Q. I have recently started running and am doing about 3-4 miles per run. I've noticed recently that when I run I'm starting to feel minor pains in my knees as well as cramping in my sides and stomach. I'm wondering if this could possibly be related to my shoes? Maybe I'm not drinking enough water? Or maybe not stretching properly? Any insight you can provide is greatly appreciated.
A: Thank you for your interest in Head to Toe and congratulations on your new running career!
Both of what you mentioned are common in running. Let’s start with the knee pain. The cause is dependent on the exact location and nature of your pain. The most common cause is referred to as "runner's knee" or PFPS (patellofemoral Pain Syndrome). The second sounds a lot scarier than it is, so let’s call it Runner's Knee. This can be caused by a biomechanical imbalance. First, it would be a good idea to find out your foot type. A podiatrist or specialty running shop could help you with this. If you have a high arch, your foot is less equipped for shock absorption that may be putting added stress on your knees. If you have a low arch, it alters the pull of the patella (knee cap) and can strain the patella tendon. Strengthening your quads will help with this.
Stretching before your run is important if you are having pain in the inside of your knee. I find a useful stretch to be crossing your legs and then going to touch your toes. Also, the use of foam rollers can help to loosen up tight muscles.
As for your abdominal pain, this is commonly referred to as "side stitches". The exact cause is not fully understood but here are some theories:
Dr. Lewis Maharam, writing in Runner’s World, says that side stitches are likely to be caused by the pumping action of the legs putting pressure on the diaphragm from below, while rapid breathing expands the lungs and puts pressure on the diaphragm from above. This “dual pinching” effect shuts off the flow of blood and oxygen, and causes pain, cramps or both. Other researchers believe that side stitches are caused by stretching the ligaments that extend from the diaphragm to the liver. When a runner or walker pounds the surface while breathing in and out, he or she stretches these ligaments, and that causes the pain.
A third theory is that eating a lot of food or fatty food, in particular, before exercise may cause stress on the diaphragm. It is most commonly experienced on the right side.
There are some ways to prevent or alleviate the pain most obviously stop the activity for 1-2 minutes. Eat a small easy to digest meal pre work out, stretch (right arm extended upward, lean to the left, repeat for the opposite side), slow your pace during running, change your breathing pattern try not to exhale on the same foot strike every time.
Hope this helps! Happy Running :)