This is NOT, nor EVER will be the way to deal with a niggle.
I've heard it so many times, as well as being guilty of saying it myself. It's an athlete thing I'm sure. "I'll just run it off!"
How many times have you said it to yourself, out on the trails or pounding the streets. You're having a really good time and then something starts to irritate (not talking about a stone in your shoe or squeak coming from a back pack).
There's pain when you're doing what you love to do. I'll stick with running otherwise this article could get messy but please bear in mind it could be anything, cycling, swimming, underwater butterfly wrestling.
The pain is in your knee, again I'll stick with knees as it's a common runners issue. It's not enough to stop you but it's bloody irritating.
After a while you make the conscious decision to maybe try running on the other side of the path. There is a little camber, it could just be that.
The switch is made and there's a brief relief but within a couple of minutes it comes back. Again you decide to run a little more upright or with shorter steps or tilt your foot inwards a bit.
You probably go through a hundred scenarios to try and not let this little niggle stop your enjoyment. Unfortunately you're focusing so much on this bloody niggle that the enjoyment has already been compromised but hey, you're still running and that's all that matters.
Aaaaagh f*#k it, I'll just run it off, it'll go away soon.
Does this sound familiar to you yet?
You get home and maybe stretch a bit, have a bath and forget about it. It's OK to walk on and as long as you remember to run with your foot pointing to the left a bit and swing your arms in a certain way your running will not be affected right.
Pain is the body's way of letting you know there's something wrong, a trigger for closer inspection. Now I'm not suggesting that you get all hypochondriac about it but I am suggesting that you listen when it talks to you. It's why I don't wear head phones when running.
If you go out and run the same route and all is well, chances are there is no issue and you possibly landed a little awkward at some point last time out. However, if it keeps coming back then maybe ask yourself a few questions.
Do you have an existing issue, usually on the opposite side of the body? A stubbed toe, dry and cracked skin on one of your feet, a crick in your neck, a broken finger.
Have you an injury from years ago? Again it could be anything and again, often on the other side of the body, also often unrelated to your knee. (tennis elbow is known to cause knee problems in runners).
Do you feel pain anywhere else in your body as well? Head ache, back ache or DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) from a workout you did 2 days ago.
Have you got a known tight muscle somewhere else? Butt muscle, calf, hamstring or middle of your back. Often it's thought that pain in the knee is caused by tight quads. Sometimes but not often. First ask why is the muscle tight?
Do you know if you are you a heavy heel striker, pronator or supinator? How your foot lands on the floor when you run can have huge consequences to your body if not addressed.
Have you warmed up and do you cool down properly? If you don't have a good procedure for each of these then maybe you're looking for a problem to occur. See previous articles here on the JDW Fitness website that could help you 'Mobility Is King' and 'Do You Even Roll'.
If you can answer YES to any of those then that gives you somewhere to start when looking for a reason for your knee pain. Address that and chances are your knee pain will go away.
Why does this happen? I'm sure you're wondering. Well I'll give you a little info behind the theory.
One of the main jobs of your body is to keep your head upright as it holds the epi-centre of everything, your brain.
When you hurt/injure your self (a stubbed toe, broken finger or whatever) your body becomes out of balance and the safety of the head is compromised. The body then shifts the segmented parts around (shoulder girdle, spine, hips etc) to counteract that imbalance.
This in turn puts all your joints in jeopardy, albeit only slightly, but enough. Until one of your joints, and a muscle related to it, starts to scream in discomfort (enter the niggle).
Do you remember that time you broke your little toe (eons ago when the dinosaurs roamed)? The Dr or Physio gave you some exercises to do to rehab your foot back to full health but it was boring so you didn't do it.
Sometimes your body has compensated for years. You've totally forgotten about that broken toe until you come across a time where injury follows injury.
This is the time to check yourself out. Visit a Physio, Osteopath, Chiropractor or Bio-Mechanical coach to get a full assessment of your musculo-skeletal system.
Find out if there is something that can be done to eliminate the problem before you make it worse and your enjoyment ends for good.
Ignoring these things and just hoping they go away will not work. Worst case scenario is you're doing rehab and not running for a bit but there are other things you can do. When the time is right you will be back and stronger than ever. Running will be back in your life and the world is good again.
In Fitness & In Health
John 'Bio-Mech Coach In Training' Withinshaw