The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, April 16, 2000

A perfect workout without pain
By Anup Deb Nath

MOST health experts and doctors recommend exercise in one form or the other. For many of us, exercise is not only fun, it is addictive as well. But there are times when exercise can cause problems in one or another part of the body. Pain, no matter where, can certainly take the fun out of exercising, and often you are at a loss to understand whether to stop your regular exercise or to continue with it. You often cannot figure out what caused the pain to start in the first place.

There are many types of pain that are a result of exercise, and can be cured with adequate care. Shin splints are one such type of pain that is often found in people who take to exercising. It causes severe pain to the person when he moves. Typically shin splints are an inflammation of the muscle or tendons of the lower leg and these are usually caused by repetitive exercise such as walking or running particularly when it is on a hard surface.

Jogging, running or at times even walking on hard surfaces such as pavements and concrete walkways, increases the stress on the joints and the connective tissue. This results in a pain in the front part of the leg bone or the side of the shinbone. Often this pain starts gradually, and it slowly increases in intensity till it is quite severe, though shin splints rarely result in permanent damage.

  Experts recommend rest as the best cure for shin splints. Avoid heavy exercise, and do more basic and light exercise for a while. After resting for a week, gradually go back to your earlier routine, but take it very slowly and give it at least 10 days to get it back to the level you were on before.

Wear shoes that are supportive and have good cushioning. Shoe experts recommend that while buying shoes buy the ones of good quality. Apart from this the heel of the shoe should not be too high as this increases the chances of injury. The shoe shape should also correspond to the shape of your foot so that it does not put any pressure or cause pain on any part of the foot.

Try to stretch your legs to increase flexibility before you start your walks as these can help prevent the problem from getting worse or recurring. Shin splints, if ignored, can in some cases even lead to a hairline fracture and therefore should not be taken lightly.

Achilles' tendon is another area that is prone to injury, and is a common complaint of many ardent exercise lovers. The Achilles' tendon is the tendon, which links the calf muscle to the heel bone. As the calf muscle and the muscles along the shinbone are very strong and these protect the body against shock during high impact exercises. This puts the extra pressure on the Achilles' tendon.

The Achilles' tendon can take a lot of wear and tear and withstand two to three times the body's weight while walking, and four to six times the body's weight while jumping, running or jogging. All these activities do put a lot of pressure on the Achilles' tendon.

As with many other types of injuries, rest is the best cure for a pain in the Achilles' tendon. Overusing an already sore Achilles' tendon can lead to a longer lasting pain or even a recurrent injury, making this area weak and susceptible to pain.

Stretching is an excellent way to get the body ready for exercise. It is important to remember to stretch not only before you exercise but afterwards as well. It is also recommended to warm up along with the stretches.

Jogging, running, aerobics, are some exercise options that can lay stress on the Achilles' tendon. A good idea is to give the body a rest, and then if the problem seems to recur, then, try exercises that do not stress the Achilles' tendon. Cycling and swimming are two such exercise options that are excellent as substitute. By being a bit cautious, you can prevent exercise-related injuries.

This feature was published on April 9, 2000