“You shouldn’t run” is a frightening tale that’s told all too often. The running community has stereotyped medical professionals as a society of running haters. A society of clinicians with only one answer for a running injury: “stop running.” In fact, there may be no quicker way to turn off a runner than these two simple words: stop running.
The favor is reciprocated by medical professionals. Runners are generally painted as patients looking for a specific answer and quick fix. We’re also viewed as a self-diagnosing and impatient group. Some believe that if a runner doesn’t find an answer they’re looking for they will simply continue the search (whether it’s on Google or at another office). To get the best care you need to find the right person, one free from stereotypes. Finding that person can be can be tricky. Luckily, we can help steer you in the right direction before you seek help.
First, you should never judge a clinician on whether they run or not. I know. I know. You want someone who “gets it”. But this factor alone cannot be your deciding factor when seeking help. Some of the most talented medical professionals have never laced up their shoes for a single run. For you it’s more important that they understand movement and injury rehabilitation. Skill above all else will heal you. A skilled clinician can find the root cause of your injury and put the pieces back together.
Admittedly, there are some issues with non-running clinicians. Where the ‘non-running’ clinician falls short is within the realm of the crushing psychological weight that accompanies being sedentary. The non-running clinician might not fully understand that you’re an emotional mess of internal dialogue. An internal dialogue (read inner crazy) that is force fed through the observance that everyone in your daily commute has gone out for a run whenever you leave the house. (Has anyone else noticed this??)
There are few tips when navigating the treatment jungle:
1: Ask around. It’s quite easy via social media to get recommendations. You’ll want to find a doc who works specifically in orthopedics. When you begin to narrow your search ask follow up questions or perform a simple Google search. Tie breakers go to clinicians who run.
2. Don’t like the person? Don’t be afraid to try again. Your first visit should not only tell you what the sources of pain are, but why the problem developed (i.e. overtraining, strength, flexibility, run form, etc.). The clinician should also layout a treatment plan for you too. If they don’t be sure that they direct you to someone who can. DO NOT accept a packet of papers as your treatment approach.
3. Seek a Physical Therapist first. Overuse injuries RARELY require surgery or a cortisone injection. A visit to your local orthopedic doctor can likely fetch you a diagnosis but zero information on how to return to running. A skilled physical therapist can lead you from diagnosis through treatment, minimizing time lost due to injury. *Note: most states DO NOT require you to have a physician referral to begin physical therapy. (Michigan and Oklahoma are the only two states who require a physician referral).
4. Being told not to run is NOT the end of the world. You shouldn’t let it go in one ear and out the other. There are in fact times when you shouldn’t run. Actually, if you’re told not to run it may be a good thing. It can help you determine if you have the right clinician in your corner. A “you shouldn’t run” should be followed with two things: a reason why and a treatment plan to return. If it’s accompanied with zero explanation you may need to find someone else.
5. Start conservative. Avoiding a quick fix can be tough. Sure, a cortisone injection may help your knee this weekend, but it may have lasting effects down the road. Three to four weeks of conservative treatment may be enough time to know whether more invasive measures are needed.
The great thing about treatment is that you can always try again. Your choice for treatment (specialty or rehabilitation) is ultimately up to you. A doctor may offer a recommendation or steer you in a direction, but you have final say for treatment. If you don’t know where to start, begin by asking your local running club. Most importantly, if you’re not happy with your choice try again.