Ask the Coach: I’m Experiencing Pain When I Run – What Should I Do?

I hope you understand that we are not just like any other virtual race company.  We are runners (and speed walkers) that are here to help you with your fitness goals!  You have access to an RRCA certified running coach and have the ability to get your questions answered and receive the tips and encouragement you need to hit your next running goal.  With that, we thought it might be useful to share a question received in our Motivate Me To Run Facebook group (free to join) where you have that access to ask your running questions.

Recently, I’ve been having some right leg pain (hip, knee, and shin) any tips to relieve the pain? I started to notice it last week after a run and the pain is still persisting.

I’m so sorry to hear this! I understand too well the pains and miseries of running injuries and trying to work through them.

The first thing I always need to lead with is that with injuries, you really should seek out a local specialist (Physical Therapist (PT), ortho, sports chiropractor, etc) as it’s outside of my scope of practice, meaning as a running coach I just don’t have the skills and ability to diagnose and treat sports injuries.

That said, we runners to get aches and pains from time to time (I like to call them niggles – think that’s from our British friends) and we runners have to learn how to handle them when they come up. Not sure from your initial question whether what you’re experiencing meets this description, but some criterion to consider would be where/when the pain happens, the frequency, or even the intensity of the pain.

Here’s a few thoughts in general when dealing with pain:

  • Take a few rest/lighter run days to see if that helps the pain to go away and/or lessen – Sometimes you can just aggravate the area and some rest can allow your body to heal itself with you being back to normal in just a few days.
  • Seek treatment early – I’ve had specialists tell me that us runners like to “run through pain” and can go months without seeking treatment. Often something that could have been treated early in the process becomes much worse and will take much longer to heal (meaning more time off than should have been first).
  • Use RICE when it makes sense – Obviously, I’m not directing you to your local Thai restaurant to get your favorite dish (green curry anyone?!)  If you haven’t heard of this, R.I.C.I is an acronym that stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.  This can be a really good place to start as ice can help work wonders in certain circumstances.  From other articles I’ve read, I would encourage about 15 minutes sessions every few hours for the first few days.  If that isn’t helping, you’ll definitely want to get to a specialist soon.
  • Don’t take an NSAID/pain killer and then try to run through it – I know it can be tempting to take some pain killers before you run so you can fun “pain free”.  The problem is, you could just be covering the pain and making the injury worse.
  • Incorporate strength training when you can – Often injuries happen “up the kinetic chain”, meaning a muscle weakness higher in your body could be contributing to the injury. I just heard a podcast this morning talking how strengthening your glutes is probably one of the most important things you can do as they often contribute to injury.  However, you’ll want to ensure you don’t start training if you are feeling pain as you could again, just make the injury worse.  At the very least, when you are healed back up, either add running-specific strength training (at least 1-2 times per week) or tweak your current strength training plan to help address your weaknesses.
  • Check your runner form – You likely have that pain for a reason, meaning as a result from a muscle weakness or possibly an issue with your running form. Run with a friend or get a gait analysis (a professional that helps evaluate your gait and address your issues) could help them see if you’re doing something that could be triggering that (favoring a side, bad posture, etc). If you get treated for the injury but continue doing whatever you’re doing that caused the injury in the first place, then you could see yourself heading right back towards re-injuring yourself again.

There’s so much more that could be said, but I’ll start there.  I will share there are a host of sites I love that have shared a ton of content on strength training for runners and addressing some of those niggles that runners deal with (or struggle with) on a continual basis.  I could recommend you check out Strength Running or The Run Experience as a couple places to check for some good solid workouts as we build up our content here.