Every time I walk on a treadmill, my left leg begins to burn in a line of pain from the outside of my ankle to my knee. If I try to walk through the pain, it will last long after I get off the treadmill. I really need to exercise for my health. Any ideas?
I called my friend Suki Munsell, PhD, founder of the Dynamic Health and Fitness Institute in Corte Madera, California. Suki is a registered Movement Therapist who teaches Dynamic Walking classes. She really understands how the body works biomechanically, and she can often help people prevent pain by making small adustments in their posture and body position. Here's what she said regarding your burning leg pain.
"I recently saw a client with very similar complaints. The pain you feel may arise because your left foot, knee and hip are not aligned when you walk on your treadmill. Check to see if your left foot is leaning to the outside (pronating) or the inside (supinating). You can see this if you place a mirror in front the treadmill while you walk.
Or take a well-worn pair of your athletic shoes and put them on a table. Get at eye level and observe the wear pattern in them. You will probably see a definite pattern that shows wearing on one side or the other. Next, bend your knees and look in a mirror to see if they are directly over your toes, or if they lean in or out. When you stand and walk, do your feet tend to point in or out, rather than straight ahead?
If your lower leg is torqued (turned) from foot to knee, you will be putting extra strain on the muscles and joints you mentioned from ankle to knee. That might produce the burning sensation you describe. To correct this, try the following modifications, which, incidentally, are good exercises for any walker:
Stand with feet walking distance apart. If your feet are not parallel, gently bring them into a parallel position. Bending your knees slightly, make sure your knees are tracking directly over your toes.
Roll forward and back, from heel to toe for a minute or so. Use your arms for balance. This exercise will help to stretch and strengthen the muscles of your lower leg, feet and ankle and help you as you begin to realign them. When you walk on the treadmill, concentrate on pointing your toes straight ahead. Don't force it -- go slowly. This can take a long time. Roll gently through the full range of motion of your foot -- heel to toe -- as you walk, trying to keep your weight balanced down the center line of your foot. Keep your knees aligned over your toes, not bending in or out.
My husband and I go to the gym three times a week. We lift weights every time we go, and alternate riding a bike and walking on a treadmill. We're 42 and 44. Do you think we need to add walking on the days we don't go to the gym?
First, congratulations on your dedication to going to the gym together. Sounds like you're both committed to a healthy lifestyle.
The U.S. Surgeon General's Report released last summer suggests that everyone try to get a minimum of a half hour of moderate exercise every day. So, in response to your question, I'd have to say yes -- do add the walks. Plan to take a walk together or alone every day that you're not at the gym. If you miss here or there, don't sweat it. You've got a great routine going!
What causes heel pain and how do you know if it's caused by plantar fasciitis? Also, how do I treat it besides giving up my walking program?
There are a variety injuries and conditions that can cause heel pain, including bruising, fractures, heel spurs and plantar fasciitis (PF). It's best to have a doctor or podiatrist have a look so you don't do more damage.
However, if it turns out to be PF, you may find relief by stretching your calves properly. PF often occurs when tight calf muscles pulls the plantar sheath taut under the foot. It becomes inflamed and painful, making it difficult to run or walk for long. Stretching is good preventive medicine, and may also relieve your existing pain if you're not too inflamed.
You may require some time off, or at least a reduced schedule of walking. If you try to push through it, you may have to take months off!