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Consultants Corner: Running injuries

Doctors from BMI Healthcare share their expertise.

8 March 2019

If you are preparing to start running, or perhaps you have set yourself a challenge to run a marathon this year, it’s good to get some top tips. Whether a seasoned athlete or an amateur we are all susceptible to injury and so we have been speaking to Specialist Orthopaedic Consultant at The Chiltern Hospital, Mr Ahmad Malik, to get his advice on how we can minimise injury to our bones and joints.

What can I do to reduce the risk of damaging my joints?
Potentially any sport can increase the risk of damage to a joint and cartilage and reducing the risk is best achieved by a variety of factors. Keeping to a sensible weight is always helpful and avoiding overtraining is essential. You should also use good absorbing footwear and vary the surfaces that you run on - look for softer surfaces and try to keep the hard pavements and surfaces to a minimum.

You should also make sure you are generally fit by cross training in other disciplines such as cycling, swimming or gym work – these will all help build strength.

If I feel any aches or pains after a run, what would you suggest I do?
Localised pain can be treated with resting and the application of ice – the RICE technique. More generalised pains are best treated with pain killers. I would first try to analyse why you are hurting and try to find out if it is due to the running – have you run for a prolonged period? Have you changed your training methods?

Once the pain has settled you can re-introduce exercise on a very general basis (not just running) and build up slowly.

Should I consider running if I have a joint replacement?
As a general rule, running after a joint replacement is not advised. After a joint replacement sensible low impact exercise is encouraged but not the sort of impact that running will generate.

What can I do to minimise cramp attacks?
If you get cramp, the best way to get rid of it is to rest. Most cramps don’t last more than about 2-3 minutes at most. Some evidence indicates that light passive stretching can help muscle cramps go away faster than rest alone.

I’ve just finished a run, what should I do right away?
Right after you finish, try and eat something small, preferably protein or with natural sugars, such as a piece of fruit. Then, begin to slowly drink water.

We’ve heard of ice baths, are they a good idea?
Cryotherapy (“cold therapy”) reduces swelling and tissue breakdown. Once you’re out of the ice bath, the underlying tissues warm up, which causes faster blood flow, which in turn helps your body get back to normal.

If I want to challenge myself with a big run how would you suggest I prepare the night before a race?
I make sure I have a balanced meal with good carbs, veg and protein. I mentally prepare myself for the race by going over the course and plan when I will need to eat/ drink. I also check the weather and decide what I am going to wear and get it all ready for the next morning.

What should I do to aid my general recovery on the week following a long run or marathon?
Make sure that you eat lots of fruit, carbohydrates, and protein. Light massage will help loosen your muscles. Don’t schedule a deep tissue massage yet, just a gentle massage or a light rolling with a foam roller.

How soon can I get out and running again?
Going out for a very easy light run 2 or 3 days following the race will increase blood flow to the legs and aid recovery. This should only be around 20 minutes long. The following week slowly increase the time but not the speed. Two weeks after that you can slowly increase your training again.

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