Dr. Alicia Gustafson is a Family Medicine physician who is fellowship-trained in Primary Care Sports Medicine. She is able to treat most orthopedic injuries with non-surgical interventions, including injections and musculoskeletal manipulations, as well as concussion management. She practices at Northwest Allied Physicians. For more information, click here.
A common ailment that affects runners is anterior knee pain. The most likely cause of the pain is patellofemoral pain syndrome, also known as “runner’s knee.” This is a condition that is the result of overuse of the knee joint or misalignment of the patella (kneecap) on the femur. One possible cause of the malalignment can result from the soft tissue that runs down the thigh and connects to the knee joint being overly tight, thus creating friction and irritation. This, along with overuse, causes swelling of the surrounding tissues and bone which leads to pain. It can present with varying age groups and usually is a slow progression. Pain will often be present when climbing stairs, with prolonged sitting and kneeling. People may experience popping and cracking in one or both of the knees.
Treatment of patellofemoral pain syndrome consists of changing or modifying activities that elicit the pain. Runners may need to decrease the frequency/duration or speed of running and incorporate more low-impact cross training such as elliptical or water aerobics. Rest, ice, compression and elevation can help relieve the discomfort and reduce swelling following activity. Exercises that strengthen the muscles that stabilize the knee, such as the quadriceps and hamstrings are also key to treatment. Some examples are straight leg raises, hamstring curl, knee extension, partial squat and lunge. Make sure to stretch regularly; particularly the quadriceps, hamstrings, iliotibial band and hip flexors. If pain persists or worsens, you should be evaluated by your doctor.
Patellofemoral pain syndrome can be prevented by exercising and training properly. Avoid doing too much too soon. A gradual increase of 10% per week in terms of duration and intensity is ideal. Progression in training will depend on your baseline fitness level. Someone who has not done any regular exercise should go much slower than someone who is more physically fit, and should allow for 6 weeks of consistent training prior to ramping up the intensity of training. Listen to your body both during and after activity, as often times pain does not present itself until days later. If you are developing pain with activity, scale back what you’re doing and modify. This will help long-term, and allow for consistency of training. Strength training at least 2-3 days a week, making sure to incorporate the exercises mentioned above, will help to maintain proper tracking of the kneecap.
Running is a great form of exercise with numerous health benefits, but can be taxing on the body. Be cautious and consistent when initiating a running routine. Following the above recommendations and guidelines will help you stay on the road and in the fast lane. Happy running!!
Alicia Gustafson D.O.
Northwest Allied Physicians, Sports Medicine
6060 N. Fountain Plaza Drive, Ste 270
Training should be that easy, right? Not necessarily.
Whether you’re training to run the 5K, quarter marathon, or half marathon, there are some simple tips you should follow to make sure your body is in top shape before race day.
Whether that means walking, jogging, or sprinting, now is the time to get your body moving! If you are new to running and trying to find a sustainable pace, a good rule to follow is to make sure you can speak in complete sentences while you are running. If you’re too out of breath to talk normally, you may be pushing too hard. On race day, if you’re trying to beat that personal record and running hard, talking shouldn’t be easy.
If you’re running a longer race, it’s okay to up your carb intake the week before, and to eat foods with complex carbs an hour and a half to two hours before your run. If you’re running the 5K, no carb loading for you – skip a pre-race meal as well — water is sufficient.
Make sure you’re incorporating some kind of weight training into your fitness routine. Common injuries like Achilles tendonitis, hamstring issues or iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS) can all be caused by weak calf, leg, hip or gluteal muscles. Simple exercises like squats, calf raises and side leg lifts can help make sure your legs are strong enough to support you during your runs.
As you start training, it’s important to build up your endurance slowly. Taking on too much in too short of a time can cause injuries. If you’re feeling knee pain, foot pain, or other kinds of pain, you may be running too much. Try running every other day, and do another type of exercise/cross train on the days you aren’t running. Swimming, yoga, or weight training are all great activities that are gentle on your joints. Make sure to stretch regularly! If you continue to feel pain, take four or five consecutive days off. If pain continues, contact your physician.
