How to Beat Injuries

Dr. Lisa Cannada, a runner and orthopedic surgeon, offers advice on knee, foot and ankle pain.

As a new runner, I'm not sure when to run through the pain and when to stop and see a doctor. How can I tell the difference between muscle soreness and an injury?

Just because you feel uncomfortable tightness or some minor pain while running doesn't necessarily indicate you have an injury. You could simply be doing something different--running on a new type of surface or terrain, for example--that works your muscles in a new way. If you only feel pain while you are running, and it goes away within two weeks, it's most likely a strain or soreness.

But there are times when it's crucial to see a doctor, as you could have a variety of more serious conditions. Here are four easy ways to know when you should schedule an appointment:

  1. If the pain wakes you up at night.
  2. If you have to alter your gait while running to ease the pain.
  3. If the pain is constant and occurs during your non-running activities (walking around the office, sitting at your desk, etc.), or if it interferes with your daily life.
  4. If the pain lasts during running for more than 10 to 14 days.

My knees hurt when I run. What can be causing this and what can I do about it? It seems every female runner I know suffers from knee pain.

The No. 1 cause of knee pain for female runners is anatomy. Most women have a larger Q-angle--the angle between the pelvis and the knee--than men. This increased angle can cause a wide variety of problems, from placing stress on the knee to causing foot pronation (an inward roll of the foot).

The easiest way to minimize knee pain caused by your Q-angle is to strengthen the quadriceps muscles. By strengthening the quads through weight exercises such as leg extensions, you can reduce the stress being placed on the knees.

I recommend strength training three times a week to see improvements. Also, building up your quads is vital if you do a lot of hill running. Running downhill is one of the easiest ways to hurt your knees if you don't have the strength in your quads to support them.

Overuse is another major cause of knee pain. Never increase your mileage by more than 10 percent per day or week, no matter how good you feel. Other common causes of knee pain include being a "weekend warrior" and attempting too much without ample training, bad running form or something as simple as tasks around the house that involve squatting or lifting small children.

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