Do not keep running if it’s too painful: Orthopaedic Surgeon, Dr Kevin Yip

While running is usually a good thing, it is no longer good… if it causes too much pain to the body.

This is according to Dr Kevin Yip, 53, an orthopaedic surgeon at the Singapore Sports and Orthopaedic Clinic, Gleneagles Medical Centre.

Running is a good thing, until it causes harm to the body. [Photo from CDC/ Amanda Mills]

Running is a good thing, until it causes harm to the body.
[Photo from CDC/ Amanda Mills]

Dr Yip is not only a medical doctor, but also an experienced marathon runner himself, having started running about 25 years ago. And he completed his first full marathon about 20 years ago at the Pittsburgh Marathon in the United States.

Pain cannot be quantified by figures

Explained the doctor, “Most people doing some form of exercise should know this. Pain can often be a subjective thing. A little pain is good, but if there is too much pain, it no longer becomes a good thing.”

But he added that pain experienced during running cannot be quantified by a single figure though. Explained the doctor, “Different people have different tolerance to pain. You cannot say that if the pain is, for example, below 6.35 on a scale of 1 to 10 it is OK and above 7.2 you should stop – because different people have different interpretations on what is 6 and 7 in pain tolerance on a scale.”

Dr Kelvin Yip himself is an orthopaedic surgeon and an experienced marathon runner. [Photo from sportsorthopaedics.com.sg]

Dr Kelvin Yip himself is an orthopaedic surgeon and an experienced marathon runner.
[Photo from sportsorthopaedics.com.sg]

He added, “Then again though, pain and injures during running, differs based on the intensity and the location of the pain. If you are talking about a little bit of pain, then it may still be OK to keep on running. Generally if you are talking about the lower limb muscles, or the breathing muscles, that is, the diaphragm and chest, then it may be better to stop. But from cases that we have seen at the clinic, pains at the front of the knee are usually OK to keep running in most situations.”

Listening to the body is key

But while some pain may be bearable when running, Dr Yip feels that listening to the body is still key. He said, “If there is some pain, the body adapts and you get used to it. But if it is really unbearable as you continue running, then back off and find a more bearable level.”

Listening to the body is key when you sense pain during running. [Photo from www.livestrong.com]

Listening to the body is key when you sense pain during running.
[Photo from www.livestrong.com]

For many people, especially if running is not part of their regular lifestyle, the doctor feels that saying running is painful, may be an excuse for not running. He explained, “If we do not want to do something, then we will think of 100 reasons not to do it. But if you want it badly enough, then nothing – whether rain or sun – will stop you from doing it.”

To him this also applies to the common myth amongst those who do not run regularly – that running causes knee problems.

Running may be good or bad depending on how you do it

Despite the pains associated with the sport, Dr Yip generally likens running to yoga or pilates or even using the Internet – as to whether it is good or bad, for the body. Said Dr Yip, “It really depends on how much you do – as I mentioned earlier, you cannot simply quantify running as being harmful or not. It’s like saying, is yoga good for you, or is pilates good for you? Or is the Internet good for you?”

Dr Yip likens running to yoga. [Photo from CDC/ Amanda Mills]

According to Dr Yip, doing any form of exercise while in pain,  even yoga or pilates, may not be beneficial for your body. [Photo from CDC/ Amanda Mills]

He added, “For example if you spend all day straining your eyes and get completely addicted to the Internet then it becomes a bad thing. But if you use it from time to time for research and information and catching up with friends and acquaintances on social media, then it’s a good thing.”

Running helps to improve bone health

Running, according to Dr Yip is good for improving bone health if done correctly. The doctor explained, “If you run gradually and slowly work up towards your running goals, then it is good. But if you simply grit your teeth and anyhow run, attempting say, 10km for the first time, then it is not good.”

He continued, “The general rule of thumb is to increase your mileage by 10 per cent per week. For example if you run 5km one week, then do 5.5km the next week. But if you jump by 50 per cent, for example, one week run 5km and the next week run 10km, then that is a big no-no. This applies to marathon and ultra marathon runners too – follow the ten per cent rule and you should be OK.”

Some runners are more injury-prone

Some runners generally are more injury prone than others. [Photo from CDC/ Amanda Mills]

Some runners generally are more injury prone than others.
[Photo from CDC/ Amanda Mills]

Increasing their weekly mileage by more than ten per cent, is one reason, Dr Yip feels, why some runners may be more injury prone compared to others.

He said, “They develop injuries perhaps because they are running too aggressively and not taking their time.” Other reasons may also be related to biomechanics issues, according to the doctor.

Foam roller to relieve tired muscles 

And Dr Yip feels that the foam roller is helpful, in order to relieve tight muscles after running. He said, “the foam roller basically provides a stretching exercise after running. Muscles do need to be stretched and cooled down.”

The foam roller helps to relieve tired muscles. [Photo from www.popsugar.com]

The foam roller helps to relieve tired muscles.
[Photo from www.popsugar.com]

Using the foam roller regularly, according to the doctor, may help to keep running related injuries at bay.

Dr Yip added, “But of course, it has to be done gradually like all things. If the stretching is too painful and you can’t deal with it, then step down a little bit. Like all things, a little pain is good and will help you get stronger, but too much pain means that something is wrong.”

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