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  • Writer's pictureDr. Brandon

4 Ways Rest Doesn't Fix Running Pain

If you’ve ever picked up an injury running and you’ve been to the doctor about it, you know that they usually tell you to rest it for 6 weeks(or more)-not realizing that this recommendation robs you of the stress relief, better health, and if you happen to run with a group, the necessary connection with the guys or gals who help keep you sane. What’s worse, often rest doesn’t actually “fix” anything, especially when it comes to running. Why? When it comes to any exercise but especially running, there are a lot of things that can add up and lead to an injury. Most of those things like being a bit stiffer than you should or not having quite the strength you need to push for that faster pace(but you try anyway!) often lead to pain in the feet, ankles, knees, hips, and back(and even sometimes neck pain based on how you run). Most of these things will never be “seen” on an MRI or X-Ray. Many times when I’m dealing with plantar fasciitis, ankle pain, runner’s knee, hip bursitis, or low back pain, those are often the victims and not the true issue. So, it makes sense that when I just rest an injury that when I go back to my exercise, whether that’s running, crossfit, F45, or Orange Theory, that one of three things happens. First, often I pick up the same injury again or something else gets injured as a result of the first injury which usually leads to an even longer layoff, more stiffness, weakness, stress, and unnecessary suffering. Second, I can’t run or exercise at the same level that I want to and either I just accept it as part of getting older(when it is not) or something that I can’t do anything about(when you can do something about it). Lastly, many hold themselves back in the gym or on the run because they are scared of reinjuring themselves and so they can’t get the joy let alone the extra calories burnt and stress relief that comes from a good workout. Very rarely does anybody just jump back into training at the same levels that they were at before.

4 Reasons Rest Doesn’t Fix Running Pain(and what to do about it)

  1. Rest doesn’t fix underlying stiffness to the ankles, hip, or back and often makes those joints stiffer and less able to do the things you need them to do. In fact, when looking at the body, stiff ankles and hips often lead to knee and back pain and when we rest too long then sudden activity often inflames them and makes them tender and more stiff. Do you have to lift your heels off the ground or bend far forward just to complete a squat? Chances are that you are missing some mobility that could lead to an injury. What to do about it: Often stiff joints have one direction that typically loosens them and often clears up other problems like pronating feet or knocking knees in squats. Using something like a floss band and working on your stiffness can ease stiff joints much more quickly than just stretching.

  2. Rest doesn’t fix underlying run faults leading to more stress on the joints or muscles especially the knees and joints of the foot. Common run faults are found in the video here: What to do about it: First find out which fault you are. Often little tweaks like minding where you are placing your feet, small changes to your stride, and even how loudly you land changes the amount of stress on your muscles and joints and helps you run faster and more effortlessly than before.

  1. Rest doesn’t fix underlying weaknesses. This is most often the case with back pain when running or after running or runners knee pain. More often than not, certain muscles in the hip are just not up to the task of protecting you. This weakness can sometimes show up as painful knots in the low back, hips, shins, or calves that keep that muscle from being effective. For others, it shows up in some of the run faults above. Still in others it shows up as being wobbly when standing on one leg or trying to do any single leg exercises. What to do about it? If you have painful knots to the muscles, focusing on rolling or using a lacrosse ball to those knots often starts to improve your running or exercising right away because that muscle is now able to work well. Next, get working on one leg. This will improve not only your strength but also your balance and speed.

  2. Rest doesn’t fix tight muscles. Now, I know this sounds a lot like the first reason but the flexibility of the muscles is actually a completely different thing than tightness in the joints and they require 2 entirely different solutions. You will never unstiffen a joint by stretching a muscle(though I routinely am able to loosen a muscle without ever having stretched by targeting the right joint to reduce stiffness). Also, a tight muscle may very well be tight because your body feels the need to protect you because you don’t have enough strength in it. This often happens with tight hip flexors and tight hamstrings or a tight low back. What to do about it: First is to see if the muscle is truly too short or just feels tight. Next figure out if it is too tight from not having enough strength. You might need to foam roll the muscle, turn off its opposing muscle, do an isometric strengthening exercise to turn off the protective tightness, and in not as many cases as you might think-take the muscle to its end range in a stretch.

Confused about where to start? We got you covered! That’s why we offer free consultations to help you get to the root of why you are dealing with stiffness, pain, or just not performing the way you need to.

During one of our free consultations, the Total Body Diagnostic, we offer expert advice about the worry and frustration of life-changing aches and pains – for FREE, in under 30 minutes.

If this article describes your story and you are looking for some help with getting back to running, we offer FREE consultations, which give you the opportunity to come in and meet us and see for yourself how we can help you.

Here are just a few of the things you will learn in one of our free consultation:

  • What is the underlying cause of your pain? (hopefully nothing too serious!)

  • Roughly, how long will it take to fix the problem?

  • What to do to help – which doesn’t include painkillers, resting or surgery etc.

  • What other, natural, drug free methods are there to speed up recovery alongside treatment?

Our consultations are great for anyone that may be “unsure” if physio is right for them, and they give you the opportunity to ask questions and see for yourself if we can help you.

If you’d like one of our limited free consultation sessions, please click here to request your Total Body Diagnostic or CALL us on 850-765-2779 to make a no-obligation enquiry.

About the author

Brandon Alkire, DPT, CSCS, FMS, Cert. DN

Doctor of Physical Therapy and Strength Coach

Dr. Brandon is the owner and a Physio at Body Mechanix Physiotherapy and Fitness. Four of his favorite people call him daddy while he's been married to his other favorite person for over 18 years. He enjoys teaching martial arts and is a Mestrando in Capoeira while in the mornings, he can be found working out with the guys in F3 around town.

He's the author of 4 pain relief guides for sciatica, low back, shoulder, and knees and the lead contributor to the Active Tallahassee Blog.

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