Updated: Aug 13, 2018
The incidence of lower extremity injuries as a result of long-distance running appears to range anywhere from 19.4% to 79.3% (4). Risk factors for developing such injuries may include advanced age, inexperience, overuse, and a history of previous injury (3,4). As an avid runner, half-marathon racer, and a victim of multiple lower extremity injuries, I know how important it is to stay healthy and active as an athlete, how frustrating being injured can be, and how stubborn runners are! Now, as a physician, I also understand how essential it is to rest and let things heal appropriately before returning to sport too quickly.
Combining my personal experience and professional knowledge, I am now able to help runners and other athletes stay active while recovering from injuries, which can help them get back to their pre-injury athletic level quicker. Below, I have listed some of the ways you may be able to remain active during a lower extremity injury, as well as things you can do to potentially help speed up the recovery process and return to sport quicker. Then, next week, I will explain ways in which you can prevent the onset of new injuries and/or the recurrence of old ones.
HOW TO RECOVER QUICKER
1. Stay Active
Just because you are injured, it does not necessarily mean you have to be completely sedentary. Depending on the injury and the weight-bearing instructions given by your physician, you may be able to stay more active than you think.
Below, is a table of potential exercises you can do while recovering from a non-surgical lower extremity injury based on the location of the injury (e.g. toes, foot, ankle), the device used to immobilize your lower extremity (e.g. postop/surgical shoe, CAM/walking boot), and the weight-bearing limitations are based on your physician’s recommendations. What you are able to do will not only depend on these things but also on what the specific injury is (e.g. sprain, strain, tear, fracture), so it is always important to get clearance by your physician before starting any exercise program.
2. Consider an Alter-G Treadmill
I previously wrote about the Alter-G Treadmill (click here to read it). If you are not familiar with it, the Alter-G is a reduced gravity treadmill that uses positive area pressures to control how much body weight is placed through the lower extremity. It is being used for recovery after trauma and athletic injuries, as well as for people with arthritis. If you are interested in using it, you can easily find a facility that has one and purchase sessions. Click here to go to the Alter-G website for more information.
3. Physical therapy
After your designated period of rest, it is important to start the rehabilitation process as soon as possible to help regain strength, flexibility, and/or range of motion in the lower extremity. Some people are able to do this on their own, while others may need to be evaluated and treated by a licensed physical therapist.
It is always good to make sure you are eating healthy, but this especially important while recovering from an injury, as poor nutrition can lead to delayed healing. There are many factors to take into consideration when it comes to creating a diet plan during an injury; therefore, it is most beneficial to consult a sports dietitian to help determine the best way to supplement while recovering (1).
5. Psychosocial influence
Believe it or not, psychosocial influences can affect an athlete’s rehabilitation after an injury. According to a 2014 article, specific psychological factors, patient-practitioner interactions, and social support systems can all have an affect on the recovery process of an athlete (2).
Sustaining a running injury can be a frustrating experience. Fortunately, there are ways to remain active during the recovery process, as well as things to help get you back to pre-injury level quicker. Often, this involves a multi-specialty approach, having a good support system around you, and making sure you keep a healthy diet.
DISCLAIMER: The above information is meant for educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Please consult the doctor, or your own healthcare professional, should you have questions or concerns related to your health.
1. Harmon, R., Ayesta, A. Nutritional Support for Injury Recovery and Return-To-Play. Retrieved from http://www.sportsrd.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Nutrition-Support-for-Inury-Recovery-Return-to-Play.pdf
2. Podlog, L., Heil, J., & Schulte, S. (2014). Psychosocial factors in sports injury rehabilitation and return to play. Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics, 25(4), 915-930.
3. Taunton, J. E., Ryan, M. B., Clement, D. B., McKenzie, D. C., Lloyd-Smith, D. R., & Zumbo, B. D. (2002). A retrospective case-control analysis of 2002 running injuries. British journal of sports medicine, 36(2), 95-101.
4. van Gent, B. R., Siem, D. D., van Middelkoop, M., van Os, T. A., Bierma-Zeinstra, S. S., & Koes, B. B. (2007). Incidence and determinants of lower extremity running injuries in long distance runners: a systematic review. British journal of sports medicine.