DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I tried for two years to make the cheerleading squad. I finally made it this year. Now I am having trouble with my hip. When I bend, I hear a snapping sound, and there’s a little pain in my left hip. What is this? Is this the end of my career? – H.C.

I can’t give you a diagnosis with absolute certainty, but you describe symptoms that fit the picture of tightness and inflammation of the iliopsoas muscle and its tendon. That muscle starts in the lower back, passes into the thigh and attaches to a bony prominence of the hip bone.

The snapping sound and pain result from a tight muscle and a tight tendon rubbing against the hip bone.

Rest, or at least a decrease in the tempo and intensity of your exercise, is a must. If there are no reasons why you should not, take an anti-inflammatory medicine such as Aleve.

When the pain is gone, start a stretching program.

Assume a squatting position by bending your knees. Your thighs should be parallel to the ground. Support yourself by putting your hands on the floor or ground. Keep your right knee bent. Stretch the left leg behind you so the leg is straight and the tips of the toes rest on the ground. Now bend your body until your chest touches your right knee. Hold that position for 10 seconds. As you limber up, gradually increase the time to 30 seconds.

Switch legs and repeat the procedure.

If the exercise hurts, don’t do it. If your snapping and pain continue, you must see your family doctor.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am 77 years old. I walk for two miles three or four times a week. I feel some discomfort in my left hip but keep walking, and the pain disappears.

When I do squats, my knees hurt. I have to quit after four or five squats.

Am I hurting my joints? – R.S.

Exercise’s golden rule is not to do anything that hurts. I am not talking about the kind of hurt that comes from first using unused muscles and joints. I am talking about the kind of hurt that happens every time a person exercises, and continued exercise makes the pain worse. That kind of pain can indicate that damage is being done to the joint. It is not a good idea to exercise “through pain.”

The knee pain troubles me more than the hip pain. How far do you squat? If you squat so that the buttocks are almost touching the heels, that’s too far.

Squat only to a distance where the thighs are parallel to the ground. If that lesser squat still hurts you, you need an appointment with the family doctor to see what is going on.

I am stumped about the hip pain. Limbering the joint might put an end to the pain. Again, if the pain persists or worsens, you have to make another appointment with the doctor.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am a healthy, 30-year-old female who has recently turned to running for my daily exercise. I notice that toward the end of my route, when I am most tired, my face is beet-red and starts to heat up. Am I overexerting? Why would a person’s face show such strain when it’s the legs that are doing the work? – E.M.

Do you have any symptoms in addition to the redness and heat of your face? How about breathlessness, chest pain or a racing heart that takes a long time to return to its normal rate?

If the answer to all of the above is “No,” then your red face is probably the body’s way of lowering body temperature that rises with exercise. If the answer is “Yes,” see your doctor.

Some people’s face blood vessels dilate when they are hot. That brings heated blood to the surface, where it can lose heat. Redness results.

I don’t know how far you run, but you can check on your heart’s health. The heartbeat at the end of exercise should decrease by 12 beats a minute. If yours stays high, something is amiss.

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.

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