MAKE THE CALL: PHYSICAL THERAPIST
"PTs are trained to watch people move and figure out what's going wrong," says Ellora Weston, a triathlete and doctor of physical therapy in San Francisco. "Is it a muscle? A tendon? We can sort it out." A good PT will spend up to an hour on your initial evaluation. Often, physical therapists work with physicians and orthopedists to diagnose problems, and they really shine when it comes to devising rehab programs and prescribing exercises to keep you injury-free.
BEST FOR: Rehabbing known injuries, both acute and chronic
NOT FOR: General health problems (fatigue, anemia, etc.) or if you suspect you have a fracture
MAKE THE CALL: CHIROPRACTOR
Because the medical establishment hasn't always been accepting of this profession, you may be wary of chiropractic care. But chiropractors are a valuable part of the medical team for some runners—including elite marathoner Meb Keflezighi. Sports-trained chiropractors take a head-to-toe approach with patients, says Jeremy Rodgers, a runner and doctor of chiropractic at the Colorado Sports Chiropractic Center. Most will watch you walk or run to identify risk areas that can lead to injuries. Then they'll press on or around joints, which can alleviate pain and strain on surrounding muscles and joints. Some practitioners also recommend stretches and strengthening exercises to correct gait imbalances.
BEST FOR: Back pain; injuries that may not be responding to other methods
NOT FOR: Traumatic injuries like fractures or torn ligaments
Ask the DocA runner's checklist for determining whether your physician is the best person to treat your running-related injury
YES/NO DO YOU HAVE A SPECIALTY IN SPORTS MEDICINE?
You should look for someone who has done a sports-medicine fellowship or other formal sports-related training in their discipline.
YES/NO: DO YOU RUN?
While it's not necessary, it definitely helps. At the very least, the doctor should have experience getting runners back out on the roads again. Even better, ask the doctor for a reference from another runner.
YES/NO: WHAT SHOULD I BRING TO THE APPOINTMENT?
The answer should include your training log and running shoes.
YES/NO: HOW MUCH TIME WILL YOU SPEND WITH ME?
Expect at least a 30-minute visit.
YES/NO: WILL YOU REFER ME TO A SPECIALIST IF NECESSARY?
Good providers recognize the limits of their expertise and aren't afraid to send you to a colleague for additional tests.