6 Signs You Should See a Doctor for Running Injuries

Well, you’ve done it all right, you injured yourself. Maybe it's something you had for a while, or maybe it just happened to you, and you're not really sure should I see a doctor about this? Or can I treat it on my own?
6 Signs You Should See a Doctor for Running Injuries

Well, you’ve done it all right, you injured yourself. Maybe it's something you had for a while, or maybe it just happened to you, and you're not really sure should I see a doctor about this? Or can I treat it on my own? Well, I'm Jesse Funk, and on today's episode of Runner's High, I'm going to give you my six signs that it's time to see a doctor about your running injury.

I've been injured numerous times over the years, no more so than when I was in college, and we were pushing our physical limits, racing and training three seasons out of the year. It takes a hectic toll on your body, especially in the collegiate environment where you're constantly pushed to produce results. Fortunately, at that time, we had athletic trainers on staff you could go see them, it wasn't a big deal to you know, should I go see a doctor not gonna see a doctor.

Nowadays, post-college and probably for you as well, since you're here with me, you're wondering, “Do I need to get out the credit card, start spending some cash and go see a doctor? Or can I treat this myself?” Well, with all my injuries over the years, I've kind of come up with some signs that I worked to determine whether I should go see a doctor, as well as kind of conferring with my coach and other high-level athletes that are kind of in my friends or social circle. So, these are my six signs that it's time to go see a doctor about your running injury.

Number one is, if it's chronic, if this is an injury, you keep having over and over and over again, and you keep trying to treat it yourself, clearly, and I don't mean to be mean but you're not doing something right. And that's something that we have to be honest with ourselves. If we want to progress and know that we have limitations. That's why they're doctors; they have training we don't have that helped us get better basically in lots of different varieties and specialties.

But in our case, when there is something that is chronic, that we are always having problems with, seeing a doctor or some kind of medical professional, or even a sports-specific doctor is going to be the way to go here to figure out, is it a biomechanical inefficiency? Is it an equipment efficiency issue? I can't talk apparently. Is it some kind of issue with how we're training or the amount of training that we're throwing on our bodies? When it is chronic, it is something that is wrong. It's a red flag that something's going on, and you need somebody outside to look at it with you.

This one should be straightforward. I shouldn't have to say it, but I'm gonna say anyway. Number two is, if your injury is skeletal, it's time to go see a doctor. Treating a skeletal injury at home, it's going to lead to a slew of problems down the line. Not only will it probably not heal right, that's going to end up probably limiting your mobility or your range of motion forever. And skeletal issues can be a variety of things. I’ve talked about it in the past on the Smart Athlete Podcast and other episodes of Runner's High that I broke my collarbone a while back.

Now that's an injury that sometimes doesn't really require medical intervention, sometimes it heals back together. But it's good to go see the doctor, especially in a case like that, where, okay, maybe it's not something that they're going to do anything, they're not going to intervene in any way besides maybe giving you sling. Because when they do an X-ray or an MRI or whatever it is that they want to do, most likely an X-ray first, then they can determine whether intervention is needed. In my case, I needed surgical intervention because my bone was split down the middle and then kind of one part was stuck down and the other part was up, it was not going to heal properly.

If I hadn't allowed my bone to try to heal by itself without surgical intervention, this shoulder would have been sunken in about an inch, that's how far it was for the rest of my life limiting my mobility. So, if it is skeletal, please, please, please go see a doctor about it. Other skeletal injuries can just be things like a stress fracture, which is an overuse injury.

A good initial diagnostic tool for that, this is a tip on top of everything else, use a tuning fork. You can use a tuning fork, hit the tuning fork, put it on where you think the injury is, if it hurts, you most likely have a stress fracture. If it doesn't hurt, it doesn't mean you don't have a stress fracture, but it's less likely. And I know that through experience where the tuning fork is used as a diagnostic tool, it did not show my stress fracture, but I had one anyway.

Number three, if your injury is limiting your everyday mobility and you cannot complete everyday life, it's time to go to the doctor. If you can't move around, you can't do your job, you can't take care of your kids, your family, whatever it is that's limiting you from having a normal everyday life, it's time for an intervention. That's what doctors are there for. They're there to help you not there to be scary and hopefully, not to create overburden of medical bills, at least for us here in the US, can't speak to anybody else. But if you can't participate in your own life, then you are both missing out on your running for sure. But as well as your normal everyday life, which degrades your kind of mental capacity and your outlook on life over time. So, if your injury, whatever it is, is limiting how you live your life, go see a professional, it's time to do that.

Number four, if you cannot sleep because of the injury and that means it's too painful, things are swollen, aching, all that kind of stuff, and it is bothering you; and this really goes along with what I just said when it's limiting your everyday life. If you cannot sleep that means something is serious enough that you need somebody to look at it and figure out, okay, what kind of treatment? What kind of intervention do we need to do to get this person, you, back on track to live their happy, healthy life.

Number five, if your injury does not respond to RICE. Now, I don't mean a bag of rice, I mean, the RICE method, Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. These are our kind of preventive measures, and anytime we get an injury, we kind of try to do these things proactively. Go ahead and try these things. Rest, don't go out for a run. Ice it, try to reduce inflammation, compression, same thing reducing inflammation, elevation, again, trying to reduce inflammation.

So, if your injury does not respond to those things, you continue that swelling, you continue to have numbness, tingling, any kind of pain and those kinds of sensations and it’s not responding, you're taking that rest, you're coming back to running, it's still hurting; those are indications that the kind of normal methods, everything that's available to us, as lay people as normal runners, that those things are not going to be enough for whatever injury you have.

There are a few of the things you can go to first, kinesiology tape, therapy bands, if you know how to use them. And then once those are all kind of used up, and you're not responding to those kinds of things, it's time to see a doctor. We do everything we can as normal people before we need to go see a doctor. And then once we've exhausted those things, as long as it's not skeletal, chronic, any of those other things, then it's time to go get the professional-grade help to move us forward.

Last and certainly not least, this is the most subjective measure. But number six is if your injury continually worries you, then it's time to see a doctor. Now, this is subjective and you can say “Oh, some people just worry.” Well, that may be true, but you will probably even if you are just a worrier, and everything is fine, you will probably find comfort in the professional telling you, okay, this is all you need to do, and you can move forward. But I also find that our mind is a good indicator when we listen to it of what is going on, assuming we have normal mental faculties.

You know, I often talk about Rate of Perceived Exertion and being in touch with how our body feels, and that kind of mind-body connection. If we continue to worry about things, that's typically a signal, some kind of maybe yellow flag, maybe not a red flag, but some kind of signal that something is still wrong or something is out of our control and being able to fix it. It's beyond our own means to fix it. When you go see that professional, they will be able to help diagnose not only what is wrong, but how to go forward and treat it.

So, those are my six signs it's time to go to see a doctor when you have a running injury? Do you have any other signs? Do you have any other suggestions of when you should absolutely go see a doctor? Leave them down in the comments. Let me know, I'd love to hear from you. I'll see you next time on the next episode of Runner's High.

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