Ask a PT: Can You Do Too Much Recovery Between Runs?

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Question 1:

Is there “too much” recovery a person can do? I see a lot of runners on social media who rack up tons of miles daily, some that sound like they do little to no recovery. The times when I haven’t been injured, it seems like I can only run every other day because my legs, mainly calves and Achilles, need more time to recover in between runs. Then I thought, maybe I’m trying to do too much recovery. Can trying to recover too much stress the muscles more so than if I just did a little recovery?

— John D.

Answer: Dr. Marc Robinson

Thanks for your question. You are right. The length of recovery varies and may depend on the volume and intensity of your training. Increased volumes and intensities will require a slightly longer rest period. To answer your question, an extended rest period is unlikely to cause harm. But here is an argument for “overdoing it” with recovery.

If you spend too much time recovering, you may not provide enough training stimulus to see the progress you want. Increasing your performance with running depends on progressively overloading your cardiovascular and neuromuscular systems. So basically, you want to overload your body, but not too much. It’s a delicate balance. If you don’t provide the stimulus needed to adapt then your body won’t adapt as quickly.

After intense exercise, there may also be an increase in inflammation from structures which were over-stressed. For example, if the Achilles’ tendon was over-stressed during the run, there may be minor inflammation of the tendon. Gentle range of motion exercise or a light, walk/jog run should help the body to recover from acute inflammation. Light exercise during the recovery period helps to desensitize pain and facilitate recuperation.

Many people get impatient with the time it takes to adapt and increase the intensity of their training too quickly which can result in an injury. Proper training progressions will help to mitigate this potential risk of injury.

This is the main argument I would use to support the idea that you can “overdo it” with rest. You have a higher likelihood of getting injured from overtraining and not resting enough compared to resting too much. I would not be overly concerned with resting too much. It sounds like you are resting appropriately between consecutive runs but this depends on the factors I have mentioned, among others.

To your health,

Dr. Marc

To submit your own questions, email us at AskAPT.Competitor@gmail.com.

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Dr. Marc Robinson is a Physical Therapist in San Diego, CA who provides online physical therapy and virtual consultations for those who need on-demand help with injuries. His company, Evercore offers online injury prevention courses and fitness products to promote a pain-free, active life. They specialize in low back pain and helping their clients achieve health goals beyond what the traditional medical system can offer.

Question 2:

Best Treatment for Piriformis Syndrome? Does it EVER go away?

— Annette C.

Answer: Dr. Marc Robinson

Thanks for your question. Piriformis syndrome involves irritation of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve runs down the back of the leg very close to the piriformis muscle and in some people, the sciatic nerve passes through the piriformis. If you are struggling with piriformis syndrome, you know how it can be a real discomfort. However, its characteristics are very similar and nearly indistinguishable from pain signals sent to the hip from the lower back. Therefore, it is essential to rule out the lower back as a potential source of pain.

Imagine the sciatic nerve as a garden hose that does not release water. Somewhere along the hose there is a kink preventing the flow of water. There may be several kinks in the sciatic nerve. The piriformis can be kinked as a secondary effect from a larger kink. With piriformis syndrome, the larger kink is usually the lower back. When I say kink, I am referring to some stimulus aggravating the sciatic nerve. Experienced rehab professionals would agree that it is over-diagnosed in the general population. As a runner, you may have a greater risk of getting piriformis syndrome, however, that idea is not conclusively supported by research.

To answer your question—yes, piriformis syndrome can completely go away. Hip strengthening exercises, improving biomechanics, motor control and exercises to address weak links in your movement system will be key to faster and better recovery. From the emphasis on the “EVER” in your question, it sounds like you have been dealing with piriformis syndrome for a while. You are on the right track by asking questions.

If you need direct treatment, I would try to find a local provider certified in the McKenzie Method. I think highly of the McKenzie Method because it is well supported by the research and it’s a reliable system to investigate the true source of piriformis syndrome. I am certified in the McKenzie Method and I provide helpful resources on my website and Instagram. I would encourage you to investigate the underlying cause of persistent piriformis syndrome and break the cycle of injury.

To your health,

Dr. Marc

To submit your own questions, email us at AskAPT.Competitor@gmail.com.

***

Dr. Marc Robinson is a Physical Therapist in San Diego, CA who provides online physical therapy and virtual consultations for those who need on-demand help with injuries. His company, Evercore offers online injury prevention courses and fitness products to promote a pain-free, active life. They specialize in low back pain and helping their clients achieve health goals beyond what the traditional medical system can offer.

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