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2008 ITU Duathlon World Championship in Rimini, Italy
Chris Harig 2010 USA Long Course Duathlon National Champion

How to Treat Running Injuries with Ice,

by Chris Harig

How to treat running injuries like Tendonitis, Plantar Fasciitis, Iliotibial Band Syndrome and Shin Splints with Ice

Tendonitis. Plantar Fasciitis. Iliotibial band syndrome. Shin splints. Ah, isn't running great? Although not unique to running, these injuries come with the territory and without addressing them from a training methodology and rehabilitation, you won't be running much anymore.

I won't go into each of these injuries specifically, that'll take too long, but we can discuss what to do when they occur. What we are addressing are acute stress reactions.

In previous articles, I wrote about how to improve running performance with The Two Week Rule for Running, Running with Consistency to Run Faster and Trail Running for Improved Performance.  This article on healing injuries is intended to help you incorporate an injury treatment strategy as part of your running routine.

Stress Reactions and Inflammation

First, let's talk about what happens when you think you might be experiencing one of these injuries. Beyond the physiological and cardio-vascular benefits we accrue from running, there are also benefits such as stronger muscle and connective tissue as well as greater bone density. But the scales can flip quickly when training isn't planned correctly and increases in duration and intensity aren't taken in a measured fashion. In fact, every footfall can send four times the bodies weight in axial stress up the skeletal system. Overuse and stress reactions can occur when we bump our mileage up a little too quickly. Inflammation will be evident in the affected area and should be addressed accordingly.

Inflammation is a good thing.  It's diagnostic, really.  Capillaries in the affected area dilate allowing oxygen and other immune system goodies to do their job.  It's the bodies way of healing just like it does when you have a infection accompanied by a fever.  Let the body do its job and given time, you're good as new.

Why Ice is an Excellent Remedy for Sports Injuries

But this may disruptive to the schedule and we want to get back out there.  Icing is one of the most effective ways to manage pain and inflammation as is essentially an analgesic, reducing the discomfort of the injury (although if you sat in the ice-whirlpools that I lived in during my college career, I'm not sure you would call it comfortable) as well as the reducing the swelling.

The following is a method of icing that I follow when experiencing shin splits, for instance, and has been the most effective treatment for me.

1. get a few paper cups, fill them, and put them in the freezer.   Immediately following your run, ice massage the area for 15 minutes.

2. later, when you are relaxing at the end of the day, ice the area again every hour on the hour for 15 minutes until you go to bed. Do this!

3. elevate your legs when you ice.  I like to lay on the couch and catch up on my TV watching when I am icing.

Address the Cause of the Injury

Don't increase your mileage too quickly. Make sure you have appropriate footwear (preferably 2 pairs of shoes rotating every day.) Get off the concrete or road and run on trails as often as possible. See your doctor to make sure a stress reaction doesn't turn into a stress fracture or that your injury isnít chronic and a symptom of something needing greater attention.

If you can replace a workout or two with cycling on a trainer, you won't lose any of your fitness and cycling is not weight bearing. Just make sure your not experiencing any more pain. If you have access to a pool, you can run in the water with a float belt.

Be as disciplined with your icing as you are with your running schedule. Consider it part of your workout!

Chris Harig is competitive runner, multisport athlete, and coach based in the
Seattle area.  In 2007 and 2008, he was the top American at the ITU Duathlon
World Championships.More about Chris Harig.

See Chris Harig's excellent Run Training Plans.

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