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When should you be concerned about pain with running?

When should you be concerned about pain with running?


by Mark Halstead, MD

Often in sports, people like to follow the motto of “no pain, no gain.” While some discomfort may be expected when pushing the body during physical activity, there are points where that discomfort is no longer the expected and becomes a warning sign that an injury may be developing.

In running, those injuries are often overuse injuries which can develop from bumping up mileage too much, too soon; running too high of mileage per week than what the body can tolerate; improper running mechanics; strength deficits; and improper or old footwear.

So when does that ache or pain become something you should be concerned about? Here are several things that I warn my patients about that may be a sign that you may need to take some time off or get evaluated by a sports medicine specialist:

  1. Pain that progressively worsens the longer you run.
  2. Pain that continues to linger constantly even when you are not running.
  3. Pain that causes you to limp.
  4. Pain that you have to alter your mechanics while running to try to lessen the intensity.
  5. Pain that continues to linger beyond two weeks that may not fit the 4 categories previously mentioned.

Since there are many overuse injuries that can occur in running, some of which are more a nuisance than dangerous, a runner needs to be proactive about injuries rather than being stubborn about seeking medical care for pain.

As a long time runner myself, I understand the desire to want to continue to run and exercise, but runners need to also recognize that what may not seem like something serious, can actually be something that you can do more harm to yourself in the long run by continuing to run. Certainly having a pain free run is also much more enjoyable than toughing through a run that causes a lot of pain!

Several stress fractures in the lower body may not be something that causes excruciating pain but can lead to surgery and prolonged time out of running if not addressed in a timely fashion. Be kind to your body and get things checked out, especially if they are causing pain like I described earlier! Happy running!

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