Coping with Injuries

The knees, the knees, oh, lord, the knees
They hurt as bad as doctor's fees.
Piriformis, tendinitis/fasciitis
Shins that splint, severe arthritis
Meniscus torn? The pelvis scanned,
Beware the iliotibial band.

It's tough going as a runner, I mean we are constantly the misunderstood bunch. First of all, the general public will not understand why we HAVE to put ourselves through 42.195km of shear torture. And when you 'end up' with injuries, 'well meaning' people would say things like: "I told you so!.....You should take it easy!...Do everything in moderation....Why put yourself through this?" and the usual bunch of well meaning c**p!

I have been struggling with injuries since 2009. First it was the Plantar Fasciitis and since Dec 2010, ITB Syndrome. And it seems the pain is here to stay.

How do you cope with this? I feel that I have come a long way since I did my first full marathon. But running with this chronic injury is a new thing for me. The pain really takes the joy out of running. Some days, I dread going out for a run because I know that the next day, I would be limping. And every morning, I had to shuffle as I step out of bed because of the excruciating pain from the fasciitis.

But above all, the worst part is the sense of uncertainty. You'll never know how long it is going to take to heal. And furthermore, will it flare up again in future? Will you be able to run your best again?

Sure you read up on the injuries and treatment. You consult the experts. You make sure you do all the warm up, stretching, and after the run, cool down exercise and icing etc. You even put up night splints for the fasciitis. And go for physiotherapy sessions. Heck, you even had injections! But at the end of the day, the damn pain is still there!

It seems that the only way this will ever go away is to stop running altogether. I despise the thought of it. It could only mean that finally, all the 'well meaning' people would have their last laugh! Now, wouldn't that be a total drag!

Well, stopping is not an option for me. It's not as though I am giving up bad habits like smoking or unhealthy eating. Running is actually statistically proven to enhance health. Compared to the general population, we live longer, and have 50% less morbidity. Though I can't say I have a very good 'quality of life' at the moment, I can say that I feel healthier than ever.

So, I have to find a way of coping with this injury the best I could. Having done all the medical side of things, I now focus on other aspects which I think are equally important.

No, I am not talking about self-hypnosis, telling yourself that: "There is really NO pain!" Like managing any problems in life, we need to vent the frustration. Blogging about it helps. (hence this article). I also find talking to fellow runners with similar experience helpful. Much like going to AA or some life group. We are social beings. So telling someone who could empathize with you can be therapeutic.

In the interest of minimizing injuries (or at least not to aggravate it), I have decided to run less races this year. Focusing only on 3 marathons for 2011, I am adopting the FIRST training program which allows me to reduce the number of running sessions per week to only 3 (interval, tempo and LSD), thus reducing the propensity of further injury. This program also places emphasis on cross training which has an important role in reducing overuse injuries like mine.

Rehab is a slow painful process. You may take a long time to recover from your injuries. Some people take years. Nonetheless, at least allow yourself the opportunity to bounce back. Don't give up altogether. Life is full of ups and downs. Why should running be any different? You have your valleys when those dreaded injuries batter you; But you also have the mountain top experience when all the training pays off with a good PR. If all it takes is these injuries to make you hang up those running shoes for good, then you are more than likely to give up easily when another life issue comes along. So, just "go with the flow". When life gives you lemon, make lemonade! (I know it's cliche, but it makes my point!)

Focus not on the problem. Instead, focus on living, on the journey to discover yourself. Even through painful experience. If you think that I am trivializing this, you are wrong. I have the pain every day. Every moment. I hate it and I wish I never have to experience it. But since I do, I am determine to learn from it. Make the most of it and rise up above it. That is what the experience is for. It's never an excuse for me to wallow in self pity. And most certainly not an excuse to quit.

So, run and keep running. Pain or no pain.

Comments

  1. Just to quote you...

    Sure you read up on the injuries and treatment. You consult the experts. You make sure you do all the warm up, stretching, and after the run, cool down exercise and icing etc. You even put up night splints for the fasciitis. And go for physiotherapy sessions. Heck, you even had injections! But at the end of the day, THE DAMN PAIN IS STILL THERE!

    Personally have you ever wonder if your diagnosis is right?

    Maybe you have to think out of the box.Just my 2 cents opinion.Cheers!!Hope you recover soon before HK Marathon.

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  2. May God speed your recovery. GAMBATEH!!

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  3. I didn't come up with the diagnosis. Not that qualified. Only a Paediatrician. But did consult an ortho friend. He was the one who gave me the injections. Pain went away for a month or so, then recurs. ITB Syndrome also diagnosed by him. I don't think he's wrong. These symptoms and signs are very classical of the above diagnosis. Trouble is, they may be easy to diagnose but difficult to treat...like everything else isn't it?

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  4. Hi Francis, nice sharing, as usual... and the poem!!!

    Would like to know (and I think most newbie runners too) how you end up with such a injury...:P Probably can share your story one day...:)

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  5. well, in short, ignorance. And also too 'pia'! Anyway, on a steep learning curve....it's not over yet!

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