Remember, one of the most important reasons to run a race like this is to have a great time. Whether this is your first race or your 50th, preparing properly can prevent injuries. Don’t overdo it — slow and steady is a lot better than not at all. Happy running!
As runners, we’re made of pretty sturdy stock.
Blisters? Slap some moleskin on there and keep running. Black toenail? That’s a badge of honor.
But sometimes, the pain we feel while running is something to be more concerned about. Do you know how to tell the difference between that “hurts so good” feeling and “ouch, that really hurts?”
Any time you start a fitness routine that your body isn’t used to, a certain amount of muscle soreness shouldn’t be a surprise. Muscle soreness typically starts 24-48 hours after your workout and can last a few days. To help lessen soreness, make sure you are stretching well after your run and taking adequate time to cool down. You can also try a foam roller or manual massage on spots that are extra sore. Icing after exercise may help to limit muscle soreness, as well.
If the pain you’re experiencing is something beyond just sore muscles, the best thing to do is to take a few days off from running. Practice R.I.C.E — rest, ice, compress and elevate. Stretch well, and consider getting a massage. Try a warm bath with Epsom salts. Take an anti-inflammatory pain killer like ibuprofen. If after a three-to-five day break you’re still in pain, or if the same pain returns when you run again, it may be time to consult a physician.
Pain that keeps you awake at night, or that prevents you from living your daily life isn’t normal. Pain accompanied by tingling, numbness or swelling can also signal something more serious. A sharp, localized pain that gets worse as you run and may be extremely tender to the touch could indicate a stress fracture. If you’re experiencing any of these types of pain, stop running and schedule an appointment with a sports medicine physician.
Running isn’t for the faint of heart, but it also doesn’t mean you should be suffering. Pay attention to what your body is telling you — running through pain could turn a small issue into a big injury.
You’ve logged dozens or even hundreds of training miles and now, the day is almost here! While the tough part is done, there are still a few things you can do to make sure race day is smooth and successful!
While we all know that breaking in a new pair of shoes on race-day is a no-no, and the same goes for other race day gear. Wear clothing and accessories that you have run in before that you know fit well and are comfortable. There’s nothing worse than dealing with those new shorts riding up or a sweat band that won’t stay put when you’re trying to set a new personal record.
As we all know, in Tucson, a chilly morning can turn into a warm, sunny day very quickly. Couple that with the fact that once you start running, the temperature can feel 15 to 20 degrees warmer than it really is and you may find yourself overdressed. Dress in layers — whether you leave your jacket at the starting line, or experiment with products like arm sleeves that can easily be removed and put in a pocket, be prepared for fluctuating temperatures.
Proper hydration is key to a successful race, but drinking too much can also create issues. Make sure you drink plenty of water and consume electrolytes in the hours leading up to the race, but stop drinking about 30 minutes prior to the start time — there’s nothing worse than needing a restroom before you’ve even gotten through mile one. By now, you should have a good idea of how much hydration your body requires from your training. While there will be hydration stations along the way, it’s a good idea to have the liquid you’re used to in a camel pack, sports belt, or water bottle. If you’re doing a longer distance run, make sure to alternate between water and fluid with electrolytes.
Running on a full stomach is never fun, but you also don’t want to be starving during the race. Consider a snack high in complex carbohydrates an hour or two before your race. Stick with foods you know how your body will react to — save that spicy breakfast burrito or that extra greasy bacon for after the race. Don’t make any last minute changes on race day.
If possible, pick up your packet the night before the race. Make sure you know how to get to the race location, and you know the general layout of the route. Lay your race number out with safety pins or a race bib holder the night before, so that you’re not trying to find things last minute.
The more prepared you can be in the final days leading up to the race, the less anxiety you’ll have on race day. Following these easy tips should help create a memorable race experience. Have fun and good luck!