A Runner’s Pathway From Injury to Recovery: We Understand & We Can Help

At the Footcare Clinic, our Podiatrists are experienced runners.  We have experienced injuries over time (heel pain, shin splints and ITB syndrome just to name a few) and we have chatted with our running mates about their own injury experiences.  In this blog post we will outline the personal issues injured runners must confront, and how we – as Podiatrists – can help. 

Thoughts From An Injured Runner

When a runner gets injured they go through a plethora of emotions.  Some see it as an opportunity to switch to other modes of fitness while their injury heals (ie. cycling, swimming) but others feel disappointed that they didn’t see the signs coming and are fearful of the unknown.  

Major concerns for injured runners include: 

  • not knowing how long their injury will take to heal, 
  • when they can run again, and 
  • whether they can achieve their running goals for upcoming events.  

Injured runners can also suffer a range of emotional and mental effects. They may feel socially disconnected because running allows them to connect on a deeper level with their friends.  Runners often see running as a de-stressor, a method of fitness that has a powerful effect of relaxing their mind and body.

Being injured means they won’t be able to experience the ‘runner’s high’, suffering the absence of feel good hormones rushing through their system.  Some will feel lost because their running ‘routine’ may have been disrupted.  The social isolation and the effects on their physical and mental wellbeing can lead a runner down a path of despair.  

Thoughts For the Therapist

As health professionals our core purpose is to give care and attention to those who seek our help. A consultation only lasts for a short time before they get sent home. Much can happen in between appointments, out of our control, with the possibility of major impact on outcomes for individuals. 

So how does treating an injured runner differ to anyone else?  I believe it doesn’t. Every person has a story. When we seek to understand on a deeper level why this person in front of us is there and learn about their main goals, expectations and frustrations, we will be better at helping them achieve their desired outcomes. 

An injured runner’s frustrations are very similar to non-runners who seek medical help.  Not knowing how much they can do, before they have to stop, (to prevent further harm and setbacks) is a big frustration.  Being able to guide injured runners to a state of certainty through clear communication and evidence-based treatment is vital. The concept of rehabbing a runner back from injury through a customised loading and unloading program is well-known.  Identifying what a runner can do is just as important as what they can’t do. Telling a runner to stop running altogether, when they can effectively run 5 km before the pain appears, is counter productive. To prevent the yo-yo effect of injury occurrence, we must ensure we recognise the cause of the injury in the first instance and sustain the runner’s ability to load gradually through a running-focused strength and conditioning prescription. 

The mounting medical costs involved in treating a runner’s injury is another major frustration (ie. diagnostic imaging, purchasing rehabilitative devices, specialist consultation fees, taking time off work etc).  Runners just want to get back to running quick smart and are well versed in what they need to do when they get injured. By the time they seek professional help they would have gone through the ice application, rested and have consulted with Dr Google countless times.  It’s important to not waste their time with giving mediocre treatment remedies. Giving prompt treatment, setting clear treatment pathways and addressing their expectations will help deliver certainty in their journey to getting back to running.

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