Getting injured has to be one of the biggest bummers a runner can face. Missing out on your workouts, sitting around doing nothing, not to mention the pain—it all capital-S-sucks. Yet as badly as you may want to get back out there, sometimes one of the worst things you can do is try and self-diagnose. It’s so easy to consult Dr. Google and think you’ve figured it out. But it’s even easier to misdiagnose yourself, which could lead to either ignoring the real injury or treating the wrong thing; either way, you could end up doing even more damage. So as tempting as it can be to troll the web the second you get hurt, take a look at these four instances when you should trade the Internet for your internist:
The pain is getting worse, not better
Sore muscles or shin splints can be irritating for a few days, even with a little rest. But if several days have passed since the pain started and it’s worse than when it started, it’s time to check in with a doctor.
If you have any kind of swelling in your joints, it’s a red flag for needing rest. If you’re not sure, compare one side of your leg to the other (for instance, put your knees together to see if one is bigger). Treat swelling with ice and rest and see your doctor if it persists.
You can’t bear weight
The inability to bear weight on any part of your leg—your hip, your knee, your ankle, anything—is definitely serious. Prevent further damage by staying off your feet and seek medical attention ASAP.
Your gut is telling you something
If you’ve been running for a while, you know how your body should feel when everything’s good. You also know how everyday aches and pains feel. So if something hurts and you feel it’s not normal, trust your gut and get it checked out.
If the pain is minimal, there’s no swelling, and it’s not affecting the way you walk or run, feel free to look for answers on your own. Better yet, consult your fellow runners; they’ve likely been there before and will have great advice. But as always, never hesitate to see your doctor—it’s better to be safe than sorry and sidelined.