Runner Therapy: Inflammation and Problems For Athletes
The problems with inflammation are many, but for an athlete, mainly two come to mind:
1. Pain. The pain from inflammation can keep you from running, OR can alter the way you run. Altering your natural running gait to avoid pain can cause further injury elsewhere.
2. Even the smallest amount of fluid’s presence can effect muscle contraction. Studies have even shown that injecting a small amount of saline into the knee joint can significantly weaken quadriceps muscle contraction. So inflammation equals muscle weakness or lack of endurance. Not at all what we want as runners.
Ice is generally used for inflammatory conditions because it is a natural anti-inflammatory. For new injuries, ice is always a good idea, as opposed to heat which is not an anti-inflammatory. Since most, if not all running injuries are followed by inflammation, ice can be used on any painful part.
There are a few exceptions to the use of ice, but they are generally not things you will encounter. For instance, open wounds, certain diseases or afflictions such as Raynaud’s or other specific rheumatic diseases are some. So for runners, the natural rule is ice.
Ice for 15 minutes as often as you have time and try to elevate the area above the heart. Or try an ice bath for the all-over inflammation that accompanies a long run. Sit in the tub full of water and add ice for about 10 minutes. Not fun, but effective!
Do you follow any process when you notice inflammation? Do you go to a doctor or a physical therapist? How ofter do you ignore inflammation and continue to run/train?
(Marisa, a MS PT SCS ATC, is a member of iRunnerBlog’s team and writes the Runner Therapy column, she is a physical therapist in private practice in midtown NYC called Dash Physical Therapy. She one of only a dozen or so physical therapists in the state of NY to be board certified in sports.)