DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have jogged for more than 15 years and never have had an ache or pain. I do now. The outer, top part of my left thigh gives me grief when I try to jog. I have had to give jogging up, and I know I’ll lose my conditioning fast. What could this be? What can I do for it? I want to get back to jogging quickly. – L.O.

ANSWER:
If you answer a few questions, I can give you a suggestion of what it might be. Does stair-climbing make the pain worse? Is it worse at night? How about when you roll over on your left side at night? Do you get a jolt of pain that wakens you?

“Yes” answers to those questions make trochanteric bursitis a good possibility. The trochanter is the bony projection at the top and side part of the thigh. It’s easy to feel. It juts out from the femur, the thigh bone. Over it is a bursa, a flat disk that reduces friction when tendons and muscles glide over bones. Bursitis – tendon inflammation – is a common problem. Often, it comes from overuse. I can’t explain why it happened to a jogging veteran of 15 years. Have you made any changes in your program? Are you running farther? On a different surface? Are your shoes worn out?

Rest cures bursitis. To stay in condition, you can do anything that doesn’t bring on pain. Try biking. Swimming is almost a sure bet not to irritate the bursa. Or you can concentrate on upper-body exercise and give your leg a total rest.

Anti-inflammatory medicines – Aleve, Advil, etc. – for a week or so ease the pain and reduce inflammation. Follow label directions carefully. Heat often speeds healing.

If the pain stays and stays, see your doctor. It could be something other than trochanteric bursitis. If it is bursitis, and if rest and anti-inflammatory medicines aren’t winning the battle for you, the doctor can inject cortisone for fast relief of inflammation.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: What’s the advantage of backward walking and running? It looks goofy. Are there some real benefits from it? – J.K.

ANSWER:
Backward walking and running demand more energy burning than do forward movement. You can get your heart rate to a higher level at a slower pace of motion. The energy cost of retro-running (or walking) is said to be 32 percent higher than forward running.

It stresses different muscles. The quadriceps muscles, the huge muscles on the front of the thigh, get more of a workout with backward running than they do with forward running.

It also decreases the forces on the knee, so it’s not a bad way for those with knee problems to stay active. Some even recommend it as a way to exercise in those recovering from a knee injury.

You have to be aware of the dangers of moving backward. You can fall if you’re not careful. It’s better to do this on a surface free of potholes – a school’s running track is a great place. If you have a running partner, the partner can run forward and be a lookout. Then you can reverse roles.

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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