Nerve Pain From Running – Ultimate Guide UPDATED 2022
High mileage and regular running can cause significant wear on the body. And if you’re not allowing adequate recovery in your training plan, you may find it breaks down often.
Even though overuse injuries and muscle strains are the most common, nerve pain still affects more than 30% of runners.
This article outlines the causes and symptoms of nerve pain. How and why it happens, and what you can do to prevent it.
So, if you struggle with nerve pain after running, keep reading.
What is Nerve Pain?
Nerve pain can arise when a nerve is sensitized. Generally, a nerve is robust and asymptomatic when under moderate pressure and or being stretched.
However, when a nerve becomes irritated, it becomes more sensitive to compression, movements, stretching, and even our stress hormones. This can often result in neurogenic pain.
There are two types of nerve sensitization. These are called mechanical and chemical sensitization.
Chemical sensitization happens when inflammatory chemicals come into contact with a nerve. This usually happens when an injury like a strained muscle or broken bone is located next to the nerve.
Mechanical sensitization happens when a nerve is restricted. This prevents the motion and position of the nerve, which is generally caused by a pinched nerve.
When the nerve is pinched, it can result in stiffness in the surrounding muscles, tendons, and joints. In more severe cases it can affect the fascial (connective) tissues.
Other things like overstretching a nerve can cause mechanical stress. This includes accidental or intentional stretching of a muscle, tendon, or joint.
Can Running Cause Nerve Damage?
In short, yes, running can cause nerve damage. Nerves that get irritated by swollen muscles or ligaments can cause pain for the runner. Often you will feel a burning, tingling, numbness, and aching pain that is hard to diagnose. The symptoms usually come on as you exercise and then get better as you rest.
The most common nerve pain in runners comes from injuries like tarsal tunnel syndrome, piriformis syndrome, and Morton’s neuroma.
Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome
Tarsal tunnel syndrome is when the nerve between the ankle and the ligament inside that ankle gets pinched. This can create a burning sensation as well as pain when you run. It is more common in runners who pronate.
Luckily, relieving pressure on that area can usually help relieve any pain you feel. This can be done by changing the way you lace your shoes or by installing arch support. If none of these solutions work, cortisone injections are a last resort. A cortisone injection can help to reduce the swelling around the nerve.
If the muscle that crosses the sciatic nerve in the buttocks gets tight, it can compress the sciatic nerve. When the tiny arteries get compressed it can reduce the amount of blood supply to the nerve, which can result in tingling and numbness.
Most of the time this can be fixed by stretching the piriformis muscle. This is done by bringing your hip to your chest when lying on the ground or standing up.
However, if the pain persists, you may need a nerve conduction test after exercise to see if the nerve is weak.
Generally, most runners have tightness in the piriformis muscle because of a lack of stretching. However, some runners may experience this from an underlying weakness in the glute muscles.
When the nerves between two toes (most common between the third and fourth toes) get compressed, it can cause a tingling feeling. This tingling feeling often gets more pronounced as you run.
Most of the time, a wider shoe or resting your toes is the quickest way to prevent the tingling. You can also try support under the metatarsal, which may help to relieve pressure in some cases.
However, diagnosis can be difficult. By visiting a doctor, they may be able to determine if the nerve is slowing because of entrapment.
How Long Do Damaged Nerves Take To Heal?
Damaged nerves can take multiple weeks to heal. A lot depends on how seriously your nerve was injured and what caused the injury.
If your nerve has been traumatized or bruised it can take anywhere from 4-to 12 weeks to heal. If you have pinched a nerve, it can take a few days up to 4 to 6 weeks, and in severe cases, it may take longer to heal. However, most runners should expect the pinched nerves to heal within four weeks.
During the recovery period, it is important to stay away from running if the nerve is causing you pain. Alternatively, if you are still able to run pain-free, try to reduce the intensity and volume of your training. This will help speed up recovery and prevent more damage to the nerve.
Why Do My Nerves Hurt After Running?
Since running involves repetitive striking of the ground, it is not uncommon for nerves to hurt after a run. However, this is usually temporary and passes relatively quickly. But if you are experiencing this regularly, you may have an underlying cause or one of the nerve injuries we have talked about in this article.
If your gait is out of alignment when you run, it may also lead to nerve irritation. If this is the case, you may need a gait analysis to diagnose the problem in your technique.
It is important to remember that running too frequently can cause more pain. It can also extend the length of time of the pain. So, if your nerves hurt after running try to adjust your training to allow for more recovery. If you have enough planned, try to reduce the intensity and volume and see if it helps.
Alternatively, visit a doctor and see if they can diagnose the cause of your nerve pain after running.