Run, but with caution

Last Updated 07 August 2015, 20:21 IST

Running may be a routine for few, but it’s a passion for many. Running strengthens the heart and lungs. It also burns calories to help you maintain your health. But every rose has a thorn and running is no exception. It can put repetitive strain on your body, starting from your feet all the way to your lower back and can cause aches and pains. This can be especially true if you run on hard surfaces, such as concrete.

We generally blame the shoes if we suffer some discomfort after or during running. Shoes may very well be the main equipment for running, but they are certainly not the only culprit when it comes to running injuries. These can be caused by running on hard surfaces also. Continuous striking of the feet on the ground can impact your feet, knees, hip and lower back.

Deep impact
If you run for a long time on a hard surface, chances of injury are higher. Running involves your feet repetitively striking the ground, absorbing shock through your foot to your knees, hips and lower back. When your feet strike a hard surface like concrete, the ground does not absorb any of the shock; instead, this vibration is reflected up through the foot at a greater intensity than if you were running on a surface like an indoor track intended for running or a treadmill. Over time, the impact from running on hard surfaces can translate into increased injury risk.

Running on hard surfaces can lead to inflammation like Achilles tendonitis (a condition where the tendon that connects the heel bone to lower leg becomes inflamed, causing heel pain), inflammation of the tendons and muscles in the front and outside of the leg, the knee caps and the lower leg bone or tibia.

Sometimes, repetitive impact can also lead to stress fractures in the small bones of the foot or ankle, which can ultimately result in breakage. Changing your running surface, is much like increasing your mileage, changing your shoes or some other aspect of your training programme. Abrupt changes can be risky; so notice your problems first before reaching any conclusion.

Dealing with pain
If you observe pain while or after running, take rest and apply ice packs on the affected area. You may take some anti-inflammatory medication. Walk before you run; before you engage in a strenuous high impact activity such as jogging or running, try walking for a week. Warm up before working out. Give your body a chance to recover from exercise.
Emphasise on knee strengthening.

Doing knee extension also helps to take care of other body parts. If you do high-impact activities, take every other day off. Avoid running up and down the stairs and doing full squats. Doing knee exercises to strengthen and stretch the muscles that support the knee are vital for knee pain and injury prevention.

Proper footwear is also important, especially if walking or running on hard surfaces. Purchasing new shoes with supportive heel or heel-pad may also help your foot to better absorb shock from hard surfaces. One can also add a silicon insole – easily available in the market nowadays.

Keep your weight under control.
Reducing one’s weight reduces stress on the knees. It’s a good idea to run on a treadmill, indoor track or gym floor built to absorb shock.

If you continue to experience pain while running on hard surfaces after two to three weeks of home treatment, see your doctor. Pain that seems to be getting worse or developing additional symptoms may indicate the need to see an orthopaedic consultant. You need to ensure that your pain is not because of an underlying condition that can be treated with medications, physical therapy or surgery.

(The author is head of orthopaedics, Max Super Speciality Hospital, New Delhi)

(Published 07 August 2015, 17:39 IST)

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