When Is It OK To Run Through Pain?

When Is It OK To Run Through Pain?

Article by Jamie Van Beek

When Is It OK To Run Through Pain?

Whether you’re a seasoned park runner or a ‘now and then’ runner, odds are you have probably experienced pain while running. How do you distinguish between a harmless ache and an overuse injury?

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is the medical term for the ache you get after a big run. DOMS typically lasts 24-72 hours after a workout and is more common after unaccustomed exercise. This is where it gets tricky, as many overuse injuries also present after unaccustomed exercise.

Differentiating Between DOMS And An Overuse Injury


Pain reproduced each time you run is less likely to be a harmless ache. There could be a fault in your biomechanics/running style, or a structure could be being overused. Ignoring the pain that consistently aggravates when you run is a bad idea, often turning a minor issue into a significant injury.

Sustained Training Changes

Pain after a sustained change in your training regime increases the likelihood of an overuse injury. Your distance or speed may have changed, or you may have started running a different route or on another surface. If you use a running tracking app, check your stats to give you an idea of any recent changes.

As discussed above, both DOMS and overuse injuries can occur from unaccustomed exercise, so nuance is essential. Pain after one run along a novel route is more likely DOMS, whereas pain after a month of running 10km instead of 5km is more likely an overuse injury.

Can Pain That Warms Up Can Still Be An Overuse Injury?

Whilst it is true that DOMS pain can warm up during a run, pain that warms up may also be symptomatic of a tendon overuse injury. These commonly occur in the proximal hamstring tendon (close to the buttocks), the Achilles tendon and the gluteal tendon (on the side of your hip). Tendon overuse injuries can also feel fine during a run but produce latent pain the next day.

Context Is Key!

The factors outlined above are just a few ways that may help you to differentiate between DOMS and an overuse injury. If you’re still unsure after reading this, it’s probably best to book in to see your physiotherapist for a full assessment.

Early identification of overuse injuries is vital to prevent the damage from deteriorating. If caught early enough, you will often be able to continue running in a modified form whilst undergoing rehabilitation.

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