Pain Relief After Running Injuries
Today we will talk about pain management after sustaining a running injury. We will not discuss pain tolerance levels and other abstract notions like this. Instead, we will try to discuss what options you have, how and when to apply them, and how to reach full recovery with minimum stress.
Pain is the universal signal that something is wrong inside our body. We understand it even before we learn how to walk and talk. As we grow older, we can differentiate between a small jolt of pain and ongoing chronic pain, and we act instinctively by stopping doing whatever movement or activity which causes pain.
Unfortunately, professional athletes and ambitious people who want to reach a superior fitness level fast will ignore the first signs that something is wrong. This is how severe injuries are caused and this is the number one cause of major pain. By major pain, we understand a level of pain that prevents you from walking properly or even moving your legs at all.
So, what are your options for pain relief after you have sustained a running injury? Theses are the main solutions available to you:
- Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
NSAIDs such as ibuprofen can be purchased over the counter from any drug store. However, the opportunity to take it and the dosage should be prescribed by your doctor, especially if you are a professional athlete.
As many professional coaches and doctors point out, NSAIDs may actually prolong the recovery period. As far-fetched as it seems, taking ibuprofen after each and every case of inflammation in the muscles and tendons may teach your body to expect anti-inflammatory treatment from the outside, rather than heal itself naturally. On another note, inflammation usually occurs in response to harmful stimuli to the muscle. By removing it, those harmful stimuli get a free pass to act and damage your muscles.
Leaving these technicalities aside, if pain has reached your intolerance level, you should ask your doctor to prescribe painkillers for a few days and you can safely take NSAIDs for the first 2-3 days after the injury.
- Ice Packs
Ice packs are a safer alternative to painkillers because they act from the outside onto the precise area of the injury. The sudden decrease in temperature causes your nerves to become numb, thus you no longer feel the pain, and offers relief from inflammation and swelling.
Ice pack applications should be closely monitored, however. You should not leave an ice pack on for more than 20 minutes, otherwise you may give yourself a frost bite. And in no case should you apply the ice pack directly onto the skin: either wrap it in a towel or pull your trouser leg down.
- Spray/Cream Against Pain
You see these products in action during televised sports events, especially football. When a player is injured, the team doctor quickly sprays the injured knee or ankle and the player is as good as new. Actually, the spray only numbs the pain for a period of time. If you are certain that you do not want to take pain relief medication orally, this is the best alternative you have. However, you should still ask your doctor to prescribe you these products as well.
As improbable as it sounds, gentle pressure applied onto the muscles helps relieve tension, improves blood flow and thus reduces the conditions which cause the pain. However, you should hire a licensed professional to perform the massage and ask your physical therapist to suggest the stretching exercises recommended for your type of injury.
As a final thought, remember that you should always pay attention to the signals your body is sending you. A mild jolt of pain is the first sign of injury. The sooner you see your physio, the simpler the treatment – and the less your need for pain relief medication.