There are so many different types of doctors, all who have gone through extensive schooling to gain the knowledge that their profession requires. Unfortunately, this is still specialized knowledge and depending on what’s wrong with you, you need to make sure you are seeing the right kind of doctor when you get injured from running.
Start With a Visit to a General Physician
Let’s start with the general physician, also known as your friendly family doctor. It usually doesn’t hurt to go see a general physician since they have a little experience in everything. In most cases you’ll end up getting a referral to go see a more specialized doctor. So while in some cases you can skip this, if you aren’t sure where to go a general physician can guide you.
I’d like to end this first section with a brief word of warning concerning general physicians. While they may do some preliminary tests and sound confident in their initial injury hypothesis, the actual problem is frequently something else. This is why it’s so important to follow up with the referred doctor or to ask for a referral in order to get more in-depth testing. If you just go home and try to treat the injury yourself based on your visit you may end up following the treatment procedure for the wrong injury!
The Catch-All: Sports Medicine Doctors
A sports medicine doctor is someone with similar training to a general physician, but who has spent a lot more time concentrating on sports injuries. If you have one in your area that is covered by your health plan you may be able to start here and bypass the general physician. Note that the waiting times to get in to see a quality sports medicine doctor are often quite a bit longer than a general M.D., so factor this into your decision of who to see.
What can a sports medicine doctor deal with? Just about any sporting injury really. The great thing for you as a runner is that just about every sport involves running, so these doctors are very familiar with running injuries and how to diagnose and treat them.
Depending on where you live you might also find that the doctor works out of a sports injury clinic where there are physiotherapists and massage therapists on staff as well, which allows your doctor to easily get you treatment.
For Known Problems: Physiotherapists
Remember that the job of a doctor is to primarily diagnose ailments to your health and prescribe treatment. If you already know what’s causing you pain there isn’t much a sports medicine doctor or general physician can do. Instead your best option is to see a physiotherapist.
While a physiotherapist doesn’t have near the quantity of knowledge as a doctor, they often have a large amount of highly-focussed experience on treating sports injuries successfully, which can be invaluable. You should turn to a physiotherapist if you need to try and accelerate your healing or if you are struggling to rehab your injury by yourself.
Under-recognized and Under-valued: Orthopedists
I’ll admit that I didn’t know what an Orthopedist was for a very long time, but now that I do I won’t soon forget. Orthopedists specialize in bone, tendon, ligament and skeletal injuries, or in other words almost every single running injury there is. They may not have as much experience as a sports medicine doctor with the actual sporting mechanism of the specific injury you have, but an orthopedist has a wealth of knowledge and experience in knowing how to treat the injuries.
Orthopedists are similar to physiotherapists in a way, but with much more academic knowledge required as part of their training. Orthopedists can also conduct surgery and when you need surgery on a bad injury they are entrusted with the job.
For such a small thing your foot is incredibly complex and as a result there are many different chronic injuries that can plague you. Most commonly the causes of these injuries are due to an imbalance between your feet in the way you use them when running.
Podiatrists are the experts required to diagnose chronic feet injuries. A podiatrist is a doctor specializing in foot ailments and can examine your body and form for biomechanical issues that could cause your pain and determine a course of corrective action.
The Last Resort: Chiropractors
I don’t intend to slight the profession by calling it a last resort, all that it means is that most running injuries are better treated by other medical professionals. Nonetheless there are some situations where you may be left to turn to a chiropractor. If you have joint injuries that aren’t improving, or especially spinal pain a chiropractor may be able to help.
Now You’ve Met the Doctors of Running
By now you probably understand a fair amount about each kind of doctor that can be seen for running injuries. Hopefully you have learned which doctors you need to see for different injuries and can get future injuries looked at and treated in the most effective way possible.