Other Episodes and Articles

330: Exploring Chronic Pain in Runners with Dr. Tawny Kross

Oct 26, 2023

Chronic pain can be a daunting issue for runners, often leading to frustration and confusion about how to manage it effectively. In a recent episode of the Real Life Runners podcast, Dr. Tawny Kross, a specialist in chronic pain, provides valuable insights into the complexities of chronic pain, highlighting the significant role of the mind-body connection and providing tangible tips to manage and redefine pain.

Chronic pain, defined as pain that persists for more than three to six months, is not just a physical condition. This misconception can often lead runners to seek solutions that solely focus on physical treatments, overlooking the crucial role that mental and emotional factors play in the experience of pain. This holistic view of pain necessitates an understanding that pain is both 100% physical and 100% psychological. This means that while the physical sensations of pain are real, the brain plays a significant role in interpreting these sensations and contributing to the persistence of pain.

In fact, our subconscious mind plays a pivotal role in our overall pain experience. For instance, stress can cause our nerves to become hypersensitive, which can contribute to chronic pain. However, it's not as simple as just thinking positively to alleviate this pain. The subconscious mind, which controls 95% of our thinking, often harbors stress and negative emotions that can continue to feed into the pain cycle.

Dr. Kross identifies three pain management styles among runners: the 'pusher' who pushes through the pain, the 'ignore' who dismisses the pain, and the 'manager' who seeks quick fixes. These styles can often contribute to the persistence of chronic pain. Instead, a more balanced and holistic approach that considers lifestyle choices, mental health, and stress management is recommended.

So how should runners manage chronic pain?  It is important to bring the nervous system to a restorative state, by using deep breathing and the surprising influence of nutrition on our bodies' stress response. 

Managing chronic pain in runners requires a multi-faceted approach that goes beyond physical treatments. Understanding the role of the mind-body connection, adopting a balanced pain management style, and making positive lifestyle choices can significantly help runners navigate the complexities of chronic pain and redefine their relationship with pain.

Enter your email address to get weekly episodes delivered to your inbox plus tips on how to become a physically and mentally stronger runner!

Don't worry, we won't blow up your inbox. We just want to send you some great info to help you in your running journey. We hate SPAM, and we will never sell your information, for any reason.