Post Marathon Aches & Pains
I ran the Chicago Marathon several weeks ago and I'm not recovering as well as I'm accustomed. In particular, my knees and feet are really bothering me. Should I be worried?
Dr. Trish Palmer:
I've worked 14 Chicago Marathons, so I know firsthand the stress that the race can put on the athlete's body. In general, four to six weeks after any long distance (LD) run, most problems of that nature that can be resolved have already been resolved. Persistent pain may stem from an undiagnosed stress fracture (broken bone), cartilage tear in the knee, labral tear in the hip, and persistent biomechanical difficulties.
With 110 tons of energy absorbed by your feet every mile, it is no wonder that foot problems are a big complaint of runners. Most of these difficulties stem from the structure of your foot, the running surface, and your shoe.
Persistent pain in the foot, ankle, lower leg, knee, and hip can truly benefit from assessment by a Sports Medicine Orthopaedic Physician. The "off season" is the optimal time to intervene and try to resolve the problem. Waiting until the problem resurrects itself at higher mileage once again is the #1 mistake I see runners make.
At 2000 foot strikes per mile, any biomechanical problem may only manifest at higher mileage, and feel well with rest and non-running activities. If your difficulties started and persisted when you progressed to higher mileage (greater than eight miles) you may benefit from an assessment of your biomechanics. Biomechanical problems stem from the following factors: inflexibility; foot motion abnormalities; muscle balance issues at the hip, knee, and lower leg; energy balance (nutrition and training); and technique. This time of year is perfect for biomechanical evaluation since your aches and pains from the actual race have likely subsided, and you are running low mileage. Now is the time to assess and change your biomechanics before the training schedule for next year's Chicago Marathon takes over your life.
Also, don't try to squeeze extra life out of old running shoes! Shoes only last 300-500 miles, therefore it only takes about 10 weeks for the average high mileage runner to wear out the shock absorbency of the shoe. Now is the time to not only invest in a new shoe to break in, but also ensure that you have the right shoe type for your feet.
This information is not intended as a substitute for the professional advice of your physician, nor to be a complete description of every aspect of a condition, nor a complete list of possible side effects of any medication. Decisions concerning your treatment should be based on your own health care provider's evaluation of your personal health history and current condition. Consult your physician before following any of the suggestions on this Web site. All articles on this Web site represent the personal opinions of the individual authors and should not be construed as official policy of Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush.