Running Pain: A Physiotherapist’s Guide

John Miller Physiotherapist

Article by John Miller

When is it OK to Run Through Pain?

Understanding Running Pain and Injuries

running pain
Running Pain


As a physiotherapist, I often encounter runners, both seasoned and occasional, who grapple with the dilemma of running through pain. This article aims to guide you in distinguishing between a minor discomfort and a sign of overuse injury, backed by the latest research and practical advice.

Running Pain: Listen to Your Body

Running Pain isn’t just a discomfort; it’s your body’s way of signalling potential harm. Pain experienced during or after running can range from a simple muscle ache to a warning sign of an overuse injury. Understanding and respecting this pain is crucial in preventing long-term damage.

DOMS: The Common Ache

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) occurs after intense or new exercise, lasting typically 24-72 hours. It’s a natural response of your muscles adapting to increased demands. However, it’s crucial to differentiate DOMS from an overuse injury, as both present similarly after unaccustomed exercise.

Overuse Injuries: More Than Just Pain

An Overuse Injury develops when a particular body part endures more stress than it can handle, leading to tissue damage. Unlike DOMS, these injuries worsen with continued stress and require immediate attention.

Key Indicators of Overuse Injuries

  1. Consistency of Pain: If the pain occurs each time you run, it’s a red flag. It might indicate issues in your biomechanics or a specific structure being overused.
  2. Changes in Training Regime: A sudden increase in distance, speed, or change in running terrain can precipitate overuse injuries. Monitoring changes through a running app can provide insights into these risk factors.

The Subtle Signs: When to Worry?

Even pain that seems to ‘warm up’ during a run can signify a deeper issue, like a Tendon Overuse Injury. Common sites include the proximal hamstring, Achilles, patella and gluteal tendons. These injuries might feel negligible during the run but can cause significant pain afterwards.

Context is Key

Understanding the context of your pain – how it started, its consistency, and its response to rest – is crucial in distinguishing between DOMS and an overuse injury. If you’re uncertain, it’s wise to consult a physiotherapist.

Recent Research Insights

Recent studies emphasise the importance of gradual training increases and the role of proper running biomechanics in preventing overuse injuries. Techniques such as running analysis can pinpoint biomechanical faults, offering targeted interventions.

Physiotherapy: Your Partner in Running Health

Physiotherapy for Runners not only addresses existing injuries but also offers preventive strategies. A physiotherapist can help in:

  • Assessing your running technique
  • Advising on appropriate training regimes
  • Guiding through targeted exercises and rehabilitation

Rehabilitation: The Road to Recovery

Running Rehabilitation is about finding a balance – it’s not always about stopping entirely, but about modifying your running and integrating strengthening exercises. This approach helps in maintaining fitness while allowing the injury to heal.

Conclusion: Your Running Health Matters

Understanding the difference between a harmless ache and a potential overuse injury is vital for every runner. Early detection and proper management are key to a swift recovery and return to running.

What to do?

If you’re experiencing persistent or concerning pain while running, don’t hesitate to seek professional advice. Booking an assessment with a physiotherapist can provide a clear diagnosis and a tailored recovery plan, ensuring your running journey is healthy and enjoyable. Remember, your running health is as important as your passion for running.

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