Running program wounds his heel

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DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My New Year’s resolution was to get active. I did. Now I suffer. I chose to jog for exercise and did it daily.

Now I have pain on the bottom of my heel. I can hardly walk on it in the morning when I get out of bed. It gets somewhat better during the day, but it’s back toward the end of the day. Any idea what this is, and what I can do for it? — M.D.

ANSWER: Heel pain is a common complaint. One of its most common causes is plantar fasciitis. Your description of painful first steps in the morning upon rising is typical of this condition.

The plantar fascia is a band of tough tissue that runs from the bottom of the heel to the base of the toes. It supports the foot and its arches. It also absorbs the shock the foot takes when it strikes the ground in walking, jogging or running.

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A sudden increase in the times your foot hits the ground is bound to make the plantar fascia rebel. Even experienced runners have trouble with it when they increase their mileage or their running time. Stop jogging for two weeks. I get the impression that you’ve already done so. Examine your shoes to see if they’re giving you the shock absorption that you need. If they’re not, get a padded shoe insert or new shoes.

Every evening, ice the bottom of the heel for 15 minutes.

At night, when you are in bed and lying on your back, your feet need to be propped up so the toes are pointing to the ceiling. A splint is the best way to do this. You can make your own. If the feet drop down toward the mattress, they stretch the plantar fascia and cause pain.

Once you are free of pain, you can actively stretch the fascia. Grab your toes with one hand and pull the foot toward your shin. Hold the stretched position for 10 seconds and repeat the stretch 10 times. Do this exercise three times a day. If this program doesn’t bring relief in a couple of weeks, see the family doctor for a confirmation of the diagnosis and for the possibility of a cortisone shot in the painful area.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Have you an opinion on drinking chocolate milk shortly after exercising? I hear it’s the best way to feed your muscles. Friends tell me it actually reduces body fat. Is this true? — J.J.

ANSWER: Chocolate milk has become an athletic drink — if you make that low-fat chocolate milk. It’s been shown to trim belly fat when it’s used in combination with an exercise program and calorie restriction. I know there is a generous supply of calories in chocolate milk. You have to cut those calories from other foods.

Chocolate milk replenishes stored carbohydrates in muscles. It provides protein for muscle-building. It’s best to drink it within an hour of your exercise routine.

There is evidence that it pares abdominal fat. Drinking the milk might not reduce total body weight, but the selective removal of abdominal fat and the increase in muscle size make it an appealing way to enhance an exercise program.

I’m going to try it. I’ll let you know the results.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: What is the best way to treat a callus on the bottom of my foot? I have had to stop walking because of it. It feels like I’m walking on a stone. — S.A.

ANSWER: A callus indicates skin friction. The body protects the skin by forming it. You need cushioned shoes or a cushioned shoe insert.

Soak your foot in warm, soapy water to soften the callus. Then take a pumice stone or callus file, both items are found in all drugstores, and pare the callus. Don’t draw blood.

Protect the area with a callus pad to prevent recurrence.

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.

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