An article from the New York Times titled, “Sport Injures: When to Tough It Out“, recently caught my attention. The main point of the article was to answer the question of whether you should go to the doctor or tough it out? A quote from one of the doctors in the article is below:
“I think most folks should not go (to the doctors), because most general doctors don’t know a lot about running injuries,” he said, adding, “Most docs, often even the good sports docs, then will just tell you to stop running anyway, so the first thing is to stop running yourself.”
This quote brings about two very important points.
1. Your primary care physician, emergency room physician, and urgent care physician do not have enough training in overuse injury. They will prescribe rest, anti-inflammatories, ice and/or muscle relaxers which only cover up the pain in the short term allowing the problem to get worse.
2. I do not like the advice to stop running or stop doing whatever activity aggravates your condition. This may be good advice at first because it will allow your body to recover and reduce the pain but it didn’t fix the problem. There is a reason why you have shin, hip or knee pain with running and getting a diagnosis is always the first step.
If you are experiencing any joint pain with activity, then your first stop should be at a soft tissue specialist for a diagnosis. In my office, screening procedures and motion assessments are used to diagnose the source of the pain and special techniques are used to fix it.
It is impossible to write an article that would cover every scenario of when to see a doctor and when to tough it out. It is a good idea to have any pain checked out but below are some general guidelines of when to go see a soft tissue specialist:
- Shin pain-if you push through it, it can progress to stress fractures
- Elbow pain (tennis or golfers elbow)-left untreated it can progress to tendinosis which is degeneration of the tendon.
- Achilles tendon pain-can lead to degeneration of the tendon and possibly rupture.
- Heel pain/ plantar fasciitis-pushing through this will lead to further degeneration of the tissue causing pain even with sitting.
- IT band tendonitis-will cause chronic knee pain but the problem is usually at the hip.
- Pain in the same area with activity that gets better with rest but returns once you start the activity again.
If you get a random ache in a joint that only last a few minutes, then this is most likely not a reason to go see a doctor. Aches that increase in duration and frequency should be checked out.
If you are experiencing pain, then email a general outline of your symptoms to me. Then I can help you determine what your next step should be. I am a soft tissue specialist located in the Buffalo/Western NY area.