatever. The 10 percent rule in adding distance to running for example. Lifting weights its more like 5 per cent. Of course we may still get strains and pulls and injuries but if we stick within those parameters the risk is minimised.

    It is also important to differentiate between aches and pain, between soreness and injury. My shoulders are so sore today I cannot raise my arms above mid chest. But I am not injured.

  • Thanks - helpful!

  • I doubt you can ever guarantee to avoid injury. You can minimise the risk by doing all the things oldfloss says. I'd add to that list, don't ignore pain. Especially in the joints, and especially especially the knees. There's quite a lot goes on in and around the knees. Knees are a remarkable work of engineering. The trouble is, when they go wrong, they tend to really, really good wrong.

    All in all, I'd say listen to the signals. If your knee is packing in, rest it. That doesn't mean stop running. Just take it easy, and don't try to ignore the pain. I once did. It was just a niggle. I could train through it. Until it suddenly gave out completely. 3 months off, lots of tablets, and physio was required before I could gradually get back to my normal activities.

  • Ok - applying ice to knee! Tks

  • Ice works! Used a picnic ice block behind my knee while watching Wimbledon. Quite pleasurable and stiffness gone. Love to all injured folk - may you repair v soon!

  • Interesting question. My own concern is I have an old war wound (moderately severe hamstring tear several years ago) and I'm always concerned that it will go again. (I played badminton last week and had to stop as I felt a pull and didn't run for a few days after). I know a few people whose hamstring now seems to be a continual weakness since injury. Would be good to know if there is any wat to prevent reoccurrence of previous injuries (over and above the good general advice already detailed). Thanks.

  • You can't guarantee a full repair but there's a lot you can do.

    When you tear a muscle, the body naturally wants to repair that injury. It is very efficient at doing so, but it's strategy is very much a throwback to when our very survival depended on getting stuff working quickly. To that end, it doesn't do a proper repair. It botches it. What happens is scar tissue is laid down to bridge the tear. Then new muscle fibres are laid down over the scaffold of scar. Trouble is, the new tissues are laid down in such a hurry that no effort goes into alignment. The new tissue is not a nicely structured arrangement of fibres, it's the muscle equivalent of cotton wool or a tangled ball of string. Consequently it is less elastic than it should be, and not as strong, so is prone to being injured again.

    Now the tricky part.

    To improve it, we must actually do a controlled injury to the spaghetti repair. The modern trendy name appears to be myofascial release, but the more established name is simply deep tissue massage. Whatever name we choose, the principle is the same. We slowly apply sufficient force to the site to cause the fibres to unstick from each other. But not enough to actually snap them (because that would be a new tear). That's enough to reactivate the repair process. In doing so, the new repair is more likely to be correctly aligned and therefore stronger and more elastic.

    Trendies use a foam roller for this purpose. I can't see anything wrong with that if you have spare cash and a love of superfluous gear. Or you can use a fairly hard ball like a tennis ball or if you have tougher muscles, something like a lacrosse ball. Basically you sit on it, with it positioned under the target area. Then you slowly roll it under your weight, up and down the target area. You'll know when you hit the spot because it will make you jump a little bit, but it shouldn't really hurt (if it does, stop, because it's not ready).

    There's plenty on tinterweb and youtube about it so I won't go into detail here. In my experience it does help a lot, and it only takes a few minutes maybe a couple of times per week.

  • Ah! I had been recommended the foam roller but forgotten plus the thought at the time sounded wincingly painful. I did a lot (I mean a LOT) of gentle yoga about a year after the event which seemed to iron out the residual pain and stiffness and the gentle overstretching involved sort of makes sense from the rehab process you've described . However I stopped. Since I've noticed problems again maybe I really need to continue to massage, unstick and realign the fibres with the yoga then? Thanks for your post. It has made me think.

  • Yes me too - good thorough reply. Many thanks MrDecrepit (I guess you're really MrHealthy in disguise!)

  • Doing any complementary stretching and strengthening exercises, such as Pilates, yoga or tai chi will help to maintain maximum mobility of joints and muscles, which in my simplistic theory should mean things can pushed a bit further before they reach their limit. Everything is connected to everything else.

    My only running injury was a tweaked Achilles. I think it was caused by turning my foot in an uneven field but did not cause me any discomfort until later in the run. However, from the outset of C25K I had tight Achilles every morning on getting out of bed.........so the signs were there that I had a vulnerability there and maybe if I had stretched my calf muscles more, it might have been avoided. Who knows.

    We say listen to your body, but most of us only learn how to interpret those messages after we have pushed too far. Regarding your back pain, it is definitely a good idea to do core strength exercises, especially if you intend to increase your distance.

    May you stay injury free.

  • I think it's easy to under estimate the importance of stretching. I Still feel daft doing a series of 'professional athlete' looking stretches... to then plod off!! Seems like French and Saunders comedy material, but it is clearly a serious matter.

  • The pros do it for a reason......

  • Thanks Ian etc. I go to Pilates weekly and presented me left back/side niggle and teacher immediately suggested I'd been wiggling while running! Which I had! Because I'd interpreted relaxed shoulders as a whole body sort of activity (not intentionally) - which meant I lost my determinedly forward facing core and stressed my QLs (?). She led some fierce stretches and pain has gone. Fab.

  • Core strength is crucial to avoid back pain, in my experience. You need to be relaxed when running but also conscious of your posture.

  • Well said

  • Just a quick morning idea: have you had your posture checked by cariopracticer or rehabilitation specialist? You would know what tovpay attention to.

    Important is to strengthen feet & ankles (sometimes overlooked while we concentrate on knees), as weel as all core (abs, lower & upper back).

    Do warm up before warm up walk, stretch after cool down walk.

    Invest in good running shoes. Take a correct size (a little bigger), with good foot arch (meaning correct for your feet).

    And everything that was said before ;)

    Take care and enjoy!

  • Thank you - I should probably do all of that! Have a happy day πŸ˜€

  • for me im certain it was the footwear that was about to kill me off

    my hoka clifton 3 running shoes are my "shinsplint wards" i believe they saved me, and glad i swapped my cheap asics after around 100km as i was developing shinsplints and felt my whole left inside shin muscle taking all the shock after slamming the floor.

    my shin muscle would go rock hard and felt like i needed to start limping, this was towards the end of the c25k journey too, not nice. These new ones ive ran about 200km in them and its like running on cloud. get what you pay for i guess. as for any other leg or back injuies ive been ok up to now.

  • I am also worried about this. I do some stretched at start and end but I'm kindof making them up/remembering what I've been taught in the past. Not really sure why app doesn't give advice on stretching, like it does not mention it so are we even meant to stretch as I heard it can do more hard then good?! Does anyone have any links to good YouTube videos of stretching or names stretches I can look up? At the moment I tend to do three for arms/back and 3 for legs but not sure right ones! Thanks!

  • Plenty on the NHS C25k website Abergrad regarding when to stretch:

    nhs.uk/Livewell/fitness/Pag...

    And for a selection of exercises: nhs.uk/Livewell/c25k/Pages/...

  • Thanks, I actually did not think to check for a website, have just been using the app.

  • That link seems to be quite anti stretching pre or post exercise! (Or are best neutral). However it is nearly two years old and I think (?) the function of the myofascia is currently in vogue by researchers and so better understood?

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