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What’s That Pain? Identifying Running Injuries

Runner holding ankle

In preparation for the NYRR New York Mini 10-K, New York Road Runners hosted a live Facebook chat with physical therapist Theresa Chiaia on identifying injuries. The following is an excerpt from the chat, with answers provided by Chiaia.

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 physical therapist-patient relationship, or any other duty, between you and any member of HSS’ rehabilitation team.

Q: I am having quite horrible throbbing pains in both calves. My left leg is slightly worse, with pain moving up the whole way to my hip. Do you think it is tendonitis?

Tendonitis is more of a local pain. It doesn’t radiate up and down the leg, so the fact that it’s up to your hips means it may be more of an issue coming from your back. You should seek medical attention.

Q: I’ve been having pain in the bottom of the ball of my left foot. Should I have it checked out by a doctor? Does this type of injury response to RICE or should I just not run until the pain goes away?

Simply start by stretching. Run only until it starts to hurt. You shouldn’t run into pain. If the pain continues, see a physician.

Q: How should I go about treating a pain that’s starting in my lower back and is continuing down into my foot. I’m also feeling this pain on the inner thigh. Any tips?

This is radicular pain from your lower back. You definitely should see a physician or physical therapist who specializes in spine because this may be related to a nerve.

Q: I’ve had a stress fracture of my tibia in the past. How can I strengthen my legs so that I won’t be prone to another stress fracture? I’ve cut down the mileage and have been very good with recovery after races.

Strengthening the whole leg from the core to the floor – core, hip, quad – as well as performing flexibility exercises to maintain muscular balance can help. You may also want to cross train.

Q: My last two discs have degenerative disc disease, and I can’t run without lower back pain. I don’t want to have to give up running. Is there anything I can do so that I can continue running with less pain?

Working on core exercises may help you. Also, flexibility exercises can help relieve the stress in your low back. Finding the right balance of running for you is the key. You may not be able to run as often, but it could be part of a mix. You could look into an anti-gravity treadmill, too.

Q: I have a pain on the upper top left of my right knee, just where thigh joins knee. It started one year back and whenever I went for a run, I wore a knee brace. I don’t have pain anymore, but once in a while it’s just uncomfortable. Any idea what it could be?

Your pain could be related to your patella or your quadriceps tendon. It could be as simple as doing adequate stretching for your quadriceps and hip flexors.

Q: I’ve been dealing with a bothersome “injury” on the outer back side of my left knee. I did the stationary bike one day with pedals too far down. Maybe I over stretched my ligament? I am able to run two miles, and if I apply pressure on it using a strap, I can run longer. Any suggestions?

It sounds like you may have hamstring tendonitis. You may want to try stretching your hamstrings as well as hamstring strengthening. The strap may help relieve pressure on the tendon.

Q: I’m having ankle pain when running. Stepping down, like from a bus, can hurt as well, but walking doesn’t. I can use cardio equipment like the elliptical and stationary bike with no problem at the gym, but cannot run at all. I started some ankle stretches. Do you have any other suggestions?

It sounds like there’s something limiting your motion in your ankle. See a physician or physical therapist to get an appropriate diagnosis and treatment. If it’s a soft-tissue problem, some gentle stretching may help. If it’s a joint issue, your physician can recommend another treatment option.

Theresa Chiaia, PT, DPT is the Section Manager of The James M. Benson Sports Rehabilitation Center and Tisch Sports Performance Center at Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS). She has been part of the HSS Women’s Sports Medicine Center since its inception and has consulted with and performed pre-season screening examinations of the New York Power and NY/NJ Metrostars soccer teams, the New York Liberty basketball team, and college soccer programs.

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.