Living with Stress - Local complaints

Many local complaints can afflict the person starting out on a full-scale program. By being careful and taking precautions, you can minimize adverse effects. In many cases they can be eliminated entirely.

Some of the best measures for combating local body problems resulting from exercise or participation in sports have already been described. They include provision of sensible clothing and shoes and the warm-up and cool-down periods. Specific problems such as the following may call for other corrective or curative measures.

Achilles Tendon Pains or Injuries

This runner's problem, like so many others having to do with the lower extremities, is usually caused by improper footwear. Shoes that lack heel wedges or that rub against the Achilles tendon may be the culprits. The only remedy is total rest and applications of ice (and the purchase of good shoes). Preventive methods include adequate warm-up, part of which should be a heel-stretching exercise.

Ankle Problems

Ankle problems, afflicting primarily those who take part in sports that require quick changes of direction, should receive immediate attention if they are at all serious. An ankle sprain should be placed in ice at once. A physician should examine a serious sprain. Prevention should begin with protecting the ankle and the surrounding muscles by wearing high-top gym or basketball shoes or by taping. Both methods may be used together.

Athlete's Foot

Clean socks and shoes do the most to prevent athlete's foot, which is caused by a fungus that develops between the toes. Symptoms are itching, burning, and scaling skin; the problem may lead to serious infections. Preventive methods include careful drying between the toes after showering and airing both the shoes and feet. Sprinkling powder between the toes will also help.


Prevention should start with the proper footwear and socks. Socks should be snug enough to remain in place and not “bunch up.” If blisters appear anyway, they should be cleaned with an antiseptic solution and covered with light gauze. Growth of an incipient blister may be halted if gauze is taped over the irritated spot.

Bone Bruises

Where handball players may acquire bone bruises on their hands, participants in other sports activities may experience them on the bottoms of their feet. The cause is usually a single blow or other severe trauma to the flesh and bone. Applying ice and providing padding over the bruised area should help. Appropriate footwear, including protective inner soles, serves to prevent foot bruises. Handball players who continue to play after incurring bone bruises may find that the condition persists long after it should have disappeared. The cause in such cases is repeated blows to the bruised area.

Knee Problems

Because the knee performs such a crucial role in so many different types of exercise and sports activities, it sees extensive use. Joggers and runners in particular develop knee complaints. Most of them can avoid difficulties by wearing the proper footwear and running on soft, level surfaces. Grass or a cinder track is usually the most comfortable. Staying away from sharp turns should also help. A physician should be consulted if knee problems persist.

Muscle Cramps

While the specific causes of muscle cramps have proved difficult to pinpoint, they appear to result usually from salt and potassium imbalances in muscles. The cramps are involuntary muscle spasms, or contractions. Stretching and massage usually relieve the problem. Preventive measures include adequate warm-up, replacement of the potassium and salt lost in sweating, and stretching during the cool-down period.

Muscle Soreness

Sore muscles, usually encountered at the start of a fitness program, virtually dictate that the beginner go slowly. Progressing slowly and steadily from a very moderate start through the upper level of a program should reduce or eliminate soreness. Thorough warm-ups and cool-downs are mandatory. Massage and warm baths should help to relieve soreness when it appears.

Shin Splints

Shin splints are pains that appear along the sides of the shinbone, or tibia. The causes vary and include lowered arches, tearing in a muscle where it attaches to the bone, irritated membranes, hairline fractures of the bone, and others. Running or jogging on hard surfaces, such as streets, and improper running techniques may bring on shin splints. Rest represents the only real cure, but the pains can be alleviated by wrapping or taping the leg.

What do you do when a jogging or running program has to be suspended because of problems in or injuries to a lower extremity? One possibility is to continue the program by cycling, using a regular bicycle or an exercycle. The program can then be continued and fitness maintained.

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