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What to Do About Pain after a Race

woman running in empty road

In the days following the NYRR New York Mini 10-K, New York Road Runners hosted a live Facebook chat with orthopedic surgeon Dr. Sabrina Strickland on race recovery. The following is an excerpt from the chat, with answers provided by Dr. Strickland.

The information provided in this chat is for informational and educational purposes, and doesn’t constitute medical or health advice for any individual problem. Please consult with your health care providers for any health problem and/or prior to starting any new exercise regimen and/or medication or changing or discontinuing any medication you have been prescribed. This chat is not intended to create a physician-patient relationship, or any other duty, between you and any member of HSS’ medical team.

What’s the most common complaint from runners when it comes to post-race soreness?

The most common complaint of runners after a race is shin soreness.

Is shin soreness an effect of an intense run or a sign of suboptimal training?

Shin soreness can be a sign of both or either. A little bit of soreness is ok, but if it is painful to walk or lingers into the next day, it may be worth having evaluated as shin splints can be mistaken for a stress fracture.

Do you recommend running on the day after a half or full marathon to ease recovery? If so, how far/long should that run be?

Staying active the day after is a good idea to help minimize soreness and stiffness. Taking a walk may be enough. If you feel up to it, a light, short run is also ok, but don’t attempt a hard run.

Are Epsom salt baths better before or after a race?

I am not aware of any research to support the use of Epsom salt baths. However, I think the benefit comes from relaxing in warm water, which can help your circulation.

After long runs I get a bad case of lower back pain that lasts a couple of days. What do you recommend to avoid it?

Have you tried stretching and core strengthening? It may be worth physical therapy and/or a physician evaluation.

Do you recommend that runners get a sports massage as part of race recovery?

I think a sports massage can definitely be helpful as a part of race recovery, especially if you have a specific area of tightness or soreness.

No matter how much I stretch, I get very stiff hamstrings. I also walk more than run, but it’s still the same.

You need to make sure that it is actually your hamstrings rather than symptoms coming from your back. Consider consulting a physiatrist.

What’s your recommendation for IT/knee pain?

If your pain is coming from your IT band, then rolling and stretching usually does the trick.

After I ran the 10k, I developed persistent pain at the top of my right knee and slightly to the right (when looking down on it). I’ve never had this before! Any ideas on what I can do?

This sounds like it may be due to irritation under your kneecap. If it hurts with stairs then I would avoid painful activities, stretch and strengthen the leg and see a physician if the pain doesn’t go away in a couple of weeks.

I have been experiencing discomfort in my left leg behind my heel. It subsides during runs but acts up later in the day and the next day. What do you recommend to alleviate this?

This sounds like it could be Achilles tendinitis. Try new shoes or a gel insert as well as calf stretching. If it persists, I would suggest an evaluation with a physician.

Dr. Sabrina Strickland, sports medicine surgeonDr. Sabrina Strickland is an orthopedic surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery’s Women’s Sports Medicine Center and at the HSS Stamford Outpatient Center, where she treats both male and female patients. Her research has focused on anterior cruciate ligament injuries in women, as well as rotator cuff repair and shoulder instability.

Topics: Performance
The information provided in this blog by HSS and our affiliated physicians is for general informational and educational purposes, and should not be considered medical advice for any individual problem you may have. This information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a qualified health care provider who is familiar with the unique facts about your condition and medical history. You should always consult your health care provider prior to starting any new treatment, or terminating or changing any ongoing treatment. Every post on this blog is the opinion of the author and may not reflect the official position of HSS. Please contact us if we can be helpful in answering any questions or to arrange for a visit or consult.