Stress fracture healing stops runners in their tracks

FITNESS CLINIC

August 04, 1992|By Dr. Gabe Mirkin | Dr. Gabe Mirkin,Contributing Writer

Runners often develop tiny cracks, called stress fractures, in the bones of their feet. The vast majority of these stress fractures are treated by simply stopping one's running until the bone has healed.

However, a stress fracture in the bones behind the small toe near the ankle may never heal without more aggressive treatment.

Here's how a stress fracture can creep up on you. One day, near the end of a long run, you may feel a mild discomfort in your foot. The pain disappears as soon as you stop running. The next day, you feel the mild pain again, but earlier in your run. But you keep on running. The next morning, your foot hurts so much you can't walk without limping. It hurts to touch a narrow spot behind your toes, on one of the bones of the front of your foot.

If this should happen, check with your doctor. You probably have a small crack in that bone. The only treatment required is to stop running for the two to 12 weeks it takes to heal. While you're recuperating, you can keep in shape by riding a bicycle or swimming.

But if the pain is located behind the little (fifth) toe near your ankle, you may have a far more serious problem. Fractures in this area often will not heal without special help. You may have to wear a cast. Or, your doctor may recommend surgery, to place a nail in the fractured bones to line them up for proper healing.

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Q: I know sweating helps keep the body cool during exercise and hot weather, but why does it smell so bad?

A: You have two types of sweat glands:

Eccrine glands help keep you cool, cover most of your body and do not make you smell badly. Apocrine glands, which were used to attract members of the opposite sex thousands of years ago, now keep others away when you don't bathe.

Apocrine glands are found under your arms, around your breasts and around the rectal and genital areas. They produce sweat in response to male hormones. Since men have more male hormones, they have larger apocrine sweat glands, produce more sweat and can smell much worse than women.

Although sweat is odorless when it first reaches the skin, bacteria break down the fat and protein in the sweat to make it smell. Bacteria grow much more luxuriously on wet skin.

Deodorants prevent body odor by killing the bacteria and plugging up the sweat pores so sweat can't reach the skin's surface. Bathing with anti-bacterial soap kills bacteria, while powders absorb sweat, helping to keep the skin dry.

Q: What's the best diet to prevent a heart attack or cancer?

A: You can reduce your risk of developing a heart attack or cancer by avoiding fatty foods. You should eat a fiber-rich diet that includes a lot of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans.

More than a dozen recent scientific studies show you can help fend off heart attacks and certain types of cancers by taking in extra anti-oxidants, as well as restricting fat.

When you consume more calories than your body needs, the extra calories eventually end up as bad LDL cholesterol. However, LDL cholesterol must be converted to oxidized LDL before it can form the plaques that clog your arteries and lead to a heart attack. The anti-oxidant vitamins -- A, C and E -- prevent LDL cholesterol from being oxidized.

Here's a simple meal plan: For breakfast, eat a whole-grain cereal with skim milk; for lunch, have a sandwich of whole-grain bread spread lightly with mustard, lettuce, tomato, other vegetables and a small amount of tuna packed in water (not oil); for dinner, combine beans with vegetables and whole grains.

Throughout the day, you can snack on fresh fruits and vegetables.

Dr. Mirkin is a practicing physician in Silver Spring specializing in sports medicine and nutrition.

United Feature Syndicate

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