Unfortunately, exercise can trigger injury and chronic pain. Especially since, like many of my readers, I’m more of a weekend warrior than a regular athlete. But when I’m in the zone, training for a half marathon or even just getting in my regular jogs, it feels good…except when it doesn’t.
Over the years, I’ve definitely seen exercise take a toll on my body. I’ve had heel pain and many other ailments that often send patients running into my office. And, as it turns out, we’re not alone in that fact.
60% of Exercisers Experience Injury Related Pain
Recently, OnePoll and Therma Care surveyed 2000 people. (About 80% of the respondents participated in some form of physical activity at least once a week.) And, at the time of the poll, 60% of the group had chronic pain due to a recent or older sporting injury.
Many different types of exercises caused those problems. Of the hurt, 25 % said it happened warming up; 45 percent thought they got injured because they didn’t warm up enough! And for the ones hurt doing actual exercise? Most injures were from pulling a muscle or tendon (49%) or making an incorrect movement (51%).
Running Through Chronic Pain: a Bad Idea
Are you ready for a really troubling statistic that came from this survey? 44% of injured women, and 33 % of injured men, went right back to their sporting activity after getting hurt. They tried to act like nothing had happened. But that made them more likely to worsen any existing damage they had sustained.
While that may seem like a ‘brave’ thing to do, it’s actually a terrible idea. Pushing through the pain of an injury increases your risk of that injury lasting longer. And the survey results reflect that fact. 32% of the injured respondents couldn't do any sporting activities. Because of their recurring pain!
Unfortunately, these numbers are not limited to the respondents in these polls. I see so many patients in my office who were injured months ago, but kept trying to train through the pain. By the time they see me, they are dealing with a bigger injury—and a longer recovery period—than would have been the case had they seen a podiatrist at the first sign of discomfort.
I get how annoying it is to stop your weekend runs. I understand how upsetting it is to stay on the bench and let down your athletic team. But I need you to understand that, as soon as you get hurt, you need to see a doctor and take a rest, regardless of your frustration.
Walking Mistakes to Avoid Chronic Pain
If you're thinking of choosing walking workouts while you recover, that's a great idea! But I don't want you to walk in a way that hurts your feet more. So, with that goal in mind, here are the walking mistakes I need you to avoid.
1. Choosing bad shoes
If you wear the wrong shoes when you walk, your feet will hurt. (Hint: that could be why UGGS stop being comfy after a few hours.) Instead of choosing any old flat, think of walking as a sport. And choose supportive sneakers when you walk.
Now, if walking in sneakers still hurts your feet, you may need to wear custom orthotics to prevent injuries. These devices can help support your feet and keep issues such as flat feet or high arches from triggering chronic pain after exercise. So be sure to talk to your podiatrist if your feet hurt when you walk.
2. Stretching out your stride
Want to hear something weird? You can hurt your feet if your stride is too wide when you walk? Why is that the case? If you step too far away from your body, you throw off your center of gravity. Your body feels off balance, and works harder to keep you from falling.
While that's not a bad thing, it does put more pressure on your feet when your feet touch the ground. And that pressure builds up, over time. Meaning your low-impact walking routine could leave you with a painful case of shin splints. But don't worry, it's easy to avoid this problem. Simply keep your feet fairly close to your body as you walk, and you should be in the clear.
3. Walking through pain
Remember my earlier warning about running when you're hurt? Well it applies to walking, too! If you think of walking as exercise, this will make more sense. When exercising hurts you, that's a sign you've got a problem. So if you don't want to end up a statistic in a chronic pain study, you'll stop all exercise that hurts your body. And see your podiatrist before resuming activity, so you don't end up in more pain than before.
Staying Active During Recovery
Alright, so I've warned you about pushing through pain when you exercise. But that doesn't mean I want you to ride out your recovery on the cough. In fact, it's quite the opposite!
First, consider this. Runners and athletes often turn to massages and ice baths for recovery. Now, new research proves one is better than the other. And, lucky for us warm-weather Houstonians, the top choice for recovery is massage!
Why is that the case? The study followed 48 runners after an intense training session. They split them into two groups: those who hopped into an ice bath, those who got a massage, and those who did neither. So, what did they find? Well, when each group ran again two days later, those who had a massage were clearly more recovered. (This was measured by better strides and easier angle changes when running on inclines.) But the runners who had an ice bath showed no recovery advantage compared to those who did nothing.
Now, all of this highlights the best ways to recover when you're not hurt. But what about coming back to running after an injury or illness? In my Houston podiatry practice, I help you stay fit while you recover from an injury. Working together, we can come up with a list of exercises or movements to keep you in shape. Without making your injury worse.
Plus, we come up with a realistic timeline for when you can return to the activity during which you sustained your athletic injury. Whether it's running, soccer, baseball, basketball…heck, even golf! We all get hurt sometimes, but I can get you safely back to doing what you love.
Sports injuries happen to all of us. They’re practically a given. But recurring pain doesn’t have to be. If you seek immediate treatment for an athletic injury, you are far less likely to face recurring foot pain. And you’re far more likely to get back to a pain-free, active lifestyle that you can sustain for years to come! So come in at the first sign of foot pain, and we'll stop an exercise injury from becoming a chronic problem!