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February 25th, 2016

Running Through Injury: Risk vs. Reward

As a physical therapist, I often get asked if it is okay to run with an injury. It’s a good question, and the answer isn’t always the same for everyone. I happen to have an injury right now, so I thought it was a perfect time to share on this topic.

The most important thing I always consider is the risk I’m taking by running vs. the reward I will get from running.

Here’s my thought process on running as my injury developed.

Leading up to the injury, I was in really good shape! I thought I could run sub-4:20 for the mile for the first time in a few years, and I was so excited for the indoor season to start.

Unfortunately one week before my first race, I slightly pulled my hamstring in a workout. I took a few days off, ran the race very carefully, and it went great. But the next week, I hurt the other hamstring during a track workout. I took a few days off and tried to run again, but this time my left patella tendon (which goes right over the knee) pulled pretty bad.

I am now almost 5 weeks from my last run.

Does this sound familiar? The big question is, why did I decide to run through the obvious imbalance in my stride and the pain in my hamstring?

Let’s go back to the risk vs. the reward:

The Risk: I could injure my soft tissue or tendons due to compensations from pain and tightness in my hamstrings. This may cause me to not be able to run for 6-8 weeks.

The Reward: I had the chance to run sub-4:20 for the first time in year! I was very excited about this!!

The Result: I took a chance, and it did not work out this time. I am okay with it because I thought about the risk I was taking and accepted it. I knew this was a possibility, and in some ways taking responsibility for my actions makes it better. It was nobody else’s fault except mine. If I would have taken time off when my hamstrings hurt, I would be running by now.

Here are a few key take-away points:

  • Know in advance that if you run through pain, there is a risk of being more seriously injured. The reward for running should outweigh the risk.
  • Taking rest or seeking help at the onset of pain will result in a quicker recovery.
  • Gather as much information about your pain as you can to make a well thought-out decision on whether it’s worth running.

Check back in next week; I will share what I have been doing since my injury to get back to running!

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