DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I’m a point guard on my high-school’s basketball team. There’s a good chance that we will make it to the playoffs.
My left knee, right in front of the kneecap, has started to hurt when I walk up and down stairs. The pain isn’t great, and I might be making too much out of this. I don’t want to miss the playoffs.
What do you think I have, and what can I do to stop it from getting worse? — B.J.
ANSWER: The knee is a vulnerable joint, and the number of possible knee injuries is enormous. The best I can do for you is give you a guess and some general advice. If the knee pain worsens, or if it’s not gone in one more week, see the family doctor.
Pain on the front of the kneecap often indicates patellofemoral pain syndrome. Climbing and descending stairs intensifies the pain. The patella is the kneecap. It’s embedded in a large tendon that comes from the front thigh muscles. The tendon inserts on the lower leg bone. “Femoral” refers to the thigh bone, the femur. It has a groove for the kneecap. When you bend the knee, the kneecap can partially come out of its groove and cause pain. Pain also arises if you sit for a long time and then arise. This is patellofemoral pain syndrome.
Flat feet are said to favor this condition. I don’t know if that’s true. Other anatomical abnormalities also make the kneecap partially pop out of the femoral groove.
If you have no pain when you play basketball, then you can keep playing. It’s not likely to keep you out of the playoffs.
In the meantime, apply heat or ice, whichever gives you greater relief, to the knee for 15 minutes a couple of times during the day. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like Aleve or Advil are safe to use for pain. If you can get by without medicine, do so. A knee brace could prevent further injury to the joint.
TO READERS: The booklet on exercise presents a safe way to begin an exercise program. To order a copy, write: Dr. Donohue — No. 1301, Box 536475 Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./ $6 Can. with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: At age 84, I have taken up roller skating. I love it. The trouble is I’m not all that well-balanced — physically I mean. Got any exercise I can do? Keep it simple. — R.B.
ANSWER: A simple balance exercise is to stand in a doorway. The doorway makes it convenient for you to steady yourself if you’re about to topple. Raise one foot off the floor and move it back and forth like a pendulum. Then switch feet. Do as many repetitions as you can, and repeat the exercise as many times during the day as is convenient.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am only 27, but I get pretty short-winded after about 10 minutes of running. I’ve been told not to breathe through my mouth. I wonder if those Band Aid-like strips that are put on the nose would help me. The claim is they let more air enter. Do you think they’ll help? — C.D.
ANSWER: I see the ads for those strips all the time on TV. I’ve never tried them, so I don’t know for sure if they’d work for you. But they can’t be that expensive. Why not experiment? Let me know the results.
Everyone who runs any distance breathes through the mouth. It’s a much larger opening than are the nostrils. Mouth breathing doesn’t warm the air as much as nose breathing does. It might dry the mouth. Those are the only two reasons I can see for not using the mouth for additional air.
Neither of those reasons is much of an argument not to mouth-breathe when running long distances.
Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Readers may also order health newsletters from www.rbmamall.com.