5 Pain Management Tips for Runners

Runner outside in the evening taking a break

Every time you run, your feet take a beating. To make matters worse, if you’re covering long distances, running on rocky terrain, or facing any number of challenges that make running harder on that particular day (ie. high temperatures, wind, uphill running), then the post-run period can be especially painful. Many runners simply get used to the pain and discomfort following their workout, but here are some tips to help ease the soreness and prevent future injuries.


The old acronym of RICE often proves very useful in this case. Rest. Ice. Compression. Elevation. After a difficult run, it’s important to get on top of the pain early by following these four simple rules.

Rest the affected area immediately.

Elevate the leg.

Use ice-packs and compression tools if necessary to help with any swelling.

RICE is best utilised as soon as possible because the faster you start the process, the sooner you’ll see results.

Remember that a compression bandage is not always necessary right away. The key points to cover are resting, elevation, and ice.

2- Massage

Not only does a post-run massage feel great, but it can also help speed up recovery, reduce muscle soreness, and facilitate any injury healing. The different types of massage that are available to runners include

  • deep tissue massage,
  • trigger point massage, and
  • Swedish massage.

Different massage therapists may recommend different massages based on your soreness and the area affected. In general, Swedish massage is the safest way to go.

If you’re not able to see a masseuse following your run (and most of us aren’t), then at-home massage is a good substitute. Just keep in mind the following tips:

  • Don’t focus your massage on one specific spot for more than a few minutes. Start the massage in one area but also massage the muscles just above, below, and beside the affected area.
  • Be careful with pressure. Pressing too hard on already sore muscles is not helpful. Additionally, going too hard and too fast may cause the muscle to seize up when what you want it to do is release pressure. Use pressure with moderation.
  • Consider using foam rollers. They’re a great way to work out muscle tightness after a run.
  • Although self-massage of the affected muscles is excellent upkeep, have the wisdom to recognize when a problem calls for professional input.

3- Build gradually

Doing too much too soon can lead to common overuse injuries like

  • shin splints,
  • sprains,
  • knee injuries,
  • overall fatigue, and
  • burnout.

After lacing up and seeing the open road ahead, new runners tend to go all out. But, even seasoned veterans can fall victim to pushing themselves too hard. Don’t fall into this trap.

Instead, build up your tolerance level slowly. If you’re used to running 1 mile a day then gradually increase it to 2 miles. If it’s 10 miles you’re used to then gradually increase that to 12 miles. The body likes consistency and a gradual build-up lets your muscles get used to handling longer distances.

4- Stretch after your run

Most runners find themselves in 1 of 2 categories: Stretching incorrectly or ignoring stretching altogether. But get into the habit of good post-run stretching to help keep injuries (and the pain) at bay. Moves like deep lunges, butterfly holds, and hand-to-toe hamstring pulls done immediately after a run (but before you cool down) can keep the muscles loose and limber for longer periods of time.

5- Over-the-counter pain meds

Pain relievers like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) can help with pain and inflammation. However, like any medication, these should always be taken with caution and used sparingly. If you find that you’re having to take pain relief medications after every single run, then it’s worth reviewing your running routine. Your distance, your shoes, or your running posture are all things that could be contributing to the ongoing pain. An old injury which never fully healed might also be the cause of the problem. Alternatively, if you’re not able to isolate the cause of the pain, then a visit to your local running store to get your stride evaluated by a professional might be in order.

Lastly, try to mix up your fitness routine a little. Alternating your workout with other activities like swimming, biking, or tennis helps to build overall muscle strength and prevent injuries that commonly occur.

